It was the first step on the road to 2010 Olympic gold for Canada’s National Women’s Team.
Now, Mile Zero is where the next generation of women’s hockey stars will get their start, when the 2012 National Women’s Under-18 Championships comes to the City of Dawson Creek this November.
Many will be representing their province or region, and playing on a national stage, for their first time when they face off at the EnCana Events Centre, from the opening puck drop Nov. 7 to the gold medal final Nov. 11. A talented select few will follow in the footsteps of their gold medal-winning hockey heroines, who trained at Mile Zero in the months leading up to the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and perhaps someday even skate alongside them with the maple leaf on their jerseys.
But first the most talented players from Alberta, Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario Blue, Ontario Red, Saskatchewan and Québec are coming to Dawson Creek to battle for national championship bragging rights. Just as our friendly northern British Columbia community has become training ground for the top women’s players from across the country, the National Women’s Under-18 Championship has become a rite of passage for those that do earn the privilege of wearing that unmistakable Team Canada sweater.
“It’s Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway, it’s the starting point,” said Barry Reynard, director of community services for the City of Dawson Creek, and also director of hockey development for Hockey Canada, adding Dawson Creek should be very proud of its growing women’s hockey heritage.
“The biggest legacy we left when homes hosted the national team, was to only months later, see them out on the ice with gold medals around their necks,” Reynard recalled. He said hosting the 2012 National Women’s Under-18 Championship will give residents another chance to take part, and take great pride, in its contribution to female hockey success. “We’re going to be able to sit here and say, ‘Boy we saw those girls four years ago in Dawson Creek; we saw those girls six years ago in Dawson Creek.”
Our women’s hockey legacy also includes the growth of the game right here at home, he said, as young girls look up to the strong female leaders welcomed into the community prior to the Olympics, and will surely similarly admire the skill, speed and passion they’ll see at the EnCana Events Centre.
“That’s our whole goal, is to be able to provide an opportunity for young girls, and even adult females to see the game in a different light,” Reynard said. “It’s just one of the greatest games you could play, and this type of opportunity with the exposure that the girls will provide in our region, hopefully inspires some young girls, and some adult girls, to play the game … and develop in the sport we all love.”
“We really want to develop the female game and the love of hockey,” agreed Chanté Patterson-Elden, the city’s recreation facilities manager and co-chair of the National Women’s Under-18 Championship host committee. That includes developing life values that come with the sport, such as self-esteem, sportsmanship, teamwork – and commitment to attaining goals such as hockey gold.
“We want to show what they can do,” she said of female hockey potential. “It doesn’t matter if you’re from Dawson Creek … you can be one of these players and you can reach your dream.”
Ontario Red will be looking for its eighth straight gold medal at this year’s National Championship, which will feature eight teams playing 18 games over five days. All preliminary round games, as well as the semifinals and bronze medal game, will be webcast at hockeycanada.fasthockey.com, while the gold medal game will be broadcast on TSN/RDS, official broadcasters of Hockey Canada.
Full event ticket packages are available for $99, weekend game packages cost $75 apiece and evening game packages are just $45, all plus applicable fees, and can be purchased by calling the EnCana Events Centre box office at (250)782-7443 or going to www.dawsoncreekeventscentre.com.
For more information on the 2012 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, please visit www.HockeyCanada.ca/NWU18C, and follow all the action on the ice this November at www.Facebook.com/WomensU18 and www.Twitter.com/HC_NWU18. Or come out to the EnCana Events Centre to witness the best girls’ hockey players in the country, right here in your own backyard.
Patterson Elden said not only does Dawson Creek offer “great facilities, great accommodations, a great volunteer basis and a beautiful city,” but the entire Peace River region is passionate about making this national championship an unforgettable experience for fans and players alike.
“Mile Zero is the start of these girls’ dreams of playing with the national team,” Reynard added. “This is going to be a great chance for fans in the region … to come out and watch spectacular hockey, and to see stars of the future.”