Inaugural event showcases female hockey

Grindstone Charity Tournament/Girls Rock the Rink in West Kelowna a labour of love for organizers

What do 36 hours of hockey, over 70 girls, 100 women, and $5,000 of fundraising over one weekend add up to?

If you ask the organizers of the first Grindstone Charity Hockey Tournament, Danielle Grundy, Alison Rasmussen and Sasha Podolchak, they will say it amounts to a one-of-a-kind showcase of female hockey and an expression of a love for a sport typically embraced by men.

“We just wanted to give back, so it started with humble beginnings,” said Grundy. “We basically collected spare change in dressing rooms and helped out two girls last year.”

With the desire to help more girls, the three friends came up with a charity hockey tournament and a hockey fun day for girls aged 5 to 17-years-old. This initial idea grew into the Grindstone Charity Tournament and Girls Rock the Rink day in partnership with the Kelowna Minor Hockey Association. The organizers chose July 21 to 23 so that celebrity hockey coaches and participants could make the trip into West Kelowna.

“It was such a fun tournament, but everyone knew they were there for a bigger reason,” stated Alison Rasmussen. “We realized we were part of something special and greater than just ourselves.”

Families drove their daughters to Royal Lepage Place and the Jim Lind Arena from Salmon Arm, Penticton, Rock Creek, Princeton and as far away as 100 Mile house. Tournament players came from all over including Washington state.

“Players who never played organized hockey were able to play beyond pond hockey,” said Podolchak. “And some who’ve been away from the game are now talking about joining women’s teams in their hometowns.”

After six hours of coaching on the ice and organizing off-ice activities, there was one moment when Grundy didn’t know if she could continue.

“I was literally bent over on the dressing room floor,” said Grundy. “And then a small girl came in and said ‘this is for you.’ I looked up and saw it was a big thank you card signed by all the girls.”

It was a moment of disbelief for Danielle, but she said it gave her the strength to get up and give the girl a big hug. “That moment,” smiled Grundy “made all the months of planning and overcoming challenges worth it.”

The weekend was all about giving back to a game that has given so many so much.

NHL players Justin Schultz, Cody Franson, Devan Dubnyk, and Luke Schenn donated autographed sticks for the silent auction. Anthony Hoek, the father of one of the girls who received a grant last year, gave back by volunteering his time to referee the tournament games.

Head coach of Buffalo State, Candice Moxley, and last year’s UBC Thunderbirds captain, Stephanie Schaupmeyer flew in on their own dime and donated their coaching and playing talents by working with the young girls and tournament players on and off the ice.

“It was awesome to be part of the weekend,” said Schaupmeyer. “I didn’t have a chance to play with a bunch of girls when I was young, so to play any role in growing those young girls’ passion for hockey is an absolute pleasure.”

In its second year of operation, The Grindstone Award Foundation is now an official charity that focuses on providing financial support for young female players who want to play but can’t afford to.

With money in the bank, the foundation is looking for 10 minor female hockey players to support this season.

To apply or for more information please visit www.grindstoneaward.com.