OTTAWA—Ottawa celebrated women’s hockey this past weekend while they hosted both the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships and the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association provincials.
Young girls from across Ontario collected in the nation’s capital to compete in a four-day tournament for provincial gold. While in town, the teams were fortunate to also get the opportunity to take in the highest level of women’s hockey.
One of the teams competing in the Peewee C division of the OWHA provincials was the Toronto Leaside Wildcats. Coach Tony Miklaucic is a dedicated coach, with three daughters in the sport, who saw the benefits the hockey weekend brought first hand.
“I think it is a great opportunity for them,” said Miklaucic. “One, we are finishing our year here so it’s a high point for the girls. (The IIHF Womens World Championships) is great as a role model. It’s great to be able see women’s hockey at such a high level.”
The Wildcats, along with many other OWHA teams, had the opportunity to take in some of the IIHF games during their stay in Ottawa.
“I would just like them to see that hockey can continue,” said Miklaucic, on what he hoped the girls would take from their trip. “They play now but it can continue until they’re adults. And you can make friendships now that can continue along with the sport. “
Canada’s female Bobby Orr, Geraldine Heaney, was also on the bench at the OWHA provincials, coaching her daughter’s team. She said a lot has changed since she began playing hockey at ten years old in North York, Ontario.
“More girls are involved playing the game,” said Heaney. “It is cool to play hockey for girls now, it is not just a boys game anymore. They are getting the same opportunities and ice time as the boys. So I think that is the biggest change.
It has been 23-years since the first IIHF Women’s World Championships in Ottawa and women’s hockey has grown immensely in Canada. Hockey Canada has worked hard to help more young Canadian girls lace up their skates and to try the sport.
“There has been a pretty big investment in development programs and goalie specific programs,” said coach Miklaucic. “There is a big social side to girls hockey and I think that the organization has done a good job of making sure that the kids can interact and that they are having fun while they are doing it.”
Miklaucic’s peewee girls had the opportunity to meet one of the most celebrated female hockey players in Canada, Angela James, at the unveiling of the RBC play Hockey Ice sculpture commemorating Women’s Hockey.
After signing autographs and answering all the young girls questions, James had the following words of wisdom for all young hockey players:
“I think, get as much exposure as you can,” said James. “Play the highest level that you can. Challenge yourself, get in there and do the extra skills, do all the extra off-ice training that you possibly can.
“And if that is what you want to do and you want to be serious about it, go for it because anything can happen.”