PORT McNEILL—Thanks to a popular response in its inaugural season last year, the Intro to Girls Hockey is back for another run in the Port McNeill Minor Hockey Association.
Originally formed last year as a way to boost the number of girls on the minor hockey association’s co-ed teams, the program has succeeeded in that goal while also finding a niche among new skaters who wish to stick with an all-girls group.
“There’s just something to that all-girls atmosphere,” said Lisa Brown, head coach of the program. “Maybe it’s a confidence thing; I can’t put my finger on it. But I expect out of this group of girls, this may be the kick-start they need to go on to play minor hockey.”
The girls hockey sessions are held each Sunday from 2:30-4 p.m. at Chilton Regional Arena.
They are something of a showcase for female empowerment, with a woman as head coach and volunteer assistant coaches from the ranks of girls who skate for both Port McNeill Minor Hockey and for the North Island Eagles rep hockey program.
“Having female coaches, for some of the girls, does help increase their comfort level and maybe boost their confidence a bit,” said Brown.
Last week’s season-opening practice drew nearly 20 prospective skaters. They are roughly an even mix of returning players from last year’s popular program, and new skaters.
The program is open to skaters from the novice (age seven) level up through high school.
“It’s fun,” said Shae-Lynn Pazarena of Port McNeill. “And it’s great to hang out with your friends.”
But don’t mistake the program for a fun skate.
“In our practices we encourage fun,” said Brown. “And I think all hockey programs should do that. But our practices are very structured. We have high expectations of the girls, and we challenge and push them to be their best.”
Popularity of the program last year quickly spread in Port McNeill and into the surrounding communities. Several players joined the season in progress when they learned about it from friends, and this year players from Port Alice and Port Hardy are traveling to take part.
“I think everyone kind of shares this interest in trying to grow female participation in hockey,” said Brown. “Having this program has definitely grown the interest — and the numbers — in our program.
Fees for the program are lower than those for the association’s other teams, and are based on the shorter ice time used each week.
To register for the program or for more information, call Brown at 250-230-0538.