By Ari Salas
Girls across Canada are lacing up their skates and taking to the ice for the fourth annual World Girls’ Hockey Weekend.
The event promotes the participation of girls in ice hockey and is organized by Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Ontario Women’s Hockey Association President, Fran Ryder, said female participation is important because it not only develops girls as athletes but as all around skilled people.
“It develops self-esteem and teaches goal setting and accomplishing these goals. It teaches all around skills and how to win and lose in a team competition” she said.
Chloe Demeunynck, public relations representative for Prissy Tomboy, said sports keep girls busy and focused as they are in school. Athletics are also a signature of successful women.
“Eighty per cent of women who are key leaders in fortune 500 companies have participated in sports in their childhood and identified as being tomboys,” she said.
Ryder has been a part of hockey for 47 years. She started playing in 1967 for the Brampton Canadettes and joined the OWHA when it was formed in 1985.
She said when she started playing people didn’t think girls could or should play hockey. Athletes didn’t have the exposure to gain credibility. The first thing the OWHA did was establish national and world championships and begin to lobby for Olympic inclusion.
“The players were good enough to play those events and showcase their skills,” said Ryder.
Women’s hockey was accepted into the Olympics in 1988.
“Hockey being Canada’s game it was only natural women become players and not just fans and spectators.”
Female registration has risen to 87,000 from 60,000 over the past decade.
Prissy Tomboy works with pre-teen to teen girls to get them into sports at an early age. The earlier girls start sports the more likely they are to stay active later in life, said Demeunynck.
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“If a girl does not participate in sports by the time she is ten there is less than a ten per cent chance she will be participating when she is 25,” said Demeunynck. “We try to introduce that healthy athletic mindset as early as possible because once you find that outlet in something you’re good at and passionate about its easier to stick with it.”
There’s a social stigma against girls in sport, she said.
It’s seen as manly and girls think they are judged by their friends and become insecure about being athletic. A lot of girls drop out of sports because their friends don’t participate and because it starts taking up too much time as their days become busier.
“We’re trying to get it to be something that is perceived as a fun girly outlet and not just for guys,” said Demeunynck.
She said there is a girl empowerment movement, a social change in the way girls in sport are seen.
A big part of this shift is the way female sport has grown in post-secondary education.
“A huge thing for girls to go to college is getting that sports scholarship and more and more girls are going on these scholarships,” said Demeunynck. “It’s definitely changing in a good way.”
There are events across Canada and Ontario this weekend to support girl’s participation in hockey.
The defining event in Canada is the second annual long game that starts Saturday morning in Newfoundland.
Puck drops first for the youngest age group, the Atoms, and then continues with games for Pee-Wee’s, Bantam’s, Midget’s and finally Senior’s.
Each age group inherits the previous game’s score as the game moves across the country with stops in each province.
Ontario will take Quebec’s score when the Atom age group starts play at 1 p.m. at Ice Land Arena in Mississauga.
The game will move to Manitoba and wrap up in British Columbia.
“It rolls across the country and gives house league and competitive players a chance to say they played for Team Canada and are all on the same team. It really captures the fact that we’re together, we’re building the game and we are playing in one long game as a country, said Ryder.”
The World Girls’ Hockey Weekend begins as Canada’s under 18 team plays the first of two games against China’s squad today.
— Team Canada Women (@HC_Women) October 9, 2014