The Victoria Minor Hockey Association is looking to help young girls fall in love with hockey.
Through the Canadian Tire First Shift program, the association will give 45 girls between the ages of six and 10 the chance to get their own hockey gear and practice on the ice for six weeks in January.
Nicki Reich is the vice president of the Victoria Minor Hockey Association and said there has been a crisis in getting girls’ hockey teams together. She said the goal of this program is to get young girls interested in hockey so that they’ll hopefully stick with the sport in the future.
“The hope is that we get 45 new girls to try hockey and fall in love with the sport,” Reich said.
The association is currently running a First Shift program that is co-ed. Out of the 45 kids enrolled, nine are girls. That means they make up 20 per cent of the program.
Reich said that number is a good sign and shows there is interest in girls hockey. She said many girls might just be intimidated when it comes to trying the co-ed program.
“In tho co-ed program we saw there were multiple girls who signed up as a group because I think it just removes the intimidation factor of doing a co-ed program,” Reich said.
The all-girls program will have all-female coaches and mentors on the ice as well.
Dave Saunders, a long-time coach of the Juan De Fuca Minor Hockey female program, said the number of girls playing hockey fluctuates over time.
“Sometimes there’s a lot of interest and sometimes it goes in cycles,” Saunders said. “If you have interested, great volunteers you see that cycle go up. When they age out of the sport the cycle goes down if there’s no succession path.”
Saunders has coached for 16 years and played hockey himself. His daughters have played hockey since they were children and continue to do so. He said once girls get on the ice, they’re not intimidated by the sport and for those that stick with it, they feel a great sense of camaraderie amongst their teammates.
“I think it’s great that First Shift is including girls to play hockey,” Saunders said. “Anything anybody can do to encourage young females to play hockey…it builds lifelong relationships and it’s really good for them.”
Reich said girls will get fitted for the program on Jan. 14, 2019.
They will receive head-to-toe Bauer equipment including all protective gear, skates, a stick, hockey bag and a jersey. Bauer will be sending experts to Victoria to help fit the girls for their gear.
Reich said there is a $200 cost that covers the gear and six weeks of lessons with one session a week. She said it’s an inexpensive way for parents to see if their daughter might be interested in the sport.
Registration is open now on a first-come, first-serve basis. More details can be found here.
“We just want more girls in hockey, period,” Reich said.