Sports

Kelowna Minor Hockey trying to increase girls numbers

Kelowna
Kelowna's Christy Blackburne (left) slaps a shot past a Salmon Arm defender in Okanagan Mainline midget A girls playoff action earlier this month. There is a movement underway to attract more girls to hockey in the Okanagan.
— image credit: Wade Paterson

Kelowna Minor Hockey, parents of female hockey players and B.C. Hockey are teaming up to try and increase the number of girls playing minor hockey in Kelowna and across the Okanagan.

A committee is being formed to come up with some new ideas as to how to increase the number of girls entering minor hockey, with the hopes of establishing female only teams at lower levels, as opposed to the current situation, where many girls play on boys' teams, especially for the first few years of minor hockey.

"We as association's have to start looking at the grassroots levels and saying let's get more girls out there and get them playing on all-girls teams," said Cathy Carolei, BC Hockey's female development coordinator for the Okanagan. "We have to start at the younger levels and trying to get the little ones out from the get-go and building these teams so we don't run into a deficit situation in certain years."

According to Carolei, one of the things associations are battling is a myth that many parents believe that female players are better off playing with boys and will develop better.

But Carolei says when girls play on a boys' teams, there are things that the player misses out on, and a better situation would have girls playing on all-girls teams from the time they enter minor hockey.

"The myth is that girls will play harder and stronger if the parents leave them with the boys," said Carolei. "But it would be just as good and probably better in the long term to have girls playing together. They develop differently than boys and they don't have the same physical strength as a boy. When they are on boys' teams they have to dress in a different dressing room and they don't get that camaraderie in the room before and after games and practices."

There are about 250 females registered in the different minor hockey associations across the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association. Carolei says their goal is to double that number in two years.

One of the things that OMAHA will embark on is an educational campaign, letting parents know of the opportunities that playing hockey provides to females. Many scholarships are available in both Canada and the US for high level athletes. This year at UBC, the women's team featured three graduates from Kelowna Minor Hockey, playing on scholarships.

"Looking long term, if we want our kids to be the best of the best and want them to play at university of national level, we need our kids to be developing through the system and starting at a young age," said Carolei. "People don't realize girls can get full ride scholarships. It's a huge opportunity that people are just not aware of."

In Kelowna the steering committee on girls hockey is also hoping to talk to parents of young girls to educate them on minor hockey and will host a come and play hockey initiative to explain all of the options in the coming months.

"We want to have a discussion with parents about why it's beneficial for your daughter to play female hockey," said Carolei.

If you want more information about female hockey you can contact your local minor hockey association. In Kelowna e-mail admin@kelmha.com, in West Kelowna e-mail westsideminorhockey@shaw.ca.

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