As the Hockey Alberta "The Girls’ Game" Hockey Festival draws nearer, organizers released some more details about what will be taking place when the event runs from April 15 to 23 in the Capital Region at a press conference held Wednesday afternoon at Servus Place.
The festival, which will run in conjunction with the 2011 Esso Cup, Canada’s National Female Midget Championship, which will be held at Servus Place, will play host to numerous events geared specifically toward female hockey players and coaches.
"This festival is really an exciting opportunity," Dean Hengel, general manager of Hockey Edmonton and chair of the 2011 Esso Cup, said Wednesday afternoon. "We have about 2,800 young ladies playing the game of hockey in the Alberta Capital Region and we’re going to be able to provide about 1,000 developmental opportunities for young athletes, young officials and we even have an introduction to the game for some mothers or ladies who haven’t had a chance to play."
Some of the events that will take place during the festival include an Atom and Peewee skills camp run by two-time Olympic gold medallist Carla MacLeod, Team Alberta challenge zone camp tryouts, three-on-three competitions, a goalie experience fun day, along with classroom sessions for coaches, parents and officials.
Though the majority of the events will take place at Servus Place, the challenge zone camps will utilize rinks in St. Albert, Edmonton and Leduc.
Jessica Kampjes, who stars with the Midget AAA St. Albert Slash, grew up playing hockey with boys because there were not very many opportunities for female hockey players when she was young. She applauds organizers of the festival, saying that, because of the exposure this will bring to female hockey, there will be more girls lacing up with the boys.
"It’s great because, when I played hockey with boys, I was the only girl on my team," said Kampjes, who was honoured at the press conference along with Slash teammate Melissa Kueber for their role in helping Team Alberta win the gold medal at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax, N.S., last weekend. "I didn’t have much of an opportunity up until three years ago. [The festival] gives them the opportunity where they can grow up playing girls hockey and get into it younger and it gives parents an opportunity to put them in it now."
All who spoke at the press conference alluded to the fact that Alberta has become a hotbed of female hockey, especially in the Capital Region. St. Albert hosting the first-ever "The Girls’ Game" Hockey Festival along with the 2011 Esso Cup seems only natural, Hengel said.
"It’s a huge undertaking. It’s a huge honour to host a Hockey Canada national championship," he said. "Our community is 150 years old and we have never hosted a Hockey Canada championship. Part of that is the fact that we’ve never had a facility like Servus Place and the Performance Arena until very recently. We’ve certainly had the programs, we’ve had the people, we’ve had the community support, but we just didn’t have that one piece, and that was the hosting piece. And now, with Servus Place, and with more hotels, we have the opportunity to do a tremendous number of these types of initiatives in the future."
As the clock winds down, Hengel has a lot on his plate. Along with organizing the festival and national championship, he is also the general manager and assistant coach of the Slash - the team that is hosting the Esso Cup and is currently in the midst of their Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League playoff run.
"Yeah, we’re busy," he smiled.