Courtney Fraser has been working with the town’s best young female hockey players over the past season and it would appear her work has not gone unnoticed.
Fraser was named as one of the 21 nationwide winners of the BFL Canada Female Coach of the Year Award. The award, which is given out in conjunction with Hockey Canada, is split into two categories: community and competitive. Fraser was named as the winner for Hockey North in the community category.
Her colleague, Kaylee Grant of Yellowknife, won in the competitive category.
Fraser said it came as a complete surprise and started out as simply an interview … at least that’s what she was led to believe.
“I was told that I would be on a Zoom call to talk about women’s hockey,” she said. “I logged on and as soon as I did, I was told that it wasn’t an interview and I had won the award.”
Fraser, who works as the town’s recreation programming supervisor, has been involved with minor hockey ever since moving to Hay River in 2021. She began helping out with her children’s teams and this past season was the first one she had worked on a female development program.
“We had one ice time per week and it was open to girls in U7 through U18,” said Fraser. “We would end up splitting the ice based on age groups, keeping the younger ages and older ages together, and we would run our practices that way.”
Hay River has a very strong female hockey presence already and that was seen during this past hockey season. Several girls featured on both the Arctic Winter Games and Canada Winter Games girls teams and that’s something Fraser said bodes well for the future.
“Our U13 group are really phenomenal players,” she said. “They put in the work and got to that next level and now, the U11 girls can look at them and think ‘That could be me one day’. That could be their push to improve and maybe put themselves in that same position.”
Fraser also said she would love to see the numbers of girls playing hockey increase, but retention is the key.
“Using those older players as the example, seeing what they’ve done is so important in giving the younger girls something to strive for,” she said. “I would love to see an increase in players – who wouldn’t? – but keeping the players we have is the goal.”
The hope of having more girls vs. girls games is something she’s hoping for in the future, she added.
“We already have a lot of girls playing hockey here, but not enough to have games yet,” she said. “Female hockey is such a different style of game. All of those girls who went to the AWG and CWG told me it was the first time they had played with just girls. It feels more like a team when it’s all girls because it’s what you’re going to be doing when you move up, whether you’re on the same team or playing against someone else.
Glenn Smith, the town’s senior administrative officer, said the town is very proud of Fraser and her well-deserved award.
“She is an admired coach and an ambassador of recreation.,” he said. “The town is privileged to have employees like Courtney who give so much of their time to community both on and off the clock.”
The award also came with a $1,000 bursary and Fraser said she’s still thinking about how she’ll use it, though there is one idea rolling around.
“Maybe some more ice time for the girls,” she said. “I’ll wait and see what happens, but I would love to get them on the ice more often.”