It wasn’t about logging wins or crowning champions. It was about girls playing hockey and it was a hit.
Over 60 young players took part in the Whitehorse Female Hockey Weekend at the Canada Games Centre on April 21-23.
“It was a super weekend and we’re really happy with the success of the event,” said Whitehorse girls hockey coach Pat Tobler, who helped organize the event. “The number of girls was tremendous. And drawing girls from all over the Yukon, as well as those smaller communities adjacent to the Yukon, was really great and really good for the momentum of girls hockey.
“Carl Burgess (president of Hockey Yukon) contacted B.C. Hockey and said, ‘Why don’t you bring the jamboree up here?’ and B.C. Hockey was all over that.”
The inaugural jamboree was co-hosted by B.C. Hockey and Hockey Yukon and featured on- and off-ice skills sessions, presentations and six “fun” games. Players came from Whitehorse, Dawson, Carmacks, Watson Lake, Teslin, Inuvik, N.W.T., Fort Nelson and Dease Lake in B.C., and Skagway, Alaska, for the event.
“This is the first time we’ve been up here in Whitehorse to do this event. It’s something we just wanted to focus in on and bring our programming up to the Yukon and utilize it up here because it’s an area we haven’t targeted for quite some time,” said Brianna Davy, B.C. Hockey’s program manager for female hockey. “The whole goal is to try to recruit and retain as many female hockey players as we possibly can throughout the weekend, and help Whitehorse build their female program. We had a pretty good start here — having over 60 girls come out is higher than the expectation that Whitehorse minor has had.”
Girls hockey is nothing new to Whitehorse. The Female Mustangs, a midget rep team, has been around for about a decade. But there’s been an effort to get more girls playing at younger ages.
For the last two seasons Tobler, with the support of Hockey Yukon and Whitehorse Minor Hockey, has hosted weekly drop-in hockey sessions for girls from novice to peewee (ages 7-13).
“For the last two years there’s been significant momentum building in the younger age group for girls hockey in the Yukon,” said Tobler. “It all started with Louis Bouchard, the Female Mustangs coach, opening up one of his practices for other girls to participate … girls in younger age groups.
“When that ended we saw a real opportunity to keep that kind of thing going, so we approached Whitehorse Minor Hockey about getting an ice time once a week for all the girls who were in minor hockey, but also making it open to any girls who wanted to play or try hockey.”
This season the drop-ins had about 30 registered players with about 25 coming out each week.
One of them was Whitehorse’s Kalina Morrison. The 11-year-old, who doesn’t play in a league or on a team, took part in the jamboree over the weekend.
“It was really, really, really, really, really, really fun,” said Morrison. “I especially like the games. I like having competition and doing an actual game more than practicing.”
Sounds like she’ll sign up for it again next year. “Oh yeah,” said Morrison. “I don’t see how it could not be fun in anyway.”
The growth of girls hockey was underscored this past season by the fact Tobler had enough players to assemble atom and peewee teams that competed in B.C.
It looks like that could become a regular occurrence.
“I think it was great for the girls to meet other girls playing hockey,” said Tobler. “It’s a great social event and I’m sure they made a few new friends. The group had some girls who had never played hockey before that came out for the jamboree. Talking to them afterwards they said they had a blast and they’re looking to play next year, and that was tremendously exciting.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org