By Kristian Rasmussen
The referee dropping the puck will wonder if they have pulled the pin of a live grenade as players, sticks and skates collide at the under-18 B.C. Women’s Cup at Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena from April 25th to 29th.
“The athletes are bringing out the best in themselves to play top hockey,” said Kim Westergaard, event organizer.
Up to 100 players from around the province have been selected to compete in a five-team, jamboree-style tournament. The fuel for the athletes’ fire comes in the form of scouting officials, who will have top players in their cross-hairs for opportunities that could ultimately lead to spots on Team B.C.
“All the girls know that they are being evaluated,” Ms. Westergaard said. “Some are nervous going into it, but most of them have been through it before. They just go out there and skate.”
A variable that many of the girls have not experienced in the U18 cup is each other.
“Some of these girls have played against each other at the U16 level,” Ms. Westergaard explained. “Now they are getting thrown into the mix of where they have to play with each other. There might have been past rivalries on the ice prior. Now they have to work together to get out and play the best hockey they can.”
Social media and rigorous exposure to the group, on and off the ice, may help to build goal scoring relationships.
“The coaches have created a group Facebook page and they are communicating that way,” Ms. Westergaard said. “It’s basically putting the players in circumstances they have never been in, like playing with kids they never have before, or learning how to be coached by different coaches.”
To build the chemistry required to create explosive goals and defense, the team must undergo a social experiment.
“They are all sleeping in the curling rink. They have separate dividers, but there are no doors. They are getting up early together with set meals and set practices,” said the event coordinator.
The coaches will also find themselves under review during the event.
“The scouts are watching coaches to see how well they can coach kids they have never worked with before.”
The B.C. Women’s Cup being held in Invermere further cements the valley’s support for women’s hockey.
“I think they wanted to bring the competition here because it is the first time that a bid has been put in,” Ms. Westergaard explained. “It is nice to have people from the West Coast come and see what the east side of B.C. has to offer.”
The organizer hopes that support for women’s hockey will continue in the Columbia Valley.
“Personally, I think hockey is doing good. We just need to get more girls out to play. We have great support, we just have to get the numbers up.”
The opening ceremony for the tournament will be on Thursday, April 26th at 6:30 p.m. Games will run all day Friday and Saturday. The final game is scheduled for Sunday morning.