Young female hockey players are hitting the ice on all-girl Midget and Peewee rep teams this year — only the second time that two teams have been available for girls in northern B.C.
Incorporating players from Vanderhoof to Whitehorse, the all-female rep teams are for the first time being officially recognized as regional teams, registered under BC Hockey rather than under the Terrace or Smithers minor hockey associations.
The Midget Northern Eagles players are mostly returning from last year’s female Bantam rep, and five players hail from Whitehorse, four from Terrace and four from Smithers, three from Prince George and one each from Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Hazelton and Fraser Lake.
The Eagles played their first tournament in Fort St. John Oct. 21, taking second place of four teams. They lost to the Northeast Predators 3-1 in their first game, but went on to beat Alberta’s Beaverlodge 6-2 and conquered Fairview from Alberta 4-0. That advanced them to finals against the Predators, where they lost 6-1 and took silver.
It was the first of four tournaments the Northern Eagles plan to play this year, with the next one in Kamloops Nov. 17-18.
Coach Darcy Allison said he coaches for his daughter, who wouldn’t otherwise get to play rep hockey. Plus, he said, it gives the girls a chance to build friendships and face off against other girls instead of always jostling in the more physical leagues with the guys.
A northern Peewee rep team is also coming together, prompted by a female hockey weekend in Smithers Oct. 14-15, which had players Atom to Bantam, with Midgets helping out. After seeing the number of competitive Peewee players, it was agreed to form the second northern rep team. The program to give girls a chance to try hockey is still running in Smithers.
The team’s coach, Richard Kriegal from Terrace, said they’re finalizing the roster and hope to ice the team in at least one tournament this winter. Players are from Terrace, Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Smithers, Hazelton, Fraser Lake and Vanderhoof.
It’s only been seven years that female rep hockey has been available in the North.
The first team was a Bantam rep girls team started by Terrace parents Darcy Allison, Mario Desjardins, and Randy Kasum in 2010. They mustered a roster from the small pool of girls in the minor hockey leagues of the North to form a regional team registered under Terrace Minor Hockey. They played for two years (2010-2012), and Smithers formed a Peewee girls rep team in 2012.
The Terrace female Bantams then merged into a Midget team for three years (2013-2016), before most of the core players graduated or seized opportunities elsewhere to play female hockey, such as Myah Bowal, Lauren Smaha-Muir, Wynona Creyke, Taylor Northcott, Maddie Nicholson, and Sarah Rourke.
“There’s a lot of success stories from that rep team,” said Suzanne Rourke, Smithers Minor Hockey president. “It’s super cool. Hockey has provided opportunities that wouldn’t have been there without it.”
Rourke added that once girls get a taste for all-female hockey, they tend to gravitate to it, especially at the Bantam level when minor hockey starts to allow body checking.
Last year, a younger Bantam team played a few tournaments, and this year there’s the Midgets and still-forming Peewees.
It’s not known whether female hockey will continue to develop, since numbers of players fluctuate year to year. The sport may also be affected by ringette, a similar sport which is also growing and becoming more established.