PORT McNEILL—It’s not exactly A League of their Own, but the young ladies of the TriPort Minor Hockey Association will have the spotlight to themselves for the first time Saturday.
The newly formed TriPort peewee girls team will host the Campbell River Tyees at 12:30 p.m. at Chilton Regional Arena in the first all-girls game for the local association.
The team was assembled and is coached by Boni Sharpe with managing assistance from Miles Trevor. The 15 players are a mix of Port McNeill, Port Hardy and Port Alice skaters who also practice and compete with the boys in their local house teams.
“It was a big committement for all the girls and their families because they’re playing with their other teams,” said Sharpe, who is also the head coach for TriPort Minor Hockey. “They’ve all bought into it; there was not a blink of an eye about the committment.”
The team practices every other Sunday in Port McNeill, and had its first tune-up for Saturday’s game in a fun scrimmage last Thursday against the boys of the Port McNeill peewee squad.
“That was our first get-together time actually playing on the ice,” said Sharpe. “I couldn’t believe how well they worked together; it was magic.”
The girls led for part of the game and actually controlled play before losing by one goal.
But Sharpe believes the die has been cast for expanded opportunities for local girls in the sport.
“There’s been a big push through BC Hockey to get this up and running,” Sharpe said. “For so many years it’s been girls playing on mixed teams and not having any other options.”
Local female skaters have competed on all-girls teams in recent years. Ashlynne Moore, Kaileigh Wilson and Samantha Duytcyvich of Port McNeill and Carly and Emily Heavenor of Port Hardy were among the local players who skated with competitive midget girls teams made up of players from the Comox Valley, Campbell River and the North Island.
But this is the first time a recreational club has been made up entirely of TriPort girls players. For this year, the skaters will play only in exhibition games, but if the program can be maintained and expanded, it has the opportunity to compete in a regular schedule with as many as eight or nine other girls-only teams on the Island.
“We’re treating it almost as a pilot program, and seeing how the numbers are,” said Sharpe, who
looked into starting such a team a year ago. “We want to be sure it doesn’t hurt our house teams.”
Since word got out about the team’s formation, Sharpe has received almost daily calls or emails from other programs interested in playing the peewees. They have already been scheduled into a nine-team girls tournament in Oceanside during Christmas break.
And Sharpe hopes seeing the girls compete in exhibitions like Saturday’s game in Port McNeill will spark interest among other potential players on the North Island.
“We’re hoping at registration next year we have double the interest,” she said. “During Thursday’s fun game we had a huge crowd in the stands and they were screaming their heads off. We don’t even get that kind of turnout at our games in tournaments.”