The Meadow Ridge Barracudas don’t want to be the small fry on the local minor hockey scene.
This is why the Meadow Ridge Female Minor Hockey Association is actively recruiting new players in its effort to grow the girls game.
Association vice president and registrar Laurie Suchodolski has a 10-year-old daughter, Carmen, who has played ice hockey since she was seven years old.
Carmen is among the approximately 100 players ranging in age from five to 17 registered with the MRFMHA, which formed in 1997.
Compare that to the more than 1,000 players registered with the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association, which includes both boys and girls, and the local club is looking for more Barracudas to join its fold.
“We need, especially, the younger ones, to build our numbers from the bottom up,” Laurie said. “In female [minor hockey], that’s the way to go.”
MRFMHA is accepting registration for the tyke (ages 5-6) novice (7-8), atom (9-10), peewee (11-12), bantam (13-14) and midget (15-17) divisions.
The association’s tyke team currently has seven players.
This is the MRFMHA’s first year to have an independent tyke team from novice, Laurie explained. Moving forward with seven players is “tricky,” she said.
“Tykes don’t play games until after Christmas and they only play a handful,” Laurie said.
The playing season starts in September and ends in early to mid-March, with the local teams competing against other female associations throughout the Lower Mainland.
Some divisions offer both recreational and rep levels of play.
Laurie is actively involved with the association, after being introduced to it by another mom whose daughter played female hockey.
“I didn’t know a female association existed,” she recalled.
Her daughter joined the sport after being persuaded by her uncle Clayton.
“Her uncle, my brother, has been playing hockey all his life – he started as a kid in the Prairies – and wanted to share his passion with her [Carmen],” Laurie said. “ This is the first sport she doesn’t hesitate to get up at 6 a.m. for. She is hooked for life.”
“I would watch a lot on TV, and I just wanted to play, so then my mom found out about this league,” added Carmen, who plays the centre position.
Hockey was the first sport Carmen tried. She played soccer and rep softball, and continues to play lacrosse, but her passion is ice hockey.
“Hockey is the ringer,” Laurie said.
Laurie hopes more girls will choose hockey like her daughter did, but for that to happen, she needs to promote the sport to potential players in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
“People don’t know we exist,” Laurie said. “They think that it’s Ridge Meadows, and that if their daughter is going to play, she would play with the boys. So they think they need a certain kind of girl to play hockey.”
Laurie stressed that hockey appeals to all girls.
““We have girls that bring My Little Ponies into the dressing room,” she said, “and we have girls who are tomboys like my daughter. Just personality-wise, we have everybody. But what it comes down to is, everybody becomes friends and they stay.”
The focus is on friendships and building a love for the game, Laurie said.
“The other thing I tell them [parents] is we have dads who are ex-professional players who have daughters,” she added. “We have coaches who are just as qualified, and our ratio is way better than putting the girls into the bigger association.”
Female minor hockey is governed by the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association, BC Hockey, and ultimately, Hockey Canada.
“Female hockey is legitimately hockey, just as the integrated side is,” Laurie said. “We have Olympic teams, we have university scholarships, we have ‘AAA’ midget – all female. It’s all there.”
Male hockey heroes such as Henrik Sedin, Sidney Crosby, and Tyler Seguin have counterparts on the female side.
For example, Carmen has been lucky enough to meet three-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser, a member of several world championship teams representing Canada.
For parents who run into financial roadblocks, KidSport has a local branch that helps to relieve some of the costs for eligible families, and the MRFMHA is offering a used equipment program to lighten the impact of purchasing hockey gear.
And, for players curious about the sport, the association plans on making available come-and-try sessions during the season.
As for the safety aspect of the sport, Laurie said while there is no hitting, there is contact, a by-product of playing a reasonably fast-paced game while balancing yourself on a pair of blades of steel.
“There’s incidental contact, but it’s no different than soccer, except they have gear on,” Laurie said. “The only time, that these girls start to skate hard, they start wiping out on purpose and have some fun.”
Carmen offered, “Sometimes, in the practices, we end up having a dog pile on each other.”
To register for girls hockey, visit www.barracudashockey.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.