The Smithers Minor Hockey Association (SMHA) is going all out to get new kids involved in the program.
This fall, they held a once-a-week program aimed at getting girls into the sport and by all accounts it was a success.
SMHA president Suzanne Rourke said that the program intended to introduce girls to hockey by providing equipment and qualified, experienced coaching more than met their expectations.
“When parents couldn’t bring their kids, they would phone up to let us know that they couldn’t attend but that they were still interested in the program,” she said. “They wanted us to know that they were not absent because they didn’t like the program. They wanted to make sure that we knew that they liked it.”
The program had around 70 players and ran from October through December.
“At this point we have 41 girls who have signed up to continue to play once a week. They range in age and skill levels so it’s very hard to make teams but we’ll continue to have a program that will introduce the game to these girls who want to play,” she said.
The program will be quite dynamic according to Rourke. Teams from around the region will be invited to participate and the program will continue until March. The players will be placed in groups based on skill and age for the practice sessions.
She said that there were some differences between girls and boys when it came to hockey as a first priority sport. Quite often, the girls will have a number of other activities that they have to juggle and these may cause barriers for them to continue in hockey. The only reason some of the girls might not continue is that they are over scheduled.
“We had some little ones who weren’t really sure and for some it just wasn’t their thing,” said Rourke.
“That’s why the Try Hockey program is such a good thing. You’re allowing some of these girls with question marks to try it. They don’t have to commit and then go back home and having committed for a full season of hockey and buying all the equipment and parents going, ‘well you’re going to have to stick it out now.’ It’s a very different way of accessing a sport,” she said.
“We’ll be inviting Hazelton and Houston to come and play. And maybe invite Burns Lake down for a weekend and get all those girls together and play. It’ll only be once a week on Sunday afternoon. It will be based on their skill development,” she explained.
From the parents, Rourke said that the reaction to the program has been very positive and appreciative.
“There was not a constructive criticism, it was all positive,” she said.
Rourke had praise for the coaches who had run the program.
“They are all coaches who did not have a player in the Try Hockey program. There was not vested interest but to give back. It was fantastic,” she said.
Rourke had plenty of praise for Dan’s Source for Sports and Bauer who helped provide the necessary equipment to run the program.
“We were able to access gear at wholesale process and in a conversation with Bauer, we were able to get 15 per cent off wholesale. Now we have all that gear to access for our next Try Hockey program,” she said.
She also wanted to thank Dan Hamhuis for giving his sponsorship.
In mid-January, the SMHA will start it’s Try Hockey program for boys who think they might like to give the sport a try. Rourke said that there were inquiries coming in very shortly after signs went up and applications were available.