Girls’ game trives
CeeBees, Trinity-Placentia hockey programs boast impressive numbers
Participation in female hockey programs in the Trinity-Conception-Placentia area is fairly strong at the moment. The CeeBees program in Harbour Grace is leading the way with 50 registered players.
It is just a normal mid-December night at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
Close to two-dozen hockey players are involved in an on-ice session. Led by a cadre of coaches, the young athletes go through the usual hockey drills. They do one-on-ones, twoon-ones, skate the lines and practice their shots.
Using the full ice, coaches work with players on the finer points of passing the puck, balancing on their edges and other intricacies.
Every player on the ice is female. It’s not that female hockey players are unusual; seeing them in a large number during practice is.
Some associations struggle to attract enough to practice at both ends of the rink. But not in Harbour Grace. The CeeBees Minor Hockey Association has some 50 female hockey players registered for this season.
Associations in Bay Roberts and Whitbourne have produced championship teams at various levels, but registration numbers vary. Whitbourne has some 40 registered female players this season, while the Bay Arena association features close to 20 female players.
In Harbour Grace, the CeeBees can ice a full complement of under12 players, as well as a full roster at the under-15 level — with some to spare. There are also a number of players in the under-9 category and several at the under-20 level.
“I think it’s great,” said CeeBees’ executive president Wendy Penney.
Over the past couple of years, the CeeBees female program has expanded and found success at the provincial level. It won a gold medal (under-12) and silver medal (under15) at the end of last season.
This season, the under-12 squad already has a tournament win under its belt.
There is no secret formula for the success of female hockey in Harbour Grace.
The association has a fully functioning female house league and is constantly encouraging more young players to throw on a pair of skates through regular open skates.
Meanwhile, players in Whitbourne travel to St. John’s a couple times a week for games.
“They get a lot of hockey,” said Trinity-Placentia Minor Hockey president Eric Clarke. “They’re playing different teams and getting a different calibur of hockey.”
There are also the yearly Esso Fun Days, which are slowly catching on.
“We’ve spent a lot of time promoting the game,” said Penney.
Finding them a game
Female hockey in this province operates with a unique organizational structure. Players are divided into categories for under-12, 15 and 20.
Teams can only carry a maxi- mum of 19 players, and it is rare for the sport’s governing body in the province to allow them to carry extra players.
This could leave some skaters with no games all winter. Often, associations will release players so they can play with another team for the year. This is true when it comes to the CeeBees and the Bay Arena under-20 players.
“We will always help them find a game,” said Penney.
Sometimes, that can be a problem. For example, the process might start too late and result in players missing out on opportunities elsewhere.
Penney has meetings lined up with reps from Whitbourne and the Bay Arena in an effort to find a way to expedite the process. Bay Arena Minor Hockey Association president Scott Crosbie thinks the regional approach can help push the female game even further in the future.
“Continued intergration is vital for the game to go even further and making sure the players have access to high level coaches and games,” he said.
“The biggest thing is getting teams for them to play against,” added Clarke.
One thing is certain, however. Female hockey is at an all-time high in the region and that has officials smiling a bit wider these days.
“I’m proud of how it is getting bigger,” said Penney.
A trio of female hockey players — from left, Camryn Taylor, Ally Cleary and Jennifer Pike — skate at a practice held last month at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.