PERTH, Australia – What better way to spend a warm, sunny weekend than playing ice hockey. That’s what the girls in Perth, Western Australia must have felt on their way to the rink – and they couldn’t be happier.
Despite being a minor sport in this part of the world, ice hockey is growing. The Australian Ice Hockey League welcomed the expansion team Perth Thunder last season, and the newly-formed Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League is gaining support.
“It’s growing in popularity, but in terms of girls’ hockey it’s very very small,” said event organiser Jo Frankenberger.
“We don’t have a women’s team or girls’ league in Perth yet so our girls play with the boys’ teams.”
The Cockburn Ice Arena – one of just three rinks in Perth – hosted the first ever dedicated girls’ event of its kind in the city. Thirty girls participated, with ages ranged from just four years old to adult.
The ice rink sponsored the event and subsidised the cost for the ice time, meaning the girls only had to pay a minimal amount for skates and equipment hire.
In preparation, the organisers promoted the event on Facebook, put posters up in the ice rink, approached 12 city councils and local shires for support and posted notices around 120 local schools.
“Not too many people are aware that hockey exists here,” said Frankenberger, who is an active member in the local ice hockey community. She is assistant coach of the new national U18 women’s team, coaches the U16 men’s team, coaches at local club level and will play in the AWIHL this season.
“It’s an awesome sport in summer because we have 45 °C summer days and when you walk into an ice rink, it’s the most refreshing thing you will feel in the middle of summer.
“The event has definitely done a lot to increase awareness of the sport. But we are heavily dependent on sponsorship,” she said.
The girls thoroughly enjoyed the day, which involved skating drills, small area games, passing, relay races, tyre races and lots more.
“It was awesome! Can we do this every week?” said a beaming six-year-old Ayden.
While Michelle added: “It was so much fun. Great job, I hope we can do this every year.”
That enthusiasm was shared by the watching parents, who even had the nerve to put on skates and grab a stick to join in the games.
Frankenberger hopes the event can be a launching pad to expand the sport, eventually forming a girls’ team in Perth and creating a women’s league in Western Australia.
“We hope lots of girls will realise how much fun ice hockey is,” she said.
“It would be great to have a mascot next year, and maybe we can also encourage the indigenous girls come along too. We’d love to have them play.”
Click here for the World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend tracker.