VANCOUVER – There’s often a hockey buzz in Vancouver on a sunny Saturday morning in October. A special girls’ hockey event at the Killarney Community Center added to that vibe during the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend.
The Vancouver Angels don’t get the media coverage of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, who were slated to take on the Montreal Canadiens on October 11 at Rogers Arena. But as the only girls’ hockey association in the city of Vancouver proper, the Angels fill a vital role at the grassroots level. And there were smiling faces everywhere as the girls hit the ice in their red, yellow, and white jerseys.
“This is the second year the association has run this event,” said Angels vice-president Lorne Palmer. “We had a smaller event last year. We took a little more time this year to get organized, putting up posters at other community centres, and we have more kids out this year. The ages for the Vancouver Angels range from four-years-old to 17 – everything from tyke- to midget-aged players. For the whole association, we have about 170 girls from those age groups. Here today, we have 50. So 30 percent of the girls are here for this event, which is great.”
The rink at the Killarney Community Center is an Olympic legacy facility. Located in East Vancouver, it was rebuilt prior to the 2010 Winter Games, and short track speed skaters used it for practice. Now it’s back to serving the community, and these young women are among the beneficiaries.
At the free morning event, the girls competed in shooting and skating drills, and also took part in scrimmages with parents and local hockey fans looking on. About 15 girls showed up to try hockey for the first time, using plastic sticks and pucks to make their introduction as easy as possible. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) covered the goings-on for an evening TV news feature.
The Angels used the event as a fundraiser, selling “Earhugger” earrings. They also plan to partner with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants (who’ve produced NHL stars like Boston’s Milan Lucic and Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher), taking partial proceeds from 50/50 raffle tickets sold at an upcoming home game at the Pacific Coliseum.
“We’re hoping to promote girls ice hockey so that some girls will think they’re the next Hayley Wickenheiser and hopefully go on,” said Angels president Peter Yee. “There are some girls who are looking forward to university hockey already. I know parents are always hoping for scholarships. So whatever works is great.”
How much did hosting the Olympics in 2010 with Canada’s 2-0 gold medal victory over the American women boost girls’ hockey in Vancouver?
“We have three teams of atoms [under 11 years old] here, and they started right after the Olympics,” said Palmer. “For most of the other age groups, we only have one or two teams. With the atoms we have a huge number. We’re hoping that with the next Olympics coming up in Sochi, people will think: ‘Well, that looks cool. Let’s see if my daughter would like to get involved.’”
The leaves may be turning red here in Canada’s leading West Coast city, but the passion for girls’ hockey? Well, that’s evergreen.
Visit our tracker to find out about more events all around the world.