PEI

Female hockey review looks at how to grow the sport on P.E.I.

P.E.I. female hockey players, their families, coaches and other volunteers are being asked what it will take to continue to grow the sport on the Island.

'It's important to get people's perspectives out there in the communities'

It's been a province-wide and national initiative to grow the game among females, says Geoff Kowalski, executive director of Hockey P.E.I. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Female hockey players, their families, coaches and other volunteers on P.E.I. are being asked what it will take to continue to grow the sport on the Island.

A special committee appointed by Hockey P.E.I. is holding meetings to gather ideas.

"It's been a province-wide and national initiative to grow the game on the female level, that continues to be a priority, but in order to do so we have to remain relevant," said Geoff Kowalski, executive director of Hockey P.E.I.

"It's interesting how fast things change from year to year, whether it's the numbers, or the competitive play, or players who are more interested in recreational level sport."

Kowalski said Hockey P.E.I. has around 1,200 female minor hockey players this season, compared to about 1,150 last year and about 1,050 the previous two years.  

A special committee appointed by Hockey P.E.I. is holding meetings across the Island to gather ideas. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Kowalski said it's important to listen to people at the grassroots of hockey across the Island.

"We can make decisions from the office and from our chairs, but at the same time it's important to get people's perspectives out there in the communities," Kowalski said.

"What are they looking for? How do we know what people want if we don't ask the question, right?"

'Champions of female hockey'

Jen MacDonald, the director of female hockey for Hockey P.E.I., is part of the committee conducting the review. 

Jen MacDonald was the head coach of Team P.E.I. at the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She's now the director of female hockey with Hockey P.E.I. (Submitted by Jen MacDonald)

"This committee is a board-appointed committee and we've selected champions of female hockey from across the province from east to west," MacDonald said.

"We've tried to have a nice variety of having some grassroots involvement, and we have some that are geared towards more high-performance involvement."

There have been three meetings so far, in O'Leary, Montague and Summerside, with another planned Thursday night in Charlottetown.

Hockey P.E.I. has around 1,200 female minor hockey players this season, compared to about 1,150 last year and about 1,050 the previous two years. (Submitted by Jen MacDonald)

"We've had some really good feedback, we've had some people that are looking to see more promotion of female hockey," MacDonald said.

"We're getting some feedback on the high-performance program and hearing that our membership would like to see more development opportunities across all levels."

MacDonald said there has also been some interest in double carding, where girls would be able to play in the male and female stream at the same time. 

Hearing from players

They've also been hearing from bantam and midget-aged players, who were invited to take part in the sessions.

"These girls, they're the best ones to ask because they're the ones that have gone through it so far and they've got a lot to say," MacDonald said.

"They've got some great ideas and we want to keep those girls in sport and we want to attract more girls." 

MacDonald says the spotlight is on female hockey right now, including the successful season of the UPEI Panthers team. (UPEI)

MacDonald said women's hockey is in the spotlight right now, making it the perfect time for this review.

"World championships are going to be held in Nova Scotia, UPEI is having a strong playoff, you see the involvement of females in the NHL all-star game," MacDonald said.

"So we would like to get more girls involved in the game and what we can do to attract them to this sport."

Kowalski says it's important to make sure Hockey P.E.I. is providing the best product for their players, to attract and retain members. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

MacDonald said the committee's goal is to come up with recommendations, and then share those this spring with Hockey P.E.I. and members.

"Myself personally, I've gained a lot from my experience in hockey and and I would love to see more girls getting that opportunity," MacDonald said.

"The girls have so many opportunities and those opportunities seem to be growing and growing."

More from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.