STEPHENVILLE, Canada – For a Western Newfoundland town of less than 7,000 people, Stephenville staged an ambitious, multi-faceted World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event. And it should have a wonderful ripple effect.
“We had good attendance,” said Maria Churchill, president of the Stephenville Minor Hockey Association. “We had 17 skaters and four coaches for our U12 division. We had ‘Bring a Friend,’ so there were a few new skaters. They were pretty excited and they got all outfitted with equipment. We had 28 skaters and four coaches for our bantam female group. That was pretty exciting as well.”
To ramp up the fun, cotton candy, popcorn, and balloons were provided. The girls got toques from the IIHF celebrating the special weekend, as did parents, who spent the day volunteering and participating in the Parent and Daughter Skate. In addition, more than 20 kids got outfitted with hockey gear through an equipment drive that went on throughout the week.
Churchill has a lot on her plate. In addition to heading up local minor hockey, she’s a Stephenville firefighter, the president of the local Adam Piercey Memorial Skatepark, and helps to run women’s and co-ed softball leagues.
How did she end up in her current hockey role? “My stepson has been involved with Stephenville Minor Hockey since he learned how to skate,” she explained. “I’ve been a volunteer, a coach, helped around the rink. This year I decided maybe I should give a little more back to the sport that gives so much joy to families and everyone works hard to be a part of.”
There was a charitable component to the event as well. In partnership with the Atlantic Canada Breast Cancer Foundation, a “Pink in the Rink” fundraiser took place. At a charity game between representatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the West Coast Correctional Centre, adults paid $5 and children $3 for admission.
“It’s nice to be able to increase awareness for females to become active in any sport,” said Churchill. “Hockey is a great way to get them making new friends and developing new skills at the same time.”