This Saturday, the Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association’s (SCMHA) first-ever girls’ team will be competing in a home opener at the Gibsons arena.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” SCMHA’s female coordinator Kori Hudrick told Coast Reporter.
The game is set to start at 12:30 p.m. and the players, who are between nine and 11 years old, will face off against Vancouver Ice Hockey Association’s Atom C4 team.
This marks the first of six games that will be played in October followed by regular season games once a week until playoffs in February. The Blues will be competing against Lower Mainland teams such as Burnaby and Maple Ridge and from other regions, such as Whistler.
Typically, girls on the Sunshine Coast play on mixed teams, but this is the first time since the inception of the SCMHA in 1961 that it has established an all-girls team, according to president Stu Frizzell.
Hudrick told Coast Reporter the association saw “huge numbers” of girls between the ages of eight and 10 joining the sport recently.
Added to the momentum have been training camps, and a series of sessions offered to girls on the Sunshine Coast through funding from Esso in conjunction with Hockey Canada’s Grow the Game campaign, which gave them the opportunity to scrimmage against an all-girls team from Powell River last spring.
That game in particular gave Hudrick the idea to assemble a team for league play. “After the game was over, they were back in the change room. They’re like, this is fun – can we do it every weekend? And I thought, why can’t we?”
Plans are in the works to add more teams.
Creating a girls’ program with teams for a range of ages will encourage girls to stick with the game, Hudrick said, since many drop out of the sport once they hit high school – which is typical for boys, too, but is more pronounced for girls since there tends to be fewer to begin with.
Those who want to play competitively either continue playing on mixed teams or commute to the Lower Mainland to compete in all-girls’ leagues. Another option is to play for the Sunshine Coast’s Women’s Hockey League, but it is less competitive.
“Our goal is to be able to, hopefully in the next five years, have a team at all of the levels,” said Hudrick, “so they can stay in the sport as long as they can.”