ZILINA, Slovakia – One of the largest events during the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend was again the one in Zilina with 300 people present at the arena to open the door for new female players in the Slovak city.
It was a long day for girls’ hockey in the city in north-western Slovakia during the “Kids Day on Ice”. After a game between sponsors and the team staff of the local men’s team the ice was reserved for a game for women and teenage girls against the local women’s team.
After an U18 game and the Extraliga match between the men’s teams of MsHK Zilina and HC Kosice, the ice was open for the kids of all ages where new many girls were able to try hockey as part of the 2013 IIHF World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend that included programs also in two other Slovak cities, Bratislava and Kosice.
“It’s a big duty for us and everybody is helping for this event,” said Maria Zemiakova, an IIHF referee and women’s hockey coach who organized the event. “I’m satisfied because there are lots of people, small children and players.”
With the big number of kids willing to learn the game basically every part of the ice rink was filled for different skating and hockey skills. Many parents watched the event from the stands or on a live stream.
The event also had great support from local hockey stars.
Jana Kapustova with the IIHF European Women’s Champions Cup trophy and a gold medal in her hands and Jan Dlouhy, the captain of the MsHK Zilina men’s team, were the role models present on the posters.
15 professional male players from the local team showed up after their game not only to sign autographs but to encourage a new generation of players to learn and enjoy the game.
“It’s a very nice and special event for all the people that are involved in this hockey day in Zilina,” Kapustova, one of the stars on the Slovak women’s national team, said.
Kapustova hails from Zilina where she started to play at the age of 9 before moving to Martin, Slovan Bratislava and eventually to Dmitrov, Russia, where she plays for the currently most successful European club team, Tornado Moscow Region.
“In the beginning it was not easy for me in Russia because in Slovakia women’s hockey is an amateur sport,” she said. “But after having been there for a few years I have found perfect conditions. Everything is run in a professional way and I’m glad to play in Russia.”
Kapustova plays hockey for a living in the host country of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games. There’s little spare time for her. Mostly she spends it in the gym to keep her body in shape for hockey. Sometimes she went to Moscow for sightseeing or to watch KHL games.
With Tornado, Kapustova won three European titles in the last four years.
“Winning the European Women’s Champions Cup is hard. It was a tough tournament last year but in the end a beautiful success for me and my team,” said Kapustova, who calls being part of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver with the Slovak national team her biggest moment in hockey.
Since Vancouver, however, the Slovaks haven’t surprised again in international women’s hockey and play in the second tier of the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program. They also missed out on qualifying for the upcoming Sochi Olympics. Japan won the qualification tournament on Slovak ice in Poprad.
“Right now in Slovakia and especially in Zilina it’s a hard time for girls because the conditions are not so good when it comes to getting ice time,” Kapustova said.
That’s why she was back in her hometown to help the future generation of female players.
“It’s a good way to help them,” she said.
Click here for a video from the event.
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