Girls hockey association receives full ‘status’

 In Sports

Having built a girls hockey program over the past five years to include all age divisions, including a senior team, the Collingwood Girls Hockey Association has now been granted full association status by The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA).

The Collingwood Lightning is the home team for players from Clearview, Mulmur, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Thornbury, and Meaford and has local sisters Ivy Martin, president, and Katy Bloemendal, past president and secretary, at the helm of the association.

“In 2017 we started our season with two teams and 30 girls. Last season we boasted over 175 players and nine teams, along with a strong U7 Little Lightning Program,” said Martin. “For the 2022/23 season we are anticipating 12 teams, the U7 Little Lightning Program and the First Shift/Fundamentals Program. Our growth has been incredible and really displays there was a strong desire for girls and women in our community to participate in hockey.”

The Lightning saw much success this past season with two U11 teams, U9, and U13 house league teams placing first through fourth respectively at the Simcoe Muskoka Girls Hockey League Championships, and the U15 B competitive team winning bronze at the OWHA Provincial Championships in April.

The association is accepting registration for the fall and has been building momentum with three-on-three hockey through the summer.

The upcoming season will offer a pilot tournament team for Senior Lightning, open age division, to accommodate players that have aged out of the U18 program. Bloemendal said the association never thought they would establish a senior team, and they are thrilled.

She said registration is underway for the upcoming season, which starts in September.

Bloemendal said her own daughter probably wouldn’t be playing hockey if there wasn’t a girls’ league.

She said it’s all about the camaraderie, on and off the ice.

“It’s the team spirit basically,” said Bloemendal. “When they are in the change room they actually get to be together, whereas when you have mixed teams the girls are typically in a small dressing room on their own. It’s not the same. And, they find life-long friends, I think, that’s a huge part of it. They want to play a sport but they also want to have fun.”

The Collingwood Girls Hockey Association promotes participation in sport for all levels of ability, develops opportunities for all players and is committed to providing an environment that builds solid friendships through teamwork, respect and integrity.

“We are very honoured and proud to offer girls in the Collingwood and surrounding area of Georgian Bay an opportunity to play female only hockey in their community. It is our sincere wish to offer these opportunities to girls in a safe, fun and supportive environment,” said Martin.

All Lightning teams have a very strong presence in the community and are encouraged to assist other not for profit organizations throughout the season.

The association uses its platform and membership to support and fundraise for others first and foremost. On the books for next season; The Terry Fox Run, Salvation Army Food Drives, Stuff a Christmas Stocking for a Senior, Home Horizons Coldest Nightof the Year and its sixth annual fundraiser for My Friend’s House; to date, Hockey for Hope has raised over $10,000 in cash and much needed supplies for the shelter.

House League teams practice in Collingwood and travel for games to Barrie, Orillia, Midland and Hunstville. Competitive teams practice in Collingwood, Stayner, Creemore and Thornbury and travel for games within a similar loop as the house league teams but can also travel beyond to Georgina, Caledon, Orangeville or in the other direction to Owen Sound, Walkerton and Saugeen, all depending on which loop it is placed in.

Girls’ associations under the OWHA are able to offer play to non-residents players, as there are not enough female associations within municipalities. The closest centre to Collingwood is Barrie Sharks WHA, which does boast over 750 players and divisions up to A, including U22 Intermediate High Performance.

Bloemendal said the association prides itself on a skills-based development program, prioritizing solid house league teams over rep teams.

First Shift program

The First Shift program developed by the Toronto Maple Leafs is designed to introduce girls to hockey with minimal investment. The girls are fully outfitted by the Bauer team staff, including skates, at a cost of $229.

Participants must be 10 years or younger and new to hockey. The welcome event is on Friday, Nov. 11

at the Wasaga Beach RecPlex and six on-ice sessions go until Jan. 6, in Collingwood.

Once they complete the First Shift Program, the girls will be invited to join one of our House League teams if there is space or carry on with Fundamentals. The Collingwood Girls Hockey Association has established a financial Assistance account for thosethat require it, so we can further support them in their first year of hockey.

Skate like a Girl event

Also, coming Thursday, Sept. 16 at The Historic Gayety Theatre, The Collingwood Lightning Girls Hockey Association Presents Skate Like A Girl:

The Collingwood Lightning Girls Hockey Association is hosting a special screening of Engraved On a Nation: On the Line. The film highlights what fuels the greatest rivalry of all time, between Canada and USA National Women’s Hockey Teams and theneed for domination.

In addition, the Lightning are so pleased to screen As Fast as Her, a documentary featuring Kendal Coyne-Schofield who became the first woman to participate in the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

And, as a bonus, a virtual reading of Skate Like A Girl, by Ottawa Author Alison Haenlin, a former U of Ottawa women’s hockey player and hockey trailblazer. A special thank you to Collingwood Museum’s Melissa Shaw for sharing the history of women’s hockey in Collingwood.

For further information about programs and registration, please visit www.collingwoodgirlshockey. com. Find Collingwood Girls Hockey Association on Facebook and Instagram.

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