Smiles lit up the ice Wednesday as roughly 25 girls got a taste of Canada’s game.
The Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association, in conjunction with Hockey Canada, hosted its fourth annual Esso Fun Day at Total Ice Training Centre — a chance for girls to try out the sport of the hockey in hopes of fostering a lifelong love of the game.
Jen Loewen, female co-ordinator with WLMHA, recruited a handful of talented local female players to mentor the participants, while WLMHA coaches Kirby Fofonoff, Lance MacDonald, Brooke Call and Kerri Dunsmore led players through the paces. Throughout the event, fun was the theme.
The Esso Fun Day also provided an opportunity for players to borrow gear in the event they had none of their own, giving all players a chance to get in on the action. This year’s youngest player was four years old, while the oldest was 11 — a change from previous years Loewen said was a welcome sight.
“It’s nice to see the shift go back to younger players because, hopefully, they’ll stay in hockey,” Loewen said.
Mentoring players on the ice during the session, which ran from 5 until around 6:30 p.m., were WLMHA players Rachel Loewen, Hanna Chabot, Hannah Chestnut, Rylee Pilkington, Jazmin Guichon and Bronwyn Pocock, along with goaltenders Cadence Peticlerc-Crosby and Kaitlyn Brown, while volunteers Tanis Rosa and Brianna MacDonald helped Loewen pull together the event.
On the ice, players ran some fun practice drills before being split up onto teams for a scrimmage to wrap up the play session.
In Williams Lake, Loewen said girls hockey is in a good spot, partly due to a strong group of volunteers committed to growing the game.
“An interesting stat: we have the same registration numbers as Prince George for girls,” Loewen said. “We were both even at 120 girls. For us that’s 23 per cent of total registration. We’re leading the charge in the province, with the exception of places where there are all female associations we are right at the top.”
Asked how she thought the evening went, Loewen said it was fantastic.
“It’s all about getting them on the ice and in gear to see if they like it,” she said.
Fofonoff, one of the coaches, said it was inspiring to see all the smiles on the ice.
“The girls are having fun,” he said. “I think they all lied and said they’d never played because they did so well, but it’s all positive and good to see for our hockey population. It’s inspiring for all our age groups.”
As for the players, Addy Brown, 6, and Annie Sharman, 7, said they had a blast.
“It was awesome,” Brown said. “I liked that we got to play games, and I’m for sure playing next year.”
“I liked that we had coaches helping us,” Sharman added. “And I liked the girls were being really nice to us. I’ve never played hockey in my life. This was my first time.”
Following the on-ice session, players were treated to snacks and swag bags.