When Justice Forte started classes at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, she quickly realized there was one thing missing — hockey.
To the New Jersey native, who played on the ice for years back home, it didn’t make any sense why a university as big as Nebraska would not have an active women’s hockey team.
The solution came into focus while she sat on the floor of Hamilton Hall while talking on the phone with her mom.
“Justice, you need this, and there have to be other girls at the university that need this too,” Forte’s mom said. “You should start figuring out how to make it happen.”
Subsequent research led Forte to learn it would not be an easy task. It turned out a university hockey team had existed, but it dissolved by the time Forte started classes.
Figuring it would take 10 players to get the team off the ground, Forte turned to Facebook groups to build interest. Her first posts drew just five potential players, so Forte tabled the idea until her sophomore year.
Her second social media push resulted in 10 players stepping forward overnight.
With her ideal number of teammates recruited, Forte found a coach and worked to create a structured environment. Ideally, she hoped for multiple coaches, scheduled weekly practices and competitive league play.
The team started play in fall 2016. By March of 2017, the Nebraska Women’s Hockey team petitioned to the Sports Club Council and was approved as an official campus sports club.
They joined the American Collegiate Hockey Association and played against 17 other college teams in their first season. The 11 players ranged in skill from those who had been skating since they could stand to those who had never previously played.
For Forte, bringing women’s hockey back on campus was about more than just getting back on the ice. It was also about equal opportunity, giving women the chance to play in a club that already was offered to men.
“Not having that same opportunity for women is kind of tough,” Forte said.
Now, as she prepares to graduate in May, Forte hopes relaunching the hockey club will help her stand out through the law school application process. Not only did it provide leadership growth, it was also an example of her ability to commit to a goal and make a change on campus.
“To be able to say, ‘Nebraska has all of these amazing things, all of these academic opportunities, and you can come here and play ice hockey too,’ was really my goal in founding it and something I’m proud to say we’ve accomplished,” Forte said.