KREUZLINGEN, Switzerland – Although Switzerland is the defending Olympic bronze medallist of the Olympics, Kreuzlingen became only the third venue in the country to have ever hosted a World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event. But the local club has growing ambitions in women’s hockey.
It was a sunny morning at Bodensee Arena. The rink at the shore of Lake Constance hosted the event run by EHC Kreuzlingen-Konstanz, an amateur hockey club at the border for the Swiss city of Kreuzlingen and the German city of Constance.
In the first edition it was mostly girls from the hockey school who participated in the event.
“It was great. We did a training with the girls who started recently in our hockey school. It was the first time they were together alone without the boys,” said Andrea Kroni, the former head coach of the U18 women’s national team who is in charge of youth hockey development in the club where she’s a board member. “Next year we hope to have more girls coming from outside.”
The girls played several games on the ice with exercises, a relay, stickhandling drills and an ice slalom. Kroni included a storyline into the practice, this time it had to do with a farm and respective toys have been part of the exercises including chicken toys.
“We often do that at our hockey school. As instructors you have to take on the glasses of a kid, look through their perspective and think like them,” Kroni said. “We also have things like treasure hunts, pirate games. The kids love it and they smiled a lot today. They also made progress especially in skating.”
It’s no co-incidence that the club’s first World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event started now. The opening of a sport school next to the rink opens new possibilities for the club and educating girls and boys on and off the ice.
“In our hockey school we have 24 per cent girls, which is quite high. In the club itself we’re not that high yet but we want to thrill girls for ice hockey in our club,” Kroni said.
EHC Kreuzlingen-Konstanz currently has a senior team in the Swiss Women’s Hockey League B and works in cooperation with another club in the region, SC Weinfelden, which has an SWHL A team. “Like that we have a road from the third to the first level within our organization and the SWHL A and B teams practise together. Next to our ice rink a new sport school opened. It’s a goal of us to build a centre of women’s hockey,” she added.
Kroni, who is with the club full-time, attends most of the youth team’s practices on the ice and coaches the coaches, is happy to see that some of the girls made it to the U14, U16 and U18 women’s national teams. Some of the girls also came from other cantons to join the club.
Like elsewhere in Switzerland the girls play in boys’ junior leagues before switching to women’s senior hockey.
“We want that they both play boys’ hockey but also make the women’s team parallelly because it’s different and they can learn from both especially if they don’t play on the special teams in the boys’ leagues,” said Kroni. The youngest player on the women’s senior team is therefore just 12 years old.
Becoming a centre for women’s hockey sounds ambitious. In Switzerland only two of the top pro clubs have teams in the SWHL A – HC Lugano and the ZSC Lions Zurich. It’s those two clubs who have won championships during the past nine years – five by Zurich and four by Lugano. The other participants have been left battling for third place. Despite the different means Kroni is optimistic for the smaller clubs in her canton of Thurgau.
“We want to develop the girls to be competitive for the women’s senior team. We saw that Weinfelden has become stronger each year in the SWHL A. In the next few years there will be some new players who will make the SWHL A team,” she said.
“We can do something by offering good education, a good schooling and work solution and bring young girls to us who are eager to develop.”
Her dream is to one day have so many girls in the system that the club can add a girls-only team in a boys’ league. “But we’re going step by step, that’s our slogan in the club,” she added.
Switzerland’s other event was hosted by Swiss national team goalie Florence Schelling in Kloten for the second time. Read more on that event soon on the #WGIHW tracker