… 7:06 p.m. Eastern Standard Time … the University of Ottawa Sports Complex in the heart of the nation’s capital.
The puck drops on another chapter in Canadian women’s hockey history with the debut of Canada’s newest team, the National Women’s Under-18 Team.
Minutes later, Catherine White becomes the answer to a trivia question as the Brampton, ON native scores the first goal in team history, getting the Canadians started on their way to a three-game sweep of the USA’s Women’s Under-18 Select Team.
“Honestly, it brought a tear to my eye to score such a big goal,” White says. “It is easily the biggest goal I have scored in my career, and it was such an amazing moment.”
White’s goal, and the three-game sweep of the Americans, may have been just the first step for the team on the ice, but off the ice it was a culmination of more than a year’s work.
But according to Julie Healy, Hockey Canada’s director of female hockey, an Under-18 team wasn’t the original plan.
“Our original plan for the 2007-08 season was to begin an Under-19 program that was to include a three-game series in August against the USA,” Healy says. “All of our scouting and the subsequent depth charts were based on a 1989-and-earlier (birthdays) age group. When the IIHF announced the 2008 world championship, we had to adjust our program plan to focus on the 1990s (born in 1990 or earlier).”
The world championship will be the inaugural IIHF World Women’s Under-18 Championship, to be held in Calgary from January 7-13, 2008.
“We couldn’t be any more excited to be hosting the first World Women’s Under-18 Championship,” Healy says. “It is a tremendous honour to be given the responsibility of hosting the first-ever championship, and we look forward to playing a part in growing the national team programs in all of the countries participating.”
According to Healy, the best way to grow the game, and achieve parity, is for countries to learn from one another.
“We’re very proud of what we have set up here (in Canada), and if another country can take something from us and apply it to their program to get better, and make the game better, then we are behind that 100 per cent.”
If any country’s program is to be imitated, Canada would be a terrific choice.
With the advent of the National Women’s Under-18 Team, Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence now includes three teams at the female level – the National Women’s Under-22 Team and National Women’s Team follow the U18 team.
The National Women’s Team is a nine-time IIHF World Women’s Championship gold medalist and two-time Olympic gold medalist, while the National Women’s Under-22 Team is the five-time defending champion at the Air Canada Cup, an international event held every January in Germany.
That is pretty good success for one country to have, and Hockey Canada hopes the National Women’s Under-18 Team is the next to strike gold on the international stage.
“Our provincial Under-18 Programs of Excellence provide us with a great base of players, coaches and support staff. We are confident that this partnership between Hockey Canada and our Branches will translate into national program success at the Under-18 level,” Healy says.