One of the goals of newly minted Capital Region Female Minor Hockey Association is to provide more girls with the opportunity to play together on all-female teams.
Although the CRFMHA received official stamps of approval from BC Hockey in March and the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association in May, efforts to form a new association date back to May 2017, said CRFMHA president Ian Fleetwood.
“A lot of work went into getting this done. We’ve taken a model universally accepted in Canada and applied it locally,” he said.
The timing of the approval fits in with recommendations in a BC Hockey report released in February that called for the formation of more female hockey associations, Fleetwood noted. “The CRFHMA has already registered 23 girls who are completely new to hockey,” he added. “This many new female players in one season is unprecedented in Victoria.” Statistics show that increasing the number of girls who register makes higher retention sustainable over time as well, he added.
“Our objective goes beyond hockey,” Fleetwood said. “We want to create an environment where girls and young women can take on mentorship and leadership roles. That’s important because it’s not just hockey. We have lots of social events planned throughout the season to create a region-wide social community.”
The CRFMHA plans to have 12 or 13 teams involving girls between the age of five and 20 ready for September. Ice time has already been secured at 13 arenas in the region from Sooke to Sidney, Fleetwood added. “I can’t say enough about the work so many volunteers and parents have done to make this happen.”
That includes the efforts of one of the association’s directors, Ken Jones, a graphic designer who came up with the logo for the teams’ jerseys. The name, Victoria Reign, was selected through a process involving the roughly 130 players who have registered to play this season.
“Each player was allowed to submit two names, and we narrowed it down to five choices, which the players voted on in a series of elimination rounds. It was kind of neat to let them decide,” Fleetwood said.
While the cost of equipment can be prohibitive for some families, the CRFMHA believes it has addressed that as well. “We have a large inventory of loaner equipment we can make available for girls starting out who need it,” Fleetwood said.
Plans for this season, which begins with pre-season games in September and runs from October to mid-March, include games against local girls and boys teams, as well as girls teams from other parts of Vancouver Island. “We plan on a few trips to the Mainland for games as well.” In addition, The CRFMHA is also looking to host two tournaments featuring teams from the Lower Mainland and the U.S.
Another CRFMHA board member, Maegan Thompson, will coach 13- and 14-year-old Reign players this season. Thompson, whose passion for coaching began in 1989 when she was a teenager coaching her younger sister’s ringette team, has coached hockey for 10 years. “My husband and I started coaching hockey before we had kids,” she said. “Then we started coaching our kids. I’m just thrilled about the new association. There were lots of attempts in the past, so it’s nice to finally come to fruition.”
“It’s important to provide all girls with the opportunity to play,” Thompson stressed. “In the past, some girls had to play on integrated teams with boys. We lost some girls from hockey because of that, especially those just starting out. I hope they played another sport because it’s so important to every child for confidence and social skills.”
Team sports are especially important because they provide an understanding of what it takes to be part of a team, she added.
Bianca Parkes, a 17-year-old Belmont Secondary School student, said she has made lifelong friends since she started playing hockey when she was five. “It’s pretty cool and exciting to be part of a first-year team,” she said. “I probably know half the players on my team because we played together on the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies girls team last year.”
Although she loves sports in general, the speed and competitive nature of hockey have added appeal, Parkes noted. “You get exercise without realizing it because you’re having so much fun. I love playing defence because I really like the challenge of stopping the other team from scoring.”