By Kristen Lipscombe
Cassie Campbell, Hayley Wickenheiser, Jennifer Botterill and Sami Jo-Small weren’t the only Canadian girls hitting the ice this week.
Atom and peewee age girls from across Nova Scotia strapped on their pads and laced up their skates to participate in various female hockey opportunities taking place in conjunction with the 2004 IIHF World Women’s Hockey Championship.
From April 2-4, Hockey Nova Scotia and Hockey Canada hosted numerous activities for young hockey players to have some fun while playing the great Canadian winter sport and improving their skills with girls in their own age group.
The girls who participated in the female jamboree, for instance, had the opportunity to play games with new teammates in a pressure-free environment.
“They bond very quickly and make new friends,” said Bill Church, a director of female hockey for Hockey Nova Scotia. “We don’t have game sheets and we don’t keep score. We do have certified officials on the ice to make sure that it’s safe. Every player takes part in a shoot out, so no one’s left out.”
Participants in the Esso Fun Days attended a four-hour introductory hockey session intended to encourage interested girls to become involved in the sport of hockey.
A Coaching seminar, officials seminar, female goaltending clinic and female skills clinic were also a part of the hockey fun.
The on-ice skills clinic fortified “the concept of girls learning with girls,” said Church. “The children have an extremely relaxed hockey experience.”
The girls participating in the skills clinic were given a Team Canada practice jersey to keep when they go home, he added.
“They had a fabulous day,” said hockey mom Melanie Sampson. “It was well-organized. The girls had an experience of a life-time.”
Melanie’s eight-year-old daughter Jocelyn has been playing hockey for three years now, but came out to the skills clinic at Cole Harbour place arena to improve her goaltending abilities.
Jocelyn plays hockey for the Sydney Mines atom female team. She loves “stopping all the shots” when she is protecting the crease for her team.
She says Team Canada has to “pass a lot more” if they want to win the gold medal game Tuesday night against Team USA. She’ll be watching her favourite player, Hayley Wickenheiser, in anticipation when Canada faces-off against the United States to claim the World Women’s Hockey Championship title.
In the meantime, Jocelyn will continue to work on blocking shots and playing the puck while doing her job between the posts.
Perhaps one day Jocelyn and her friends who participated in the skills clinic will be trading in their practice jerseys for official Team Canada jerseys of their very own.