Upon visiting Jean Laxton’s hockey origins, it’s easy to understand her dedication to hockey — in particular, girls hockey — and how she grew into one of USA Hockey’s most valuable volunteers.
Laxton grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Hershey Bears minor league hockey games, while family members had various roles with the rink. While a fan, Laxton wasn’t a hockey player. She spent her time on the ice as a figure skater.
But hockey was never far away. She had two kids, daughter Lindsay and son Luke, with Gordie Laxton, now her ex-husband who had a professional goaltending career that included playing in 17 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the family now in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Laxton children started playing hockey in the early 1990s at ages 5 and 6, with Jean doing the traditional hockey parent things such as supplying postgame snacks and monitoring the locker room. Due to a lack of other girls playing hockey, Lindsay had to play on boys teams. Lindsay’s passion began to wane around the 14U level.
That came around 2002 and was when Jean widened her horizons and, with the help of a dad in another city with a daughter in the same situation, started up a travel team just for girls. It had two driving forces: competitive opportunities and being around other girls with common interests.
“It just took off from there,” Laxton said.
Now, Laxton is a key leadership figure in not only the Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association and the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association, but one of the people USA Hockey depends on. And the efforts of Laxton and others has grown girls hockey by 37 percent over the past 10 years, seeing more than 84,000 females participate during the 2019-20 season.