On a Saturday night in early January, 50 young female hockey players ages 9 and 10 filled Vancouver’s Champlain Heights Community Centre gym. This pizza party, which was a hit amongst the players, as well as their coaches and parents, was just one component of a jam-packed weekend featuring an exhibition series between female Atom teams from Vancouver, Burnaby, and the Yukon.
In Canada’s Yukon, female hockey teams and competition are few and far between, with most girls spending their minor hockey years on boys teams. However, a female Atom team based out of Whitehorse was recently formed. This team travelled to Vancouver over the weekend of January 6th to 8th for a five game exhibition series, their first games together against other female teams. The hope is that this series will help to further build female hockey in the Yukon.
“The excitement generated by this trip (by both kids and parents) will no doubt add to the momentum of girls hockey in Yukon,” Pat Tobler, the coach of the Yukon Atom team said. “Over the past two years we have been getting the younger girls together to practice with the goal of keeping and recruiting other girls in hockey. This trip opened a few eyes to future opportunities.”
Two Atom teams from the Vancouver Girls Ice Hockey Association and one Atom team from the Burnaby Female Hockey Association participated in the weekend. Some of the games saw two teams face off against each other while some were jamboree style (mixing up the teams), each full of end-to-end action and great scoring chances.
“They enjoyed playing against girls and felt good about their ability to compete with established teams,” Tobler said about the Yukon girls’ experience. For the Yukon coaches, a definite highlight was seeing how well their girls were about to compete against teams that play together on a regular basis. “We had very even games with tier 1 teams that play together all the time, which was amazing given we had only played three exhibition games together before this trip.”
The pizza party on the Saturday night gave all the players, parents, and coaches a chance to mix and mingle. Two Vancouver parents brought a cotton candy machine, which was extremely popular and always had a line-up. Local businesses donated the pizza as well as drinks and snacks.
“For the girls, I think the highlight was just being able to play and hang out as a team,” said Tobler. “For all but a few, it was the first time they traveled outside Yukon to play hockey and to do it with a group of girls made it very special.”
The weekend was full of great hockey and lots of fun for all involved. But perhaps what is most important is that this weekend gave three female minor hockey associations an opportunity to learn from one another and collectively work together towards growing female hockey in the Yukon and BC.
“Our Association’s primary goal is to promote and grow female hockey, and this exhibition series helps provide some exposure,” said James Nedila, president of the Vancouver Girls Ice Hockey Association. “Events like this help show that female hockey can grow and thrive in the North and other areas.”
Photos courtesy of Don Barthel, Vancouver Girls Ice Hockey Association.