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Hockey Canada president and CEO takes The First Shift

Tom Renney visits Bauer program aimed to get Canadians into the game

October 27, 2014

It was a Saturday morning in October, which means most Canadian hockey parents were (where else?) at the rink. So that’s where Tom Renney made sure he was, too.

Hockey Canada’s president and chief executive officer stopped into Joseph Kryczka Arena at the Southland Leisure Centre in Calgary early on Oct. 25 to visit with parents and players taking part in The First Shift, a Bauer and Hockey Canada program designed to introduce young families to Canada’s game.

“It was a thrill for me to get down to the rink on a Saturday morning, see the smiles on the faces of the young players, and get to chat with the parents who are benefitting from this fantastic program,” said Renney.

The six-week program kicked off Saturday for the 45 young players involved, who got their equipment – and a lesson in how to put it on – at a welcome event earlier in the week at the Hockey Canada head office.

They’ll be on the ice for five more Saturdays, getting instruction in the basic skills of the game from volunteers with Hockey Calgary, which is hosting the program.

The local minor hockey association will actually be running the program twice this season, giving 90 kids in all the chance to lace up their skates (or have their parents do it for them) and step on the ice.

The Calgary programs are two of 28 across the country taking part in The First Shift this fall, with more to be launched in the new year from coast to coast.

The program is open to young Canadians ages 6-10 that have never played hockey, with the $199 cost including equipment and enrollment.

To see where The First Shift is taking place in 2014, CLICK HERE.

Shakita Jensen.

Giving back through coaching

Guided by influential coaches during her playing days, Shakita Jensen knew she wanted to give back to the game she loved by becoming a coach in her hometown

Shannon Coulter
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July 04, 2024

It was a full circle moment for Shakita Jensen when she stepped on the bench as head coach of Team Northwest Territories at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games.

In 2014, she played in the tournament in Alaska. A decade later, she returned to Alaska to coach.

“I felt a lot of emotions,” says Jensen, the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner in the Competitive category.

Jensen, from the Tahltan First Nation, started as an on-ice volunteer with the Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association in 2014. Since then, her passion for giving back has driven her to continue her coaching journey.

“The hockey community has given me so much that I felt an obligation to want to give back to the hockey community in any way I could,” Jensen says. “When I got back from school, I was like, ‘I should probably try coaching, see if I like it.’ And of course I liked it right away.”

In addition to giving back, a few impactful women who coached Jensen growing up opened her eyes to her own potential journey.

“Having my first female head coach was super cool, and that made me want to get into coaching,” she says. “Growing up, being sometimes the only girl on my hockey teams, not really many women coaching, and then having my first few female coaches thinking, ‘Wow they’re so cool, I want to be like them one day.’”

The position of being a role model and a leader for youth in her community was also a driving factor in wanting to become a coach.

“I’ve had so many influential coaches in my own playing career. [There are] everlasting impacts they can have on their players, not only on the ice, but off the ice as people as well, what you can teach your players as a coach. I felt that I had lots to offer [as a head coach] and I wanted to be there for kids.”

Shakita Jensen coaching Team NWT at a One For All practice.

 Jensen was in the right place at the right time to get her first head coaching position. There was a shortage of coaches in her association, so they asked Jensen—who initially applied to be an on-ice helper—if she wanted to be a head coach.

“It was a lot of quick learning and kind of being thrown into it, but I felt confident in myself the whole time,” the 26-year-old explains. “I just tried to network with past coaches as much as I could to have a successful season, which I think I did.”

Early in her career, Jensen decided to apply to be a part of the 2023 Canada Winter Games coaching staff for Team NWT, but she wasn’t selected. However, one of the coaches recommended she apply for the Aboriginal Apprentice Coach program with the Aboriginal Sports Circle.

“They chose one woman and one man from the territory, and it could be from any sport, so I knew that it was a bit of a long shot, but when I heard I got in for hockey, I was super excited.”

Through the apprenticeship program, Jensen was able to attend last year’s Canada Winter Games on Prince Edward Island and work with Team NWT leading up to the event. Afterwards, she became an assistant coach for Team NWT for the 2023 Arctic Winter Games before being promoted to head coach for the 2024 tournament.

“I think that definitely opened a lot of doors,” she says. “It was cool to see the progression and to allow me to gain all the tools and resources that I needed to prepare my team.”

As head coach of Team NWT, the location of each player’s hometowns can often be difficult to navigate—sometimes resulting in very few full team practices before an event.

“It was definitely a challenge wanting to build your team culture and work on your strategies and trying to prepare for a high-performance, short-term competition when your team is scattered all over the territories, in some places that are fly in/fly out or just a lot of money barriers,” she explains. “I think one thing that was super helpful was our ability to connect online leading up to the Games.”

Another huge opportunity for Jensen’s team this year was February’s One For All event in Yellowknife. With more than 300 participants over four days, the event celebrated women’s and girls’ hockey with Try Hockey events, on-ice skills, coaching clinics and more.

Team Northwest Territories and Team Nunavut gathered to practice and face off in an exhibition game.

“It was an overwhelming successful weekend—players putting on their hockey gear for the first time and then other players who were about to be graduating minor hockey,” says Jensen, who volunteered with the event. “It felt super to contribute to that program, give back and hopefully keep that program on a yearly basis here.”

When Jensen found out she was the BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner for Hockey North in the Competitive category, she was shocked.

“I was so surprised, kind of caught off guard. I felt so much pride and gratitude.”

Jensen was unsure if she would be able to compete with the great provincial and territorial candidates across the country. But when she saw Cassie Campbell-Pascall on a video call congratulating her for winning the national award, she was in disbelief all over again.

“There are really no words,” she says of winning the national award. “There are so many influential coaches who go unrecognized sometimes for all the work they do. [I’m] really feeling proud of myself, but also feeling proud of everyone else across Canada who’s doing so much for the women’s game.”

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SportsPay becomes Preferred Payment Partner of Hockey Canada

National partnership effective immediately

NR.035.24
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May 22, 2024

CALGARY, Alberta – Hockey Canada has announced SportsPay as its Preferred Payment Partner, through a national partnership which is effective immediately.

A leading payment provider for amateur sports organizations in Canada, SportsPay is proudly Canadian and has been a long-time supporter of amateur hockey in Canada.

Through its partnership with Hockey Canada, SportsPay will support the processing of online transactions, including through the Hockey Canada Registry.

“SportsPay prides itself on providing user-friendly experiences to Canadian sport organizations, and we are excited to officially welcome them as Hockey Canada’s Preferred Payment Partner to deliver those experiences to local hockey associations across the country,” said Dean McIntosh, Hockey Canada’s senior vice-president of revenue, fan experience and community impact. “The Hockey Canada Registry is used to process hundreds of thousands of registrations each season, and through our partnership with SportsPay, we’re pleased that the platform will continue to meet the needs of our participants and associations.”

"I am very excited to enhance our 20-year relationship with Hockey Canada and to support minor hockey across Canada," said Will Gravlev, president of POSconnect Inc. and creator of SportsPay. "Everyone at SportsPay is continuously committed to providing simple and effective payments for amateur sports and keeping leagues focused on what matters."

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Hockey Canada welcomes William Huff Advertising as National Marketing Partner

Partnership expands William Huff's affiliation with prominent Canadian sports brands

NR.073.23
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October 26, 2023

CALGARY, AB – Hockey Canada has announced that William Huff Advertising Ltd. has become its newest National Marketing Partner through an agreement that is effective immediately. One of Canada’s leading producers in signage, William Huff’s portfolio of clients includes the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, among other notable sports and events properties.

“William Huff has been producing top quality signage for local and national sports organizations throughout our 75 years in business,” said Bruce Simpson, owner of William Huff Advertising Ltd. “It was a natural fit for us to partner with Hockey Canada and we are very proud to support the organization’s grassroots, men’s, women’s and para hockey programs. Hockey is such an important part of Canada’s identity and we hope our partnership will help athletes become the best they can be.

“Our commitment to professional and amateur sports is something we are very proud of, and as a partner with several sports and community organizations, we are pleased to add Hockey Canada to that list. Go Canada Go."

As part of the partnership, William Huff will produce signage for national and international events hosted by Hockey Canada. William Huff will also be recognized in-venue, including throughout the upcoming fall event schedule.

“Hockey Canada is thrilled to welcome William Huff as a National Marketing Partner,” said Dean McIntosh, vice-president of strategic partnerships and community impact for Hockey Canada. “Throughout our time working together, which includes the 2022 and 2023 IIHF World Junior Championships, we have continued to expand our partnership, and formalizing it today to officially welcome William Huff as an official partner of Hockey Canada is an exciting step for both organizations.”

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Building a community around hockey

BFL Female Coach of the Year Julie Venselaar is growing hockey in Powell River, B.C., by creating opportunity for girls and women to share the ice together

Jonathan Yue
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June 08, 2023

Hockey has always been a source of community for Julie Venselaar.

Playing in women’s drop-in sessions in the coastal city of Powell River, B.C., the women in the session felt there needed to be more options for girls and women to play hockey together. With no organized leagues, it was a gap that needed to be filled.

When they approached Venselaar asking if she wanted to be involved, it was a no-brainer.

“I truly believe that it is so important for girls to have an activity or sport as they head into their adolescence years,” Venselaar says. “The group created a time for these girls to come out and to be coached by women, have fun and have some girl time, and when my daughter was old enough, they asked if I wanted to join and help out, [and] I said yes.”

With girls playing integrated hockey in boys’ leagues, the sessions evolved from being just additional skates to becoming a full girls’ team, and it strengthened the game in Powell River. After eight years of coaching, Venselaar has continued to be involved in organizing and volunteering her time in on-ice activities, fostering a space for girls to play hockey together. Almost a decade later, she still feels fortunate to be able to be a part of the growth of hockey.

A full-time teacher, Venselaar is passionate about children growing up in a positive environment. That commitment to creating a community through hockey has earned Venselaar the BFL Female Coach of the Year award in the Community category.

“There’s nothing better we can give our girls and our daughters than that sense of having something to anchor them through those tricky times in life,” she says. “Part of why I do what I do is to build that community, to build that safe space around them and to surround them with good role models who are there to love and support them. Hockey is something that I know is a medium for me to do that and it’s great because it allows these amazing girls to learn skills from being a part of a team.”

But the most special part for Venselaar has been sharing her coaching journey with her daughter. As part of her prize for earning the BFL honour, Venselaar attended the gold medal game at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton, Ont., with her daughter by her side

“It was so awesome to be able to share that with my daughter,” Venselaar says. “It was so inspiring to be there, and to see it live, with the extremely talented athletes, it was amazing. The best part is that they’re amazing people, too. The players were waving to the crowd and my daughter loved it.

“We made a sign for Micah Zandee-Hart because she was the only player from B.C., and Micah came over, smiled at us before tossing my daughter a puck and it really made her day.”

At the end of the day, Venselaar wants to make sure that it isn’t just her efforts growing the game. She’s very proud of what her community has been able to do together and hopes it continues to expand.

“Our hockey community of parents, coaches, players, and more, they’re bringing it all together and supporting our girls and creating something that’s for them,” Venselaar concludes. “I am here to guide things along, but I’m just part of an amazing team that brings the community together.”

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Circling back to hockey

Haneet Parhar thought she was done with hockey after university, but through coaching, the BFL Female Coach of the Year found her way back to the game

Jonathan Yue
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June 08, 2023

Haneet Parhar didn’t always have hockey in her plans. But for one reason or another, hockey always found a way back into her life. And for that, Parhar is forever grateful for the opportunities she’s had through the game.

Her passion for giving back to the sport that gave her so much has led to her being honoured as the BFL Female Coach of the Year in the High Performance category.

“There’s been so many times in my life where I’ve told myself ‘This is it, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to a rink or pick up my skates,’ and then boom, I come back to hockey,” Parhar says.

As a student-athlete at the University of British Columbia, there was a lot of uncertainty if she would even make the Thunderbirds roster. She would eventually have a very successful U SPORTS career, winning three Canada West championships, but her time at UBC also kicked off a career in coaching that she never imagined.

From wanting to just stay involved as an 18-year-old undergrad student, working as a coach in community rink programs and UBC hockey camps in the summer, it reminded Parhar of the joy she found in hockey, for herself and the kids in her programs.

“Doing it throughout my school and varsity career at UBC, I coached at the recreational level for five-and-a-half years,” she says. “When you start at that level, I really did it because I loved it. You see the kids smile and it’s really easy to take away that hardcore style of coaching and do it for fun. It was a great fit for me.”

Coaching kids from ages six to 15, not only did it motivate Parhar to get the kids to participate, but it also reminded her how special it was growing up with hockey.

“It reminded me of when I was young when we played sports for fun, too. Being able to provide that opportunity for kids to have a safe space for themselves and allow them to branch out, that’s what matters.”

When her Thunderbirds career came to an end in 2017, Parhar was ready to hang up the skates, with the expectation that she had already given everything she had to the sport. Looking back to her time in appreciation, she’s thankful for how all the coaching staff, led by head coach Graham Thomas and assistant coach Mike Sommer, inspired her. It wasn’t until after she left the UBC program that she realized how far their influence went.

A year after graduating, working full-time while coaching for fun on the side with her hometown North Shore Avalanche, Parhar received a call from Thomas that opened up a new path in her life.

“I didn’t think coaching would be my end-all, be-all,” Parhar explains. “I wasn’t a star player, I wasn’t a captain, but [Thomas] said he wanted a new voice. I came in with my experience as a player who knew the culture and the system, what it meant to be a role player and owning it, and I was there for the girls as someone who went through five years with the team.”

After a single season back at UBC, Parhar decided she wanted continue to explore her career options, deciding to give up the game once again, pack up and move to England to pursue a degree in law. And as the sport would have it, hockey found her again.

“I was sitting in England during the pandemic, waiting for a train in pouring rain, just two months away from graduating in May, when I received another phone call from Graham. It had been two years since I last coached, and he asked me if I’m coming home and if I’d be able to coach in the upcoming year,” Parhar recalls. “Of course, I say yes, and I go to training camp and see the players, and instantly that passion came rushing back.”

Since then, she’s been able to not only provide coaching on the hockey side, but also bring her experience of being a former player that thought they had nothing left to give to the sport, before realizing the importance of sticking with her passion.

This past year, on top of holding the role of assistant coach with the Thunderbirds, Parhar also continued to coach within the community with the Vancouver Female Ice Hockey Association. At the community level, she’s continues giving back and supporting young girls in hockey, much like how she was supported growing up.

“For a lot of female hockey players now, they didn’t have a female role model, so now that I’m in that position, I think of how cool it must be for these girls to grow up having a role model that they can truly relate to,” Parhar says.

At the end of the day, although it wasn’t always her plan to be a coach, Parhar is enjoying every moment of it, and working to share her experiences with hockey and what it has meant to her after all these years.

“It’s always been for the kids,” Parhar concludes. “To have someone they can see that looks like them, as tall as them, I want to be there for the girls and show them that all they need is the right energy, positivity and determination.”

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Diversifying the bench

Working in part with the Newfoundland Growlers, BFL Female Coach of the Year Alicia MacDonald’s belief is creating opportunities for herself and for others

Jonathan Yue
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June 08, 2023

Coaching hockey since her days as a student at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Alicia MacDonald has since been behind the bench for more than 20 years.

And during that time, whether it’s reaching out to organizations for her own growth or advocating for more diversity behind the bench, MacDonald has tirelessly worked towards making hockey more inclusive for everyone.

That’s a big reason why the Onslow Mountain, N.S., product has been named the national winner of the BFL Female Coach of the Year in the Competitive category.

“Having the opportunity to see what the opportunities are, whether that’s as an official, or coach or training staff, being and seeing all that, being aware of it, brings more diversity to the game,” MacDonald says. “It’s important that the young girls and kids see the potential, and I see so much value in it and I want to be a face that’s visible to them.”

Growing up, playing on the community boys league and eventually the girls’ team when the opportunity came up, MacDonald first started gravitating to coaching during university. Wanting to give back to the girls in the community and seeing the positive reactions to them having a female role model has pushed MacDonald to want to see more females continue in the sport. Since then, she has continued to refine herself, learning and growing her knowledge of the sport and coaching so that she can apply it to her own teams.

This season, she worked with the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers, shadowing the coaching staff and continuing her development. With no university or other high-performance teams in rural Newfoundland, the Growlers were the only option for her if she wanted to learn in a professional environment. With the organization, she was able to discuss tactics with the Growlers staff, go through video sessions with the team, and provide her thoughts and her experience, while receiving feedback.

That’s why MacDonald preaches the importance finding her own opportunities. From starting out working with local minor hockey teams to serving as an assistant coach with the Newfoundland and Labrador women’s team at the 2023 Canada Winter Games to her most recent role as head coach of the provincial U14 team, it’s about getting comfortable in putting herself out there and looking for opportunities.

“Working with coach Eric Wellwood and the Growlers, I’ve really learned from that program and set myself in a more professional organization,” MacDonald says. “The biggest thing is about being able to take the leap. There’s always going to be situations where you don’t know the solution, but that’s okay. It’s just about trusting the coaches and mentors around you and taking the plunge and going for it.

“We don’t have too many professional opportunities in Newfoundland so it goes back to putting myself out there and asking for situations that I could be involved, and I’ve learned a lot from the coaches and the players.”

With the spotlight that comes with her BFL honour, she hopes to continue her goal of bringing more diverse voices into hockey.

“There were a lot of deserving coaches out there and I hope programs like [BFL Female Coach of the Year] continue so that coaches do feel validated and heard,” MacDonald says. “As a nation, we can be better at highlighting the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC community, creating that diversity for everybody to see what the options are and there’s still a way to go.”

For now, MacDonald hopes she’s able to spread visibility of women behind the bench so others can feel inspired to step up and speak up to achieve their goals. But once spoken, their words will be heard and respected.

“It’s about getting used to speaking up in a room of men and sharing thoughts and opinions,” MacDonald says. “They’re always welcomed and valued, it’s just about believing in yourself.”

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Laurence Beaulieu BFL FCOTY

Sharing her passion for hockey

The national winner of the 2022 BFL Female Coach of the Year (Competitive), Laurence Beaulieu is driven by her love of the game as she climbs the coaching ladder

François Lafleur
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June 22, 2022
Just a few years ago, Laurence Beaulieu would never have seen herself as a full-time hockey coach.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Montreal – playing five years with the Carabins and winning a U SPORTS national title in 2016 – and then a specialized graduate diploma (DESS) in sports management from HEC Montreal, the defenceman joined the Canadiennes de Montréal of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) in 2017.

She spent only one season with the Canadiennes, calling it a career at the age of 26 to become a coach.

“It was more or less by chance,” says Beaulieu, the national winner of the BFL Female Coach of the Year in the Competitive category. “I started [coaching] when I was 16. From then until my year with the Canadiennes, I was a summer coach at the AAA level. I was a private coach for both boys and girls, but I never really thought about coaching a full season. I was so overwhelmed with what I was doing as an athlete that I never thought there would be a next step.”

Beaulieu, 30, got a full-time job as a player development assistant with Hockey Quebec, but to do so, she had to give up her on-ice career. The benefits, though, were obvious.

“My work at Hockey Quebec gave me the opportunity to learn more about development,” says the Stoneham, Que., native. “Someone from the Richelieu region approached me because he really wanted to manage a team with a woman. I don’t know how he found me or what contact it was, but it was the father of a player I had met, and he said that he really wanted to run the [Cégep André-Laurendeau] team with me. I told him I wanted to be an assistant, but nothing more. Then I found out that I liked it more than I thought I would.”

The following year, Beaulieu became the head coach of the Remparts du Richelieu U18 AAA team in addition to continuing her position as assistant coach with Cégep André-Laurendeau.

“I wasn’t surprised that I liked coaching, but that I liked it so much. [I liked that] you do it all year long, on weekends, in the evenings... I wanted to do it more than two months a year,” she says.

Beaulieu really enjoys teaching the kids. The fact her players have not yet peaked allows her to maximize the role she plays in their development.

“Those players still have fun in everything they do,” she says. “They really appreciate the investment you make and the time you take for them. That’s something I really like about this age group. They are passionate and still have plenty of goals to achieve at the college or national levels. It’s an age group that is full of goals and potential.”

Still, it’s very important to have fun on the ice at that age. While Beaulieu is well aware of this, she also believes that it is possible to have fun and push yourself at the same time.

“I want the girls to like to surpass themselves while knowing that it’s always necessary to have fun," explains Beaulieu, who served as defence coach with the Titans du Cégep Limoilou last season. “It’s possible to have fun while working 100% all the time. If you go out on the ice every day and you love what you do, you will improve. At the end of the year, those girls come to me for more feedback, to watch more videos. It’s a teachable mentality and the girls want to get more. In the end, it works!”

It’s clear the young coach is passionate about her sport, whether she was on the ice or behind the bench.

But nowhere is that passion more evident than when she is able to share it with others.

“I’m very proud when I see a player’s passion grow over the course of the year," Beaulieu says. “She already loved hockey, but she didn’t realize how much she loved it for details that she probably wasn’t aware of at first. As time goes on, as she practices things, she asks for even more feedback and information. I’m very proud of being able to pass it on; it’s my greatest accomplishment even if it’s not really mine. It takes an athlete who is willing to do it to make it there, but it’s something I really enjoy doing.”

After coaching at the college and U18 AAA levels, Beaulieu does not intend to stop there. Even if there is no rush, she is starting to think about the next steps she could take.

“Obviously, I want to get as high as I can, but I think there are steps to take before that,” she says. Right now, I am in Limoilou and I am really proud of what I am doing. Maybe my next step would be to join Team Quebec at the provincial level. That’s the next step I want to take, but I’m not setting any limits. We’ll see where it takes me.”

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Amy Doerksen BFL FCOTY

A fierce fighter for the women’s game

The national winner of the 2022 BFL Female Coach of the Year (Community), Amy Doerksen is more than a coach – she’s an advocate who is pushing for the progression of women’s hockey

Chris Jurewicz
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June 22, 2022
There’s purpose behind the name of Amy Doerksen’s hockey camp.

The inaugural event, held in early June in Brandon, Man., was a smashing success and included over 130 young girls, being taught on-ice skills by 12 coaches with an array of experience, those from the grassroots level of the game right up to elite AAA club hockey.

The title of the camp?

The Fierce Female Hockey Camp.

Doerksen, the national winner of the 2022 BFL Female Coach of the Year Award in the Community category, believes in being fierce. She says that’s how women’s hockey is going to break down barriers, overcome hurdles and progress to the status that it deserves.

“It blew me away, the comments that I have received from parents of players who attended, from coaches who participated,” says Doerksen, a lifelong hockey player, longtime coach and extreme advocate for the women’s game. “A quote I got from an under-18 player, who perfectly summarizes exactly the reason why I created this camp … she won a provincial championship this season, she’s playing at the highest level that a girl can play at in minor hockey in Manitoba, and she still had people saying ‘It doesn’t count, you play girls’ hockey.’

“That’s not OK. They need to feel fierce; they need to feel amazing.”

Doerksen speaks from experience. Like many women in the game, she has faced challenges to be heard and seen, challenges that many men simply don’t have to deal with. As a kid, she played ringette – “Girls didn’t play hockey and we were directed into the sport of ringette” – but fell in love with hockey during her junior high school years. Those days in Manitoba, there were few women’s hockey players and Doerksen remembers at age 12 getting dressed for practices next to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Doerksen would continue to excel in hockey over the years and ended up playing for the University of Manitoba. After her days with the Bisons, Doerksen headed to Ryerson University in Toronto (where the talented multi-sport athlete played soccer for the Rams) and, post graduation, lived in Kenora, Ont. It is there when she first entered the coaching ranks with a local high school team.

Doerksen, who is a mom to three and stepmom to one, is a published author of children’s books. On her blog, which can be found at AmyDoerksen.com, she lists five loves: family, feminism, hockey, Canada’s north and books.

She lived in Yellowknife, N.W.T., for just under five years and that time made a lasting impression on Doerksen.

“I’m appreciative of how much the north invested in developing female coaches,” says Doerksen. “I think the rest of Canada can learn a lot from the progressive views of the north. They’re ahead of the game.”

Doerksen has held various coaching and leadership positions in hockey, starting as an assistant coach with the Beaver Brae Broncos high school team in Kenora from 2001-03. She was president of the Yellowknife Women’s Hockey League from 2007-11 and, during her time up north, was also assistant coach of the Northwest Territories girls’ team for the Arctic Winter Games.

This season, Doerksen could be seen on the ice at the grassroots level with an under-7 team and also with high-performance athletes on the Brandon Wheat Kings female U15 club.

Off the ice, Doerksen has also been part of hockey boards and was the U7 division director with Hockey Brandon from 2020-22. Her full list of teams, accomplishments and honours is extremely impressive and too long to list.

But there’s more work to be done. Too many times, Doerksen has been the lone woman on the ice, the lone woman in the hockey boardroom that is still dominated by men. While she has seen progress over the past 20 years of her involvement as a coach and leader, Doerksen says that progress should be happening at a much quicker rate.

“I started crying on the call,” she says when asked about her reaction to being named a BFL Female Coach of the Year. “It was the day after my hockey camp and I was really a hot mess from the experience. I was completely overwhelmed with what an amazing weekend it was. I’m grateful. I’m getting emotional right now because it’s incredible. As women, we need to seek … it’s good to stand up and say ‘Hey, I am good at this, this is something that I’m proud of’. There is that validation piece.

“The reason I get emotional is because I have faced a lot of struggles where I don’t feel that people really have always got the value that I can add. When you’re always coming up against that wall, it feels wonderful to have an organization like Hockey Canada say, ‘Hey we see you and we see what you’re doing.’”

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Finding her place in the game

The national winner of the 2022 BFL Female Coach of the Year (High Performance), Sarah Hilworth bounced back quickly from a devastating injury to carve out a career behind the bench

Chris Jurewicz
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June 22, 2022
Great leaders tend to brush off admiration, recognition and the spotlight. They immediately give credit to others who have helped them along the way.

That’s Sarah Hilworth.

One of the top coaches in Canadian university hockey, Hilworth led the University of New Brunswick (UNB) women’s team to the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship in 2021-22, less than five years after UNB’s women’s hockey program was reinstated into AUS.

For her work, Hilworth was named the national winner of the 2022 BFL Female Coach of the Year Award in the High Performance category. The honour comes on the heels of Hilworth being named AUS Coach of the Year.

“I was floored, I couldn’t even believe it,” the Vancouver native says of the BFL CANADA award. “I was honoured just to be nominated and when they told me I was the recipient … it’s hard to accept something where I know there are so many people involved that, truly, this goes out to them.

“It’s nice to represent something that we have created here in Fredericton that is so special to me and so many people. I’m very proud of everything that our organization has done. I don’t think that I can take full credit because there are so many people who have helped me get to where we are.”

Hockey fans will know the Hilworth name from her playing days. She was a top contributor with the University of Alberta during her five years playing for that program, registering 100 points in her 100-game career. The decorated career came to an abrupt end during Hilworth’s fifth season when she blocked a shot, the puck shattering her knee cap.

There’s no doubt Hilworth was disappointed, as the elite athlete had contracts lined up with plans to head to Europe to play professionally. But she didn’t have too much time to dwell on that as the coaching bug took over.

The transition from player to coach was a pretty natural one, given Hilworth’s passion and knowledge of the game.

“To think back, that kid from inner-city Vancouver, growing up and adoring the sport … I look back and I was always an athlete but I always think I was a coach first. I was the only person in my class playing hockey and only girl playing sports,” says Hilworth. “I remember getting in trouble from my teachers in Grade 3 because I would be drawing up drills in my book and doing up little sign-up sheets and I would be teaching the girls in my class how to play basketball or soccer or any kind of sport. I needed people to play with and I would have these little clinics set up. That’s kind of how my mind was when I was little. It just translated into high school and I started helping coach teams there too.

“I just love it. I love helping people and seeing people enjoy being athletic, whether it’s hockey, baseball, soccer or whatever. The power of sport is pretty incredible.”

She credits Howie Draper for her move into the university coaching ranks. Draper, the long-time University of Alberta head coach who recently led Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team to gold at the 2022 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship, was Hilworth’s head coach from 2008-13.

Hilworth jokes that Draper may have felt bad for her but, in reality, Draper could see the passion and knowledge Hilworth had. He offered her a chance to be an assistant coach on his staff, a role Hilworth held for two seasons before taking a head coaching position at Olds College in Alberta. Hilworth left Olds after two seasons for the opportunity to lead the UNB program.

Today, Hilworth says she’s living the dream. Hockey has given her the opportunity to see the country and the world, has been the reason she went from one coast to another and is pretty much the reason for every aspect of her life.

“It’s given me everything. I’ve never not been an athlete. I’ve never not loved the game,” she says. “It’s something that has given me discipline, taught me hard work, given me goals; some of the best times of my life, some of the worst times of my life. It’s given me my family, my friends. The people that I’ve met along the way are some of the most incredible people. My student-athletes, they’re all family to me. There are so many personal things the game has taught me but the family and people that I’ve met along the way are the people I love and enjoy and I’m so grateful and truly … I’m so blessed.”

Hilworth is thrilled at the investment that UNB has made into its women’s hockey program. She thinks the state of the game is at an all-time high and points to the incredible talent displayed during the recent U18 women’s worlds. Ever the advocate, though, Hilworth says there’s more to be done.

“I would like to see more women in our game. There are a lot of incredible women in our game already and coaching, and a lot of them that I look up to,” she says. “We need to continue to see that investment made into women coaching women. I want to see more equality in terms of how ice is being allocated in female programs versus male programs and how communities are rallying behind their young female hockey players. That’s still something that is missing in our game.”

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Lloydminster Blazers

Lloydminster Blazers win Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup

After learning a team parent could not access the box to time keep at their arena in Lloydminster, the Blazers set out to learn more about accessibility at local rinks

Shannon Coulter
|
April 17, 2022

The Lloydminster U13 Blazers have won the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup.

The Blazers were unveiled as champions for the 2021-22 season during Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night. They will receive $100,000 to be donated to a charity of their choice—Inclusion Lloydminster—among other prizes.

This is the first time an all-girls team has won the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup and it is the first time a team from Alberta has won the grand prize.

After learning a team parent’s wheelchair could not access the timekeeping box at their arena in Lloydminster, the Blazers set out to learn more about accessibility at their local rinks. The U13 team also hosted a ‘Try Para Hockey’ event to bring athletes of all abilities together on the ice.

In addition, the Blazers are advocating for a new rink that is barrier-free and accessible for para hockey.

Lloydminster was one of 12 regional finalists for this year’s Chevrolet Good Geed Cup. The other 11 regional champions will receive $2,000 to their charity of their choice.

At the Blazers’ celebration event, Ross Ulmer from Lloydminster dealership Ulmer Chevrolet surprised the team by matching the $100,000 grand prize with a donation to support Inclusion Canada, Inclusion Lloydminster’s national chapter.

This was the sixth season Chevrolet and Hockey Canada came together to award the Good Deeds Cup, which searches for the U11, U13 or U15 team that makes the biggest impact in its community. This year the theme was ‘Shift Change,’ with teams encouraged to choose Good Deeds that would make hockey more inclusive than ever.

For more information, visit ChevroletGoodDeedsCup.ca.

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For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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