Giving newcomer girls a shot at hockey

A new hockey program in Ottawa is helping newcomer girls conquer a traditional Canadian game.

Hockey 4 Youth comes to capital with program for girls aged 14-18

Hockey 4 Youth provides newcomers the opportunity to play hockey for free 0:33

A new hockey program in Ottawa is helping newcomer girls conquer a traditional Canadian game.

Hockey 4 Youth launched Wednesday at the Jim Durrell Arena, with 53 participants aged 14 to 18 from Ridgemont High School and Gloucester High School.

The charity has offered Canadian newcomers and low-income youth the opportunity to play hockey for free since 2013.

Organizers said the new program is aimed at giving newcomers the chance to play a new sport while helping them improve their English literacy skills.

Hockey 4 Youth has launched two hockey programs for newcomer girls in Ottawa. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

"It's not only boys that can play this game or any games," said 16-year-old Manal Al Mahmoud, who came to Canada from Syria in 2016.

"You have to be equal with everything."

While the first Ottawa event is for girls, Hockey 4 Youth runs programs for young people of all genders. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Seventeen-year-old Beatrice Shirambere, originally from Congo said playing hockey makes her feel more at home in Canada.

"I want to feel like a Canadian," she said. "In Africa, we don't have [hockey]. It's amazing. I want to try it."

Hockey 4 Youth started in 2013 in Montreal and grew to Toronto in 2015. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Jemila Jreivine, who had lived in Mauritania, agrees.

"It's a new experience that I've never tried before," said the 16-year-old. "After this I'm going to continue on playing and skating."

Jemila Jreivine was one of more than 50 girls to try hockey for the first time in Ottawa Feb. 12, 2020. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Hockey 4 Youth's programs in Toronto and Montreal have brought in participants representing over 25 countries including Syria, Afghanistan, India, Yemen and Brazil, according to the organization.

At a time when youth hockey enrolment and cost is in the spotlight, the charity says it wants to improve a  2016 statistic from the Institute of Canadian Citizenship: 71 per cent of new citizens express some interest in playing hockey, but only one per cent actually get to do it.

The new program in Ottawa runs for 10 weeks, with funding from the city, province, OSEG Foundation and Osler.


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