IDC Introduces All-Girls Hockey

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Hockey players Amelie Fontaine, Josee d'Auteuil, Evangeline Golding, Emma Vincent Kristen Fontaine

While hockey is almost a prerequisite sport for boys in rural Manitoba, girls have more recently been introduced to the game and are loving it. Kristen Fontaine of the Île-des-Chênes Minor Hockey Association board has been working to bring an all-girls team to the Ritchot and Niverville area—and she’s seen an exceptional level of interest.

Though Canadian female hockey teams date back to the late nineteenth century, it took 100 years for women’s hockey to be recognized on national and international levels. Provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta were at the forefront of women’s hockey throughout the late twentieth century. In the last number of years, Winnipeg has also introduced all-girls programming.

Girls in rural Manitoba, however, are often left out in the cold.

“In rural Manitoba there is limited programming for girls to play all-girls hockey,” says Fontaine. “Historically, girls have played with the boys until they are about 13 years old, when the game becomes quite a bit more physical.”

Fontaine says that rural female hockey players can be accepted to play in the Winnipeg all-girls league at the Atom level (ages nine to ten years). Many who apply are not accepted. She adds that girls in the Novice (ages seven and eight) and Initiation levels (ages four to six) are never accepted, leaving many young girls with few options other than to play on co-ed teams. 

In the fall of 2016, Kim Paull, currently the female hockey rep for the RM of Macdonald’s hockey association, decided to organize an all-girls Novice team. She started with nine girls, but within two weeks of recruiting she had 16 players signed up. Paull quickly discovered that Stonewall had also been organizing all-girls exhibition games for a few years. Together, she and a woman from Stonewall proceeded to create an exhibition schedule for their teams to play each other.

This spring, Fontaine recognized the need for a local all-girls hockey team when her eight-year-old daughter decided not to play in the fall if she had to play on a boys’ team again. So Fontaine joined the IDC Minor Hockey Association (MHA), became their female rep, and came into contact with all these other women who were already working to bring all-girls hockey to rural communities.

“It’s not a board,” says Paull of the committee the women have formed. “It’s just a committee of all the female hockey reps from each association, working together to create a fun environment for girls to play hockey.”

This year, women from Stonewall, Macdonald, Île-des-Chênes, Lorette, and Springfield banded together to create the Perimeter Female Hockey Alliance (PFHA). This is not a league per se. Instead the program has been sanctioned by Hockey Manitoba to play on an exhibition basis.

“An exhibition team is still sanctioned by Hockey Manitoba, but the games aren’t monitored and scores aren’t kept in the same way,” says Fontaine. “They’re just for fun. In our case, because we’re trying to mirror the original league as much as possible, we will be keeping track of wins and losses and ranking the teams within the PFHA, but Hockey Manitoba won’t pay any attention to this.”

Currently, the PFHA is comprised of four teams from Macdonald, three from Stonewall, two each from Lorette and Springfield, and one with players from both Île-des-Chênes and Niverville. The latter team will be known as the IDC Elks.

“We’ve had to do some recruiting,” Fontaine says. “I sent letters to the local schools and increased our numbers by accepting some girls from Niverville. From there we started to realize that this could be big. It could potentially increase our female numbers dramatically if we continue to promote our program and offer female hockey at a young age.”

And that is exactly what the PFHA hopes the outcome will be. 

“[The IDC Elks] are doing everything in our power to ensure that we advertise and promote this program in the hopes that more girls will come out and lace up,” Fontaine says. “Throughout the year we will be hosting Female Hockey Days, a kick-off tournament, and some fundraising activities to incite people to learn more and get their daughters interested in the game. Any girl who wants to play hockey is welcome, regardless of her background.”

Though the first team in Île-des-Chênes will play at the Novice level, Fontaine says plans are already in the works to start an Initiation team as well. The other communities in the PFHA have already begun their Initiation programs this season.

“We will be organizing some games for them throughout the season,” adds Fontaine. “[But] because we don’t have enough Initiation level players, they will be rostered with the co-ed teams and throughout the season we’ll get any girls who would like to play together to play some all-girls games. We feel that in some cases, this will get them to stick it out and play all-girls hockey later on. Often we see girls fall off the roster after a year or two in the [co-ed] Initiation level.”

The IDC Elks have moved ahead with fall fundraising efforts to assist them with their financial targets for the 2017–18 year. They held a bottle drive on August 28, and they will host a garage and bake sale on September 16 at the Île-des-Chênes Arena. They will also use the September 16 event to provide information to any parents whose daughters may be interested in the program.

A Female Hockey Day event is being planned in Île-des-Chênes for early October, details to be announced.

“The Female Hockey Days will be open to all girls from ages six to ten who are interested in playing hockey,” says Fontaine. “Whether they’ve played before or not will make no difference. We’re hoping to get some good mentors on and off the ice to give them a real experience and hopefully recruit a few more players at all levels.”

The PFHA’s season kick-off tournament is scheduled for October 8 in Île-des-Chênes. 


For more information

For more details about the IDC Elks, contact Kristen Fontaine at kris82@mymts.net or 204-470-8500.

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