ZILINA, Slovakia – Since the IIHF introduced the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend, several clubs and communities have used the initiative and impulse to grow women’s hockey. Among them is Zilina that held the annual event for the fourth time on Saturday.
The fourth largest city of Slovakia not far from the border with the Czech Republic and Poland does it differently though. Girls do not only have the chance to try hockey but also to be part of a huge annual family gathering of the local club MsHKM Zilina with the aim of growing women’s hockey and the acceptance thereof.
Boys are also invited as part of the event and all kids are accompanied by male and female ice hockey stars from Slovakia. Zuzana Tomcikova, the goalkeeper of the women’s national team, was there, Sochi 2014 linesman Michaela Kudelova, former world champions Richard Lintner and Robert Petrovicky as well as former national team and Zilina player Roman Kontsek.
“It’s a lot of kids, a lot of girls, I enjoy it very much. The spirit is great. They’re doing interesting things with stickhandling, shooting, skating. It’s nice to watch them and be part of it,” said Petrovicky.
The 40-year-old two-time Olympian was on the team that won the first and so far only world title for Slovakia in 2002 and still plays hockey for Dukla Trencin where he once debuted in the Czechoslovak league in 1990. He’s happy to give something back to a new generation. For him it was the first time he saw women’s hockey from that close although women playing hockey is nothing new for him.
“I was watching women’s hockey before. I have a couple of friends who played at the Olympics. I’m very pleased that the girls get this opportunity here. They love the sport as much as we do,” Petrovicky said. “I’d love to invite as many girls and kids as possible to enjoy and play hockey.”
Approximately 250 people were at the rink in total estimated Zuzana Habalova, who helped organizing the event. 60 girls and 60 boys were registered but even more girls were on the ice and many parents watched what they were doing.
“It’s for young kids. There are a lot young girls around 4 to 6 years old and also boys of the same age. At this age the organizer wants to mix girls and boys that they grow up together and play together before girls can play in girls-only teams when they get older,” Habalova said.
“There are 12 different activities on the ice they are doing and when they’re done at all places they can go to our guests and get autographs and a gift.”
In the last three years Zilina’s girls’ day did not only help form a girls’ team but also bond the hockey family together and increase the acceptance of female hockey players.
“The IIHF World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend events are amazing and deliver results. I’m happy that the amount of participating girls is increasing,” said Maria Zemiakova, the organizer of the event and an IIHF referee.
“Each year we have more girls because of the marketing and advertising from this event. After each event we have more and more members, and we are proud that our girls are getting better at playing ice hockey.”
for the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend tracker with events from all over the world.