The game had been well underway before the Penticton and Kelowna female bantam hockey players even stepped on to the ice Saturday.
The Long Game, as part of the celebration for World Girls Hockey Weekend, started with players from atom to senior in Newfoundland. The torch, and the running score, was then passed off to Nova Scotia and continued across the country.
Penticton offered to be the underdog, taking on the efforts of Team Red that were losing to Team White 47-45 by the time the bantam aged game landed in B.C. Kelowna netminder Averie Blais only allowed one goal, off the stick of Gabby Lindsay, to give Team White the Long Game win, 51-46. Kaelin Foster and Sydney Munro scored two goals each for Kelowna.
World Girls Hockey Weekend included over 300 events happening across Canada, but stretched much further than that. The International Ice Hockey Federation said over 30 countries were holding events from try-it days and skills camps to exhibition games and opportunities to meet national team players.
In Hong Kong, 120 participants between the ages of eight and 53 laced up to skate with members of their national team. The Netherlands held their first-ever World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend by setting up stations for girls to learn the basic skills. Besides the Long Game in Penticton, the minor hockey association invited atom and pee wee aged players for a fun game by blending the teams.
“Female hockey is doing really well in Penticton. We continue to grow and have a team in every age group this year,” said Barb Main, female director for the Penticton Minor Hockey Association.
The association has 90 female players this year, having graduated a lot of girls at the end of last season.
“We are starting to see more players in the younger age groups, which is great. This is a really fun team sport and it helps the girls develop not just as players, but as people,” said Main. “I think every year we move forward, we develop more kids and recruit more coaches. Every year we are also seeing more female coaches. Like today, we had a player that graduated out of our program helping on the bench. She is going to be an assistant coach for a female bantam team in Vancouver this season.”
Main said their big recruitment drive takes place in the spring with the free try-it day for girls.
“If there is a child that is interested in trying the sport we encourage their parents to get a hold of us before that session. We have some equipment to lend out and there is a ton of funding available for kids who need it.”
Funding is available through KidSport and the newest foundation the Grindstone Award which provides grants to female players under the age of 19 based on financial need and desire, not on hockey ability.