One of the biggest events of the weekend took place in Bogorodsk in the Nizhni Novgorod Region, where local club SKIF staged its now-traditional junior tournament. Bogorodsk, a town of about 40,000 people, is one of several smaller towns within the region that runs its own youth hockey program for girls. On Sunday, it welcomed 150 players – aged 4-14 years – from neighbouring towns such as Gorodets, Lukoyanov or Shatki, and from Nizhni Novgorod itself.
“As one of Russia’s leading women’s hockey clubs, SKIF always pays great attention to events like the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend,” said club spokesman Nikolai Panchenko. “We fully support the IIHF’s initiative and we’re working to develop women’s hockey in our country, and especially in the Nizhni Novgorod Region. Every year, we have more than 150 girls from all over the region taking part in this festival.”
The event began with a skills contest before a round-robin tournament, with teams in two age-groups playing 10-minute games. While that competition is taken seriously, the emphasis is very much on participation. “As well as medals for the champions and competition winners, everyone gets a gift from the organizers and we make sure that everybody goes home happy,” added Panchenko.
“Both age groups were won by teams from Nizhni Novgorod's Nagorni rink. The tournament host did collect some individual prizes in the younger age group, with Yekaterina Malinina selected as best defender and Darya Gusenkina chosen as top forward.”
While SKIF’s young hopefuls were doing their thing in Bogorodsk, the Women’s Hockey League team was on the road to Yekaterinburg where it recorded a comfortable victory over the city’s team. Around the game, the host organized a range of events to encourage girls to take up hockey – and captain Yekaterina Anisimova recalled how things were very different when she started playing.
“It was back in the 1990s and, unlike today, us kids were out in the streets most of the time rather than sitting at home playing on a computer,” she told the Women’s Hockey League website. “One day, a coach came up to us and told us about his hockey team here in Yekaterinburg. I was invited to go along and train, but it was two days later before I told my mother!
“She was happy to see me do it – for her, the most important thing was that I wasn’t out on the streets at all hours.
“Anytime a girl speaks up and says she wants to learn to skate, we need to support that. In any sport, if you start with that desire, you can go on and achieve a lot. But without that desire, no matter how much talent someone has, it’s hard to amount to anything.”
Further East, in the heart of Siberia, Biryusa Krasnoyarsk turned Saturday’s home game against SK Gorny of Ukhta into part of the worldwide festivities. Young fans were invited to meet their heroes and take part in various skill contests … and the home team rewarded its supporters with a 4-2 victory.
Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg there was a reminder that girls of any age can take up the game. Dynamo St. Petersburg released a video clip showing the adventures of media manager Tatyana Chernova. In 15 years as a hockey correspondent and press officer, she had never had the chance to try out on the ice – until this year’s World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. The clip, which is only available in Russian at present, can be watched below.