By Sean Rooney on October 13, 2016.
There might not be any girls rep hockey teams in Medicine Hat this year, but there is some good news on the horizon.
Kelly Mortlock, female director for the local minor hockey association, says an influx of girls in the younger age divisions is a healthy sign for the future.
“We’ve made some pretty good progress this year,” said Mortlock, following the first games of the season for novice and atom-age Wildcats girls teams. “If we can keep building from the bottom up, my goal in the future is just to have choices for girls.”
A lack of choices, combined with a Hockey Alberta decision to centralize female AAA teams in bigger centres like Calgary and Edmonton this year, resulted in Mortlock’s daughter Jordan moving to Kelowna to play with the Pursuit of Excellence club team. But Kelly has remained working hard to see a turnaround, and said Wednesday she’s already got “about 25 (new) bodies” up to 104 girls signed up in all.
Last year’s number was 92 but that included a team, based in Vauxhall but registering with Medicine Hat, that had just two Gas City players. It was one of the casualties of Hockey Alberta’s centralization decision.
“Our daughter has gone to POE in Kelowna, but the majority of girls, if you want to play on a local team (there should be) a team for you,” said Mortlock. “We are really pleased.”
How are the teams doing? At the younger age groups it’s not so much about winning as much as skill development and having fun. But the novice team beat Brooks 8-4 Sunday in exhibition play, following a similar score in a loss to a local boys team in house league play.
There was a parent-daughter skate Saturday, the Timbits and atom-aged teams are in full swing and there’s also an opportunity for other newcomers to the sport which begins in a couple weeks. The First Shift program run by Hockey Alberta and Canadian Tire is for boys and girls aged six to 10 years old, and has hour-long ice times for a half-dozen Sundays in November and December. The kids can’t have played minor hockey before, but for $199 they’ll get a full set of Bauer hockey gear, basic skill instruction and, hopefully, some great memories they might parlay into a full season of hockey next year.
There are a total of 15 spots available, but interested parents need to email Mortlock at firstname.lastname@example.org right away. The kids get their gear Oct. 27.