It’s been a special year for female hockey players in northern B.C. as they wrap up their first year of full-league play.
Female hockey zone lead Theresa Philips said aspiring players who would rather join an all-girls team can now do so, which makes all the difference. This year four girls from Vanderhoof made names for themselves on the ice.
Taylor Siemens and Sarah Prestmo played defence and Jillian Boon played centre for the Vanderhoof Bears, winning silver at Tier 4 championships. Bears coach Paul Hartwig said the girls on the team made an impression on spectators for how well they played.
Prestmo and Siemens went on to compete at the female B.C. hockey provincials in Kelowna (March 23-27) with the North West District A Team that came in seventh place. Lauren Baker, who is also from Vanderhoof, played for the Prince George team.
“We haven’t had stability in the past because we didn’t have an organized league for females. Then just as we got the league going the pandemic hit. So this was the first year we’ve had full league play. It was great,” Philips said.
“So now those girls know that if they make those teams they’re going to get games.”
Philips said every town in the north offers “female ice” which means exclusive times for women and girls to play and practice. “We’re working hard to make sure that the girls get equal ice time and representation. Overall I feel like the north has done a really good job.”
She said there is always a need for more women volunteers to be “female champions” and for more awareness that hockey is just as much of an option for girls as well as boys. Girls can also play integrated hockey, which is majority male, but now that’s up to them, she said. With a full league of female teams, young women can make it in the sport either way.
“I think the stigma is around female hockey not being as competitive as the boys and that’s definitely changing for the better,” Philips said.
“Lots of girls are totally fine playing integrated, which is great, too. But some would rather just play all female. I just think for a lot of people it just hasn’t crossed their mind that there are all female opportunities and also that those opportunities can be competitive.”
For Philips, it’s about giving girls the same opportunities as boys in the sport. They recently organized a female hockey fun day in Vanderhoof with athletes from Fort St. James and Fraser Lake.
“It was a good way for them to all come together and have a little female hockey. There are lots of young kids coming up which I’m super excited about.”