STAVANGER, Norway – Stavanger Hockey on the west coast of Norway has come a long way on their promotion of girls’ hockey as the club already has full girls teams in under-7, under-8, under-9, and under-10 age groups.
The 12 girls that arrived at the Stavanger Ishall on Saturday to participate in this year’s World Girls0 Ice Hockey Weekend event can easily find a suitable team should they choose to pick up a new sport.
And Saturday’s event won’t be the only one this year.
“Our plan is to have four girls hockey days this season, next will be in November, then December and the last in January. In each weekend we will have 6- and 7-year-olds on Saturday, and 8- and 9-year-olds on Sundays,” says Ernst Falch, who runs the club’s hockey school program.
Stavanger has, in fact, arranged a Girls Hockey Day event every year since the IIHF started the initiative in 2011.
In Stavanger, hockey is big. The Stavanger Oilers have won the Norwegian championship five years in a row and six times in seven years. While Stavanger Hockey doesn’t have an elite men’s team in town, they do have a great women’s team.
“Our club is a very big youth club with 1,350 players [and] our women’s team is the best one in Norway. Our club has developed many players for the U18 and women’s national teams,” Falch says.
The road to the national team is paved with drops of sweat, and while the focus of the Girls Hockey Day was fun, sweating was still a part of the day, which began with an information session and registration, and getting to know the rink and each other. They also got to listen to an inspirational speech about doing one’s best.
After that, the girls picked up the equipment they needed to borrow – helmets, skates – and did a short trial run, getting used to the skates by walking on the rubber mats, and sitting down and getting back again.
And then: it was time to hit the ice.
“At first we did almost the same things as on the rubber mat, only on ice. Then we made an obstacle course in which the girls had to crawl under sticks, pick up rings, and so on. For each task, we made the distance longer, following our skating school program,” Falch says.
Two players from the Norwegian championship team were on the ice to not only tell, but to show them how much fun hockey can be.
“They also said that they had got a lot of new friends through hockey, and they talked about what an honour it is to play for one’s country. You could see the stars in the little girls’ eyes,” Falch says.
Afterwards, when all the equipment was back where it should be, the girls got some cookies and juice in the dressing room, and some more information on joining the club.
The first girls-only event of the season was a success in Stavanger.
“We don’t need 50 girls to show up in one day, but if we can get 10 girls to each of our four events, we already have close to 30 girls in each age group for girls. We know the road is long,” Falch says.
But they’ve left square one a long time ago.