Elyssa Biederman is on a path to potentially being invited to play on the U.S. National Team and, ultimately, the Olympics.
As a little girl, Elyssa Biederman cried the first time her parents laced up her tiny white figure skates. She does not remember sobbing throughout the entire preschool learn-to-skate class. Still, the story is a family favorite, especially now that Biederman will be playing women’s ice hockey for Colgate University in New York State. She’ll join the Division 1 college team in the fall of 2022 after graduating from Birmingham Groves High School.
Biederman’s disdain for skating was brief. By the time she was 4 or 5, she ended up back on the ice — this time in hockey skates. The reintroduction came when her family participated in a hockey event organized by her older brother’s coach.
There was something about shooting a puck that captivated Biederman, and she left the arena that day with a newly discovered passion. Her parents, Maria and Jason Biederman, enrolled their middle child in a hockey skills clinic, where she spent the next few years honing her skills.
“I don’t remember not having hockey in my life,” said Biederman, who lives in Franklin. “If I weren’t playing the game, it wouldn’t feel right. There’s a creativity that comes with playing. It’s not like football or baseball. In hockey, there is a flow. You have to read and react.”
Around the age of 8, Biederman joined an all-boys team where she stayed for five years. During that time, she would come across other female players who were also the only girls on their respective teams.
“She played with the same team for many years, so it always felt very normal for her and her teammates,” said her mom, Maria Biederman, who described her daughter as “this little firecracker on ice. Some people call her the ‘Energizer Bunny’ because she darts off the bench, ready to engage.”
Biederman, now 16, switched to a girls’ team in eighth grade and currently plays on a Little Caesars 16-and-under team. Little Caesars is one of only four organizations in Michigan offering Tier 1 (AAA) girls’ hockey.
She switched teams when she got to a level where the boys were checking. The thought of Biederman, who stands at 5”-1’, being knocked against the boards or pushed to the ice by a male player, made it an easy decision for this hockey forward.
Being the only girl on a bench of boys and playing a sport dominated by male athletes has never been an issue. What bothers Biederman is the fact that there aren’t as many opportunities for female hockey players.
There is a six-team National Women’s Hockey League. Biederman said NWHL players are poorly compensated compared to NHL players, and most of the women must have other careers in addition to playing the game.
“I don’t think it’s fair that men can survive on a salary from hockey, but women can’t,” explained Biederman. She went on to say that if she has a chance to go to the Olympics, she plans to use the opportunity as a platform to advocate for equality within the sport.
Kenny Ryan coaches Biederman and describes her as “one of those naturally gifted players with a work ethic that separates her from the others. She has a real love for hockey. In terms of girls’ hockey in Detroit, I think everyone probably knows of Elyssa Biederman. She’s a very gifted athlete with a bright future.”
Twice so far, she has been among an elite group of players from around the country selected to participate in a player development camp. This puts her on a path to potentially being invited to play on the U.S. National Team and, ultimately, the Olympics.
In addition to her individual accomplishments, she and her Little Caesars teammates have been to Nationals twice. They were expected to go a third time as the No. 2 ranked girls’ 16U team in the country. However, COVID forced the cancellation of the tournament.
When she’s not on the ice, Biederman spends much of her time watching NHL highlight clips and videos from her games to help her grow as a player. She also runs cross country and plays guitar. She’s a student coach for the Little Caesars girls 12U team, works as a madrich (volunteer assistant) at Adat Shalom’s Hebrew school and is a National Honor Society member.