A historic weekend for girls’ hockey in Saanich ended on a winning note for the home team.
The Saanich Braves beat Oceanside from Parksville 4-0 Monday afternoon at G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre to claim the crown in the peewee division as Saanich Minor Hockey Association hosted its Thanksgiving Tournament.
The all-girls hockey tournament featured more than 135 peewee and bantam players on nine teams from Langley, Seattle, Oceanside (Parksville), Cowichan Valley, Peninsula and the host Saanich Braves.
The tournament coincided with World Girls Hockey Weekend, an event that the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) organized to spotlight girls in the game.
Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was the so-called “the Long Game” held Saturday afternoon. A joint initiative by Hockey Canada and B.C. Hockey, the Long Game is continuous game of hockey played hour-by-hour. It started in Newfoundland, then continued across the country, wrapping up on Vancouver Island.
All tournament players had a chance to skate in the Long Game, which ran Saturday from 4 to 5:20 p.m. at Pearkes Arena.
Fleetwood said the game really engaged both fans and players. “We had a lot of fans out for it, and it was a lot of fun for the girls,” he said.
The game was important because it coincided with the IIFH effort. “It is important because it highlights the number of girls involved,” he said.
Fleetwood said over 10,000 girls across Canada played in the Long Game or participated in events around the World Girls Hockey Weekend.
“It’s [girls’ hockey] taking off across the country,” said Fleetwood. “Statistics show it is the fastest growing part of the game. We think part of the challenge is just to get girls involved at an early age, have them develop from an early age, play with girls from an early age,” he said.
Last weekend’s tournament took place against the backdrop of concerns about the long-term future of female hockey on Vancouver Island after a minor hockey executive had warned about the imminent death of girl’s hockey on Vancouver Island.
Such concerns were likely far from people’s mind Monday as Braves scored two first-period goals to put the game out of reach early.
Langley won the earlier bantam final was won by Langley in what was an exciting game ending with scoreless overtime and then a shootout that went several rounds!