By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 9, 2024.
Female hockey in the past has struggled with participation to the point where girls would have to play on male teams in order to have the opportunity to hit the ice.
But now the number of female hockey teams has expanded, giving more opportunities to girls.
Lethbridge Cyclones U-18 coach Cody Sincennes shared the difference he has seen in the past five years for his older daughter versus the opportunities for his younger daughter in girls’ hockey.
The Cyclones hosted the Cyclones Classic girls tournament on the weekend at the Cavendish Farms Centre arenas. The tournament featured three levels of competition – Under 18 – Tier 1, Under 18 – Tier 2 and Under 15.
Teams came from a diverse array of communities such as Calgary, Lloydminster, St. Albert, Stettler, Regina and Wetaskiwin.
“The difference in the last even five years has been pretty significant. She went from only having the opportunity to play on boys’ teams, often times separated into broom closets and things like that to be able to get dressed in place separately from the boys but enjoyed it. (She) enjoyed the sport, had a lot of fun. And for I guess now there’s just a more built out girls’ team program, there’s actually places to play. So that’s the biggest difference over the last five years, I would say,” said Sincennes.
Sincennes said the Cyclones U-18 team goal is to develop skills and to use the tournament as an opportunity to grow and learn.
“The priority is just developing skills, utilizing the tournament to develop skills in our players and to be able to give them experience against strong teams. We’ve selected strong teams for the tournament to play against. We’ve had close games but haven’t won any yet. And I think it’s just a good opportunity for us to grow and learn from just competing at a high level,” he said.
Sincennes’ daughter, who is on the Cyclones U-18 girls’ team, Zarah Sincennes plays defence and centre and expressed why she feels women’s hockey is important and how it impacts women along with girl athletes.
“(It’s) important because it’s good, that it’s not just a guys sport but also a women’s sport. The new women’s hockey league came out which I think is really good because a lot of girls are really happy,” said Zarah.
Zarah is excited to be part of the women hockey team and it gives her hope for the future.
“It’s a really exciting for me because that just means I can see that I might have a future with the sport. And it’s not just to play just regular hockey,to actually have a chance at getting somewhere in the future,” she said.
Hockey mom and team manager of the Lloydminster Blazers U-15 team Torrie Oliver talked about her daughter Rynn’s journey in girls’ hockey and the growth she has witnessed in the sport for women.
“In our community, particularly like when our daughter started, she started in initiation. I guess that was one time called Tom Thumb, but just she was one of, I don’t know, 15 or 18 kids on a team and there was only two girls.”
When Rynn was seven or eight, suddenly there were enough girls in Lloydminster to form teams for them, Oliver recalled.
“So that’s certainly a growth,” shared Oliver.
Oliver said for girls to have their own hockey teams is a special experience.
“The camaraderie that girls get out of being together on the ice, the level of comfort, that builds your confidence. It’s amazing to see,r,” she said.
Hockey dad and goalie coach for Lloydminster Blazers U-15 Shane Peters said his daughter, Launa, who is team captain, has been on the ice since she was very young.
“It broadens their horizons a lot. . .For them to come down and play against girls that play in different leagues and at different levels they always make new friends, no matter what,” said Peters.