SAN JOSE, USA – The San Jose Sharks are the NHL’s hottest team so far this year, and apparently that excitement has translated to the junior programs the California club sponsors. The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend was another highlight.
At Shark Ice, the official practice facility, 40 participants showed up on October 12 and another 38 on October 13. Ages generally ranged from 5 to 12, but there were also some 13- and 14-year-olds.
Checking in with Sheela Mohan-Peterson of the Jr. Sharks Girls Program about the weekend’s activities, it’s hard not to get excited about the future of hockey for girls in the Bay Area.
“We offered one hour of free hockey lessons per day, along with providing free skate and equipment rentals,” said Mohan-Peterson. “Several of the girls’ coaches and Jr. Sharks female and male players helped give individual attention to the participants.”
But that just was the start.
“We gave out special gifts to the participants and provided refreshments after the session in our rink restaurant,” said Mohan-Peterson. “In the restaurant we had volunteer parents and coaches who talked about additional hockey opportunities for the participants. These included additional hockey skating lessons, in-house recreational programs, and opportunities with the San Jose Jr. Sharks Girls teams (especially at the 8U level). Our girls’ teams’ parents are so enthusiastic about our program. They are our best sales people!”
Rolling out the red carpet this way delivered results. Several participants said they wanted to play girls’ hockey. Parents signed up their daughters for lessons and in-house teams. And while the Sharks may be rivals with the Anaheim Ducks at the NHL level, some parents from the Anaheim Jr. Ducks youth team were on hand for a California Amateur Hockey Association event and mentioned how impressed they were with the sessions.
“We also had a Jr. Sharks girls alumni here and she was almost in tears – happy ones! – about how our program has grown and how diverse our Jr. Sharks girls program has become,” said Mohan-Peterson.
The Jr. Sharks program gained special recognition earlier this year. It was just one of four programs in the United States to be designated a USA Hockey Model Association Program. (The other three were the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (Michigan), the Kettler Capitals (Maryland), and Montgomery Youth Hockey Association (Maryland).)
More than 25 years since Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, hockey’s popularity continues to increase all over the Golden State. And there’s a golden hockey future here for girls as well as boys.
“I think girls who never thought about hockey before are now encouraged to play,” said Mohan-Peterson. “Many parents were so happy to hear of our amazing success in having girls continue to play hockey in college, some on full scholarships. Northern California is a tough market in which to sell hockey, and I think we have made huge strides in opening up this opportunity to girls in our community.”
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