The boys had their chance to impress on the ice earlier this month, so it was only fair that the girls would get their own shot.
Hockey NWT hosted its annual Female Jamboree at the Multiplex on the weekend with a sizable crowd of young ladies aged five and 18 taking the opportunity to learn, play and work without much male interference.
As in past years, there were guest coaches who made the trip up for the weekend. Tegan Schroeder and Danny Stone from Notre Dame College put the girls through their paces. Schroeder said there are definitely differences between coaching girls and boys.
“The girls game is a lot more skill-based,” she said. “They’re finding plenty of more lanes on the ice and that’s due to the elimination of open ice body contact and the physicality along the boards. It can still get rough at times but it’s a different vision overall in the women’s game.”
On-ice drills were the name of the game with plenty of chances for the girls to work on the fundamentals. But there were off-ice sessions as well, including fitness, team-building and classroom exercises with the various coaches.
When it came to the younger players, the goal was to teach while having fun and playing games to keep things interesting. Tehnille Gard was one of the Yellowknife coaches who worked with the younger ladies and said this approach was the best way to keep their attention.
“When we were working on their stance, we played Simon Says,” she said. “When we worked on stopping, we had them build little snowmen with the snow that was on the ice. It’s all about having fun at that age.”
The older players had fun in a different way. They battled it out in small-area games and breakaway drills.
Gard said it’s noticeable how developed some of the older players have become.
“I made the comment to one of the other coaches about how players like Annie King, Anna MacCara and Deanne Whenham have come along,” she said. “I coached them three years ago and from that time to now, they’ve developed so much and have such a great hockey sense.”
Schroeder saw passion among the players as well.
“They know that hockey can take them places and provide opportunities,” she said. “Female hockey, especially, can give a player a lot of opportunities in education. You can get a scholarship and it’s good to see these girls try and improve their game at a young age and take it to a higher level.”
Gard knows all about playing at a higher level, having graduated from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in 2015, where she was a standout goaltender.
“Hockey gave me that chance and I want to see some of these girls get the same chance I did,” she said.