HARTNEY, Canada – It seems only fitting that the Westman Wildcats hosted such a successful event as part of the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend on Saturday.
After all, the team based out of Hartney representing the Westman South region in Southwestern Manitoba, is a premier destination for girls across the region to play elite-level hockey, led by the Wildcats’ Midget AAA squad that won the Esso Cup Canadian national championship back in 2009.
Saturday’s festivities drew a huge turnout, as 77 girls participated in the Wildcats’ Jamboree, as they call it, with the AAA Midget team girls serving as instructors and role models to the younger girls, aged 4-12, that attended.
“They did on-ice sessions with each group,” explained Wildcats manager Penny Hunt. “We had the 9-12 year-olds in the first group and the 4-8 year-olds in the second, and we went on and did some ice skills, and once they were done with that, they went over and did some dryland training, games and whatnot.”
With both the Wildcats’ Bantams and Midget teams playing Saturday night at the Hartney Community Rink, all of the girls attending the session remained for the double-header of games.
The Bantam AAA team played Yellowhead, and then the Midget AAA squad faced off against the Winnipeg Avros in their home opener of the Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League, the top AAA girls’ league in the province.
“Then we fed them all a pre-game meal, because our Westman girls played our home opener, and the girls stuck around to watch that game, and they got a t-shirt for participating,” Hunt said. “Our girls signed their shirts, our coaches talked to the girls, letting them know what our program is like, just so they know that there is somewhere for them to play when they get older, and that they can keep growing with their game.”
With the Wildcats representing a tangible goal to shoot for, a possible glimpse into an achievable future, for when they reach the Bantam and Midget age groups, many of the younger girls, the majority of whom already play hockey, were inspired to keep working hard in the sport.
“Some of them are first-time (hockey players), some are former figure skaters that just started to switch over to hockey, and there are quite a few of them that have been playing hockey already and that have been playing mostly with boys,” Hunt said of the 77 girls attending the Jamboree, “so this way they know that there are girls hockey teams around and that they can play on girls’ hockey teams eventually.”
The players on the midget and bantam Wildcats also helped with the promotion of the event, trying to recruit as many girls as possible to participate, and clearly, their efforts paid off by attracting a nice turnout.
“We put posters up,” Hunt said of how the Wildcats got the word out about the Jamboree. “Each girl from our teams took a poster, and there from all over the Westman South area, so they took their posters and covered the area. And of course, it’s also word of mouth, and it was posted on our website.”
Overall, it was a good day for girls’ hockey in Hartney.
for the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend tracker with events from all over the world.