She shoots, she scores

Girls hockey is the fastest growing team sport in Canada, and Terrace is seeing this first hand

About 40 girls turned out to the Sportsplex here in Terrace on Oct. 14 for girls hockey day. Here’s instructor Scott Mulder coaching some of the players in a passing and shooting drill.

Girls hockey is the fastest growing team sport in Canada, and Terrace is seeing this first hand with more girls taking up hockey than ever before. Terrace Minor Hockey has 62 female players (more than any other northwest district) and a powerhouse Bantam girls rep team who are making their mark, winning games all over the area.

But this is only a start and there could always be more, so a dedicated group of coaches and adults are working together to foster the sport’s growth, hoping to get more girls involved at a young age so they can rise through the ranks together.

One way to do this is to host day-long workshops specifically for girls, so on Sunday, Oct. 14, an Esso Girls Hockey Day was held here at the Sportsplex.

More than 40 girls between the ages of five and 12 turned out for on-ice instruction and drills followed by presentations and speeches from women and men with different experiences in hockey.

Food was provided by Bert’s Deli, a big supporter of minor hockey here in Terrace, and Coca-Cola and All Seasons sponsored as well.

One of the women who spoke and instructed on the ice was Angela Rabut. She didn’t start playing hockey until she was 21-years-old, because she “wasn’t allowed” when she was younger.

But once she started, she didn’t look back, playing hockey in every town she’s lived in since and even winning gold with that first team. She finds it is a great way to connect not only with other women, but with her sons who play hockey too.

“Girls playing hockey now is accepted which is great to see,” she said. “I never hear anything negative towards girls who play hockey – this would not have been the case when I was growing up.”

Her message to the girls was “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

“I told the girls that every single one of them had the ability of “hard work” in them. In all things in life,” she said. She noted some of the girls that day had amazing puck handling and skating abilities for their age.

One of the program’s organizers, Brad Andersen, who has two daughters in hockey, echoes Rabut’s praise of the girls’ skating abilities and hard work ethic.

“I think overall, girls are better skaters. I don’t know if that’s because they pick it up faster. The skating is huge with the girls,” he said.

The last time an Esso day like this was held here in Terrace was four or five years ago, he said.

And one reason we have such a strong Bantam girls team now is because of that event, he said, crediting coach Mario Desjardins for putting it together and continuing his work with the players.

The goal for the program now is to keep the momentum every year, with an Esso day early in September (before registration) as well as weekly girls sessions, which will funnel more girls into the sport so there can be all-girls teams at every level.

“You have to build one team and just keep carrying them on, that’s what our goal is,” he said.

It’s important for girls to play co-ed, he said, but also important for them to have the opportunity to be immersed with other girls on the ice.

“Some definitely like the challenge of playing with the boys, but I just think they can excel way more when they get on with just girls. It brings the competitiveness out in them more than when playing coed,” he said.

“But I still want to see girls play coed, because it’s important to get on the ice as much as possible.”

And there are many benefits for girls who play hockey, even beyond the normal benefits of playing team sports, said Andersen.

“Girls have potential for scholarships now, that’s a huge avenue,” he said. “At the end of the day if you can get a scholarship paid for, or half paid for, through a sporting program, that’s huge.”

The Canadian national team is also a possibility, although to date, there has never been a girl who has made the team from B.C. – most players are from Ontario and Alberta.

“But now B.C.’s starting to come alive with girls hockey,” he said. “I can really see in the future we’re going to have someone from B.C.”