BRISBANE, Austrlia – Ice hockey is different in Australia. People occasionally start playing the game in their forties. This is especially the case in the winterless Queensland where ice is only found at indoor rinks or in bars to cool down drinks.
Thirty young and older girls participated in the annual Queensland World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend at the Brisbane Acacia Ridge Ice World this weekend.
“We had seniors and juniors,” the secretary of Ice Hockey Queensland Tanya Wray said.
“America or Canada only have the young girls at these days because they have so many more people but our event was open to seniors as well.
“You don’t get senior beginners in places like the USA and Canada. It is nice that we give them the opportunity here.”
The youngest participants were Sorenne Powell and Katrina Rapchuk aged seven and the oldest were Carole Bradbury and Jane Meaney in their forties.
“It wasn’t a tournament. It was a come and try session,” Wray said.
“It was an awareness day when most hockey federations around the world have a similar function to promote hockey for women.”
The feedback from the girls was positive.
“Everybody enjoyed it,” Wray said. “They said it was great fun. It is good for them to interact with the Goannas which is the Queensland girls’ team that plays in the Australian women’s ice hockey league.”
Having members of the Goannas team participating in the day gave the “new girls” an idea of the pathway open to women’s hockey players in Queensland.
“The new players were excited and enjoyed working with the Goannas girls,” Wray said. “They are good players and some of them represent Australia in the women’s team.
“The day was a great success and people have felt that it was nice to have something just for the girls.”
The keenness of the new players impressed Jad Daley who is in charge of the Goannas team.
“There was a positive vibe about the day,” he said. “Many great comments were made like when will the next girl’s day be held and how do I join up to play the game.”
It was the fourth year that the annual IIHF event has been held at Brisbane.
“We have about a 25 percent sign up rate after the annual girl’s day,” Daley said.
“The day increases the exposure of ice hockey and improves the status of the sport in Queensland.
“It makes the male players understand and accept that girls do play hockey and want to play hockey.
“It's great to have the local association getting behind days like this and recognise that there are many girls and women that really enjoy playing hockey.”
The annual World Girls Day in Queensland has increased in popularity each year.
“In the first two years there weren’t so many outside players,” Wray said. “It was just the girls and their friends.
“We have already had four people who want to join up after today’s session. We always get people who want to join up or spread the word.
“We also run other Come and Try Days for boys and girls and we normally work on a 30 percent take-up rate afterwards.”
There was an international link up with this year’s event with most countries having the World Girls Day on the same weekend.
“We are able to link up with the IIHF and have information on their website and Facebook page,” Wray said. “It makes us feel that we are part of a big worldwide community instead of just having our own little event.”
The worldwide link up for the weekend emphasised that ice hockey is a sport that can be played from a young age through to seniors.
“People don’t realise that ice hockey is a sport that can be played from an early age through to seniors,” Wray said. “We have people in the senior men’s team in their late fifties who are having a great time.
“It is also a good family sport with Mum and Dad and kids playing together.”
Ice hockey is a mixed sport in Queensland at junior level.
“The girls can play with the boys in Queensland state teams to the under-15 level,” Wray said. “After that they are not allowed to play together.”
There are 550 registered ice hockey players in Queensland. This includes 60 registered women from the ages of six to 50.
“This year a club was formed in Townsville and one of their team members played in the under-18 state team,” Wray said.
Townsville is 1,300 km north of Brisbane in the tropical part of Australia. It has a population of nearly 190,000.
The standard of ice hockey is improving in Queensland and this was demonstrated when the under-13 team won the gold medal at the Australian national tournament.
“It was a significant achievement because they were competing against teams from New South Wales that has 1,500 registered players,” Wray said.
There are four ice rinks in Queensland – two in the capital Brisbane, and one each on the Gold Coast and Townsville.
for the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend tracker with events from all over the world.