New Brunswick

Moncton girls proud to play hockey in all-girls league

A group of young Moncton-area hockey players will be celebrating World Girls' Hockey Weekend. The players are part of the South East Female Hockey Association.

League has tripled number of players in 4 years

From left, members of the South East Female Hockey Association: Lauren Hale, Grace Dwyer, Hannah Wlson and Julie Dwyer. (Jenna Morton/CBC)

A group of young Moncton-area hockey players — and their parents — have big dreams.

"We want to be back here in 10 years talking about how we won the Olympics with some of the girls," coach Eric Wilson said.

But just two years ago, Wilson didn't know a girls-only hockey league existed in Moncton.

It was his nine-year-old daughter's insistence that she be allowed to play hockey that led the Wilson family to discover the South East Female Hockey Association, or SEFHA.

Membership growing

The association was formed four years ago and has nearly tripled its membership since then.

Wilson said being involved as a parent coach has been about much more than just the game. It's impacted his relationship with his daughter, Hannah. 

"It's incredible, it's changed our relationship," he said. "We were close but it's at a different level now. All the dads and moms could probably say the same thing. There's some serious bonding happening."

It was Hannah who brought the league to her parents' attention.

"I wanted to play hockey because one of my best friends played hockey," Hannah said. "My dad kept on saying, 'You have to play ringette, you have to play ringette. There's only going to be boys on your hockey team.' Then one day we were in the car and I screamed at him. I said, 'No, you are not going to get me to play ringette. I want to play hockey!'"

The Wilson family went to a SEFHA tryout and there's been no looking back.

"I had heard stories that if girls wanted to play hockey, that they had to play on a boys team and there might be one other girl," Wilson said. "I couldn't believe the number of girls on the ice."

No contact

Wilson said he was also pleased there's no body contact in girls hockey.

"We play full gear, there's no messing around, full protection, full safety, but no body contact. When you saw the girls in the Olympics win the gold — no contact. There's a little bumping at that age, at that high level, but no [full contact]."

Wilson and Hannah are hoping more families learn about Moncton-area association this week.

Members of the South East Female Hockey Association will celebrate World Girls Hockey Weekend Oct. 6 to 8. (Facebook)

Members of the association's teams will be wearing their hockey jerseys to school on Friday to celebrate the seventh annual World Girls' Hockey Weekend.

The International Ice Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada are teaming up for the event, being held Oct. 6 to Oct. 8.

Activities are planned around the world to promote girls hockey.

"Hockey is just amazing," Hannah said. "You get to make new friends." 

Friends like eight-year-old Julie Dwyer, who encourages other girls' to try out.

"You're going to start out well, the coaches are nice."

Hockey dads and their daughters from the South East Female Hockey Association will be celebrating World Girls' Hockey Weekend starting Friday. (Jenna Morton/CBC)

Her older sister, 11-year-old Grace, introduced her to the sport. Grace was brought to SEFHA by other friends three years ago.

"I got invited by my friends to a practice and I just fell in love with hockey," Grace said. "That you get to go skate, get exercise, and just have fun."

Eleven-year-old forward Lauren Hale has been a SEFHA Stars player for three seasons.

She said girls should not feel intimidated to try hockey.

Worth a try

"You go out and give it a try," Lauren said. "At first it's not going to be the best, because everyone else around you has had more experience than you.

"But, you know, you're going to get better, too."

Lauren added she enjoys being on a girls-only team.

"Everyone is in the same dressing room, everyone socializes, and we all kind of click really good because we're all girls and we all get it."

Lauren is looking forward to wearing her jersey on Friday. "It's my team. I'm proud of it. I'm going to wear it."