It’s the dawn of a new era.
For the first time in the school’s history, Cowichan Secondary will have a girls ice hockey team for 2016-17.
It’s not the first time the school will be represented on the ice; Cowichan had an integrated boys and girls team for a while, but it hasn’t existed for a few years. With almost all of the players from the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey girls program attending Cow High, Mike Moroz had the idea to put together a school team as well.
“Most of the girls go to Cowichan Secondary, so it made sense to help advance their development,” said Moroz, a teacher and parent at Cow High with several years of experience coaching minor hockey. “They get more ice time this way, and it’s a chance to represent their school in a sport. For some of these girls, hockey is their thing.”
Moroz has 15 players committed to playing for the Thunderbirds in their inaugural season, including one who has never played organized hockey before. He’s hoping to add a couple more who used to play minor hockey but stopped because they couldn’t quite fit it into their schedules anymore.
Most of players who have signed on were on the CVMHA bantam female team that went 12-0 last season and won both the regular season and playoff championships. One of the players from the bantam team attends Frances Kelsey but will play for the Cowichan girls team.
“We’re lucky the team just happens to go to school together,” Moroz said.
It wasn’t hard to find players for the new team, but what Moroz didn’t realize when he started putting the program together was that there was no league for high school girls hockey on Vancouver Island, and it fell on him to create one.
“That was a huge challenge,” he acknowledged. “We didn’t realize no one else would have a team either. But the level of enthusiasm to create a new female high school league has been tremendous.”
Schools from Port Hardy to Saanich expressed interest, including half a dozen that could form a full team immediately. Another five were short on numbers, but Moroz is hoping that the other teams could play three-on-three exhibition games against them for the first season.
Cow High’s parent advisory committee picked up the cost of new jerseys for the girls, and Millstone Heating and Sheet Metal, Cal Kaiser realty, and Columbia Ice have stepped up to sponsor the team as well. Moroz is still looking for a few more sponsors to help lower the costs for families.
The number of games the team will play hasn’t been set, but it will depend on the number of teams that commit to the league. Organizers also don’t want to interfere with the players’ other responsibilities, on and off the ice.
“We don’t want to take away from the fantastic work being done at the minor hockey level,” Moroz said. “And we don’t want to take away from their studies.”
Moroz expects to average one home game and one road game a month for about 14 games in all over the season.
The players who have signed up are excited about the opportunity to play for their school.
Anya Hermant is entering Grade 9 at Cow High and going into her fourth season of minor hockey. Although she has never played integrated hockey, she appreciates playing with other girls, and was thrilled to hear the school would have a team.
“I was really excited about it,” she said. “It will mean more of a connection with my teammates.”
Madeline Moroz, who is entering Grade 10, has played both integrated and all-girls hockey, but prefers playing with girls.
“There’s more of a team,” she said. “When you play with guys, you have to change in a separate room, and a lot of team stuff takes place in the dressing room.”
There are differences on the ice as well, according to Marissa St. Amand, who is going into Grade 9 this fall.
“Girls are more aggressive,” she said. “They’ll smash you into the boards more often and go after you a little more.”
All of the players are hoping that the school team helps establish more of a presence for girls hockey in the Cowichan Valley. To that end, Moroz plans to send groups of players to Cow High’s feeder schools to help get younger girls interested in the game.
“I hope a lot more girls start to play hockey in Duncan so it becomes more of a girls sport,” Hermant said. “By the time I’m older, it will have grown a lot more.”