BURNABY, Canada – This past weekend, international women’s hockey returned to the Vancouver area for the first time since the Olympic Winter Games. Two years after first coming up with the idea to provide a festival for young female hockey players, Team Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser hosted the inaugural Wickenheiser International Female Hockey Festival in Burnaby.
Check out our cute pics in the photo gallery.
Fifty-four teams competed across ten divisions on the ice, while off the ice players, coaches, parents and administrators involved in female hockey also had a chance to attend various seminars and presentations hosted by top experts.
Topics over the two days of sessions included discussions on fitness training, coaching, Olympic experiences from both Canada’s former national team coach Melody Davidson and retired defenceman Carla MacLeod, and even included a discussion led by Wickenheiser’s parents.
The sessions gave young players a chance to hear what it really takes to become an Olympic hockey player and let coaches and parents gain some valuable insight in how to make those dreams reality. Former NHLer, Trevor Linden, joined Wickenheiser on the ice during a skills session and Vancouver Canucks forward, Mason Raymond, joined the event for an autograph session.
“The festival was everything I wanted it to be and more thanks to our sponsors who saw the value of investing in the empowerment of these young women both on and off the ice,” said Hayley Wickenheiser. “My hope is that they have all left here with a sense of ‘why not me?’ And that they can do anything they set their minds to.”
The event was truly an international affair with teams from Canada, the United States and even a team from Kladno, Czech Republic, who quickly became the fan favourites – even with the parents from the teams they were competing against.
They almost didn’t make it to the tournament due to the high costs involved of travelling to Canada, but a call from Wickenheiser urging them to come gave them the boost they needed to try one more time to find enough money to make it happen. They definitely made the most of the trip as they not only attended a number of the off-ice sessions to learn everything they could, they also walked away as Midget I tournament champions.
On Friday night, during a Hot Stove panel session, Wickenheiser spoke to her future plans for the tournament. She emphasized her desire to include more teams from outside North America to help grow the female game, and announced that the organizers will be trying to recruit ten teams for next year’s tournament.
Judging by the expert team that has supported her with the event, this bold prediction is very likely to happen providing another positive step forward for the female game on the international stage.