As in other parts of the world, it’s about education, awareness, and having fun. Let’s take a closer look at one #WGIHW event in the nation that currently sits 26th in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking behind Spain and ahead of Turkey. Beside an event in Mexico City, a second one took place in Leon for the first time.
“Our event took place at Ice Sport Center in the city of Leon, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico,” explained organizer Areli Vasquez. “Our hockey club, Bandidas, has women’s and men’s teams that compete in national tournaments. There were 10 women participating in this event.”
Leon isn’t known as a women’s hockey mecca. Producing leather goods is what put it on the map. Sports-wise, the city of 1.5 million is best-known for its men’s football team, Club Leon, which has won the top Mexican division championship seven times, and for hosting FIFA World Cup games in 1970 and 1986.
However, Bandidas was happy to welcome women eager to improve their hockey skills at the rink that opened on 1 May 2013. The Ice Sport Center is located in the Plaza Mayor shopping centre, which reportedly attracts some 12 million visitors a year.
“We lent them hockey skates and helped with the laces, which is always the first problem,” Vasquez said. “Then on the ice we showed them how to hold a hockey stick and control the puck. Finally, we had time to play hockey!”
Vazquez is also a past participant in Hayley Wickenheiser’s annual WickFest female hockey festival in Calgary (expanding to Surrey, British Columbia in 2019), which attracts young girls from around the world. And if there’s an area that Bandidas would like to improve, it’s getting more youth involved.
“The moms liked it very much,” Vazquez said. “But we expected more girls, so we all were a little surprised about this. It’s always important to have this kind of event in this city. In general, parents here don’t like that girls play hockey. So it’s very difficult to change this situation.”
Still, every little bit counts.
“One of the girls liked it very much and she signed up to train regularly with our team,” said Vazquez.
Interestingly, Leon’s sister cities include Los Angeles, home of the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup champion Kings, and Las Vegas, home of the 2018 Stanley Cup finalist Golden Knights. While girls in Leon face challenges in their own quest for hockey excellence, the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend is helping to create some good vibes.
Click here to access the #WGIHW tracker with more stories from the World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend.