Hockaday graduate set to play at Union College, with coaching plans in the future
Ellie Abel does not hail from an athletic family. She’s never lived in a traditional hockey hotbed. So perhaps it’s fitting that the most pivotal call of her college recruiting process came when she was in Cancun.
The Hockaday graduate has moved around plenty in her life. This fall, the left wing will head to upstate New York to join the roster at Union College, one of about 50 schools nationwide with an NCAA Division I women’s hockey program.
She attributes her passion for the sport to growing up near Washington, D.C., around the same time the Washington Capitals drafted Russian winger Alex Ovechkin, who is on the verge of becoming the National Hockey League’s all-time goal-scoring leader.
“I am addicted to hockey. I watch it all the time,” Abel said. “I like how the mechanics of the game work. You have to have the balance and motor control to skate, but it’s also high-contact. I’ve always been very competitive and physical.”
Abel and her family became Capitals fans, and she began playing around age 5 when she found skating lessons too dull.
“It was just this sport that seemed cool to me at the time,” she said. “I’ve always been someone who loves cool gear and equipment. All the hockey players had cool stuff.”
A few years later, her family relocated to South Africa, where Abel got her hockey fix at a skating rink inside a shopping mall.
“It was fun because I was an 8-year-old playing with 14-year-old boys,” she recalled.
Abel moved to North Texas in 2020 and began skating with Dallas Stars Elite, where she was initially cut from the top-tier squad at the under-16 level.
“I realized I needed to put in a lot of work away from the rink if I wanted to get better,” Abel said. “I was going off natural talent, and I had to catch up.”
Not only has she raised her level of play, but Abel has volunteered with the club’s Rookies program, which introduces younger players to the game.
“It’s so fun to see the little girls get out there,” she said. “It means a lot to me because I had that moment. I want more girls to be able to experience that.”
After her playing days are over, Abel hopes to eventually go into coaching or continue giving back to hockey, so she can share her story.
“I’m excited to push other people to get better as I got better,” Abel said. “If you put in the work, you will be able to do it.”