SUBMITTED PHOTO                                The Tri-Port Intro Girls team has some fun posing for a photo during their Christmas Party.

SUBMITTED PHOTO The Tri-Port Intro Girls team has some fun posing for a photo during their Christmas Party.

Community support keeps girls hockey alive on the North Island

“A successful program depends on community engagement and support.”

Female minor hockey received a $5,200 grant this year, which will be used to benefit “all female hockey players on the North Island, not just those in the female hockey program,” says Tri-Port Female Minor Hockey Coordinator Lisa Brown.

Back in May, Brown submitted an application for a gaming grant by attaching a link to a North Island Gazette article which described the growth of female hockey on the North Island, and pointed to it as “why we needed the funding,” said Brown. “It worked.”

While female minor hockey numbers are on the rise on the North Island, this is in stark contrast to comments made in September of this year by Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association President Jim Humphrey, who stated to the media that “Girls’ hockey on the Island is going extinct.”

Humphrey went on to say, “More girls quit than go play integrated hockey”, and that “Not every female can play male hockey and not every female wants to play male hockey. So what do you do with those girls that don’t want to play with the boys? Right now all we can tell them is ‘sorry, unless something changes you can’t play hockey’ and that’s a sad thing.”

Meanwhile, here on the North Island, volunteers are busy working hard to prove Humphrey wrong, says Brown, adding they are putting in the time year-round to help increase the number of girls playing the sport within the Tri-Port Minor Hockey Association, which they are definitely seeing success with.

Brown credits the growth to the amazing community support received from the North Island.

“A successful program depends on community engagement and support, and we are seeing that on many different fronts,” she said, adding that when the Tri-Port region recently moved to having a stand-alone program focused on female hockey, the key focus areas identified were recruitment, development and retention. “Out of this we’ve been running an intro to hockey group, which has 24 girls this year, most new to hockey, and a bantam/midget team. We also hosted a female hockey camp in July, and hope to expand on the development piece moving forward.”

Brown thinks the huge amount of community support they have received so far all started with the Tri-Port executive, who were willing to look outside the box to help find an approach that worked for North Island girls.

She added that all the local businesses were more than willing to chip in, helping finance jerseys, team jackets “and much-needed goalie gear for the program. We regularly get approached by individuals asking how they can help — we’ve actually had sets of goalie gear donated by families, along with regular player gear.”

Brown said they have one volunteer, Tricia Ewen, whose daughter is now playing integrated hockey, “but she still volunteers for the female program because she’s so passionate about it.”

Brown confirmed she is not worried at all that girls hockey will go extinct. “We have a whole community behind us,” she said. “I’m confident that we’re going to see more and more girls playing hockey on the North Island thanks to the great support we’ve seen from everybody.”