Girls from the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association peewee level took their newly formed team to Richmond on the weekend of March 30, where many of them played together for the first time, against recreational hockey teams from Western Canada and the U.S. in the long-running Annual Ice Classic Female Hockey Tournament.
The Juan de Fuca girls came in second – and players and coaches said playing for an all-girls team, more so than the five different integrated teams that they hail from, helped inspire their confidence and boost morale.
“The tournament was awesome because everyone was really fun and included. And every time you’re at a hotel, someone would always make plans to get together in someone’s room,” Piper Jorgenson, 12, said.
Jorgenson knew just half the team in the locker room when they first got together but quickly found everyone’s name easy to remember. “They were all super outgoing to everyone,” she said.
She added that while their opponents had been practising together for the whole year, having positive team players helped the team come together for “really good integration” despite only three practice sessions.
While the level of play in the competition was higher than normal, Paisley Bladon, 12, said she found it fun to play with “just girls.” They kept playing on and encouraging one another, Bladon said.
“We had a lot of fun together. Like, if one of us made a mistake, we never got down on each other. We always kept each other high.”
“It was really cool to see the girls grow in a short amount of time,” coach Beth Bladon said. If the girls returned to hockey next year her job as a coach is complete, she added.
“The confidence I see even in my own daughter is huge,” said Bladon, whose daughter is Paisley.
Forward Claire Downton, 12, said she learned that it’s OK to take the puck and bring it down to the other end. “You don’t have to be worried about messing up because your team will still be there for you.”
The Juan de Fuca team was tied, 3-3, in overtime when their journey came to a bittersweet end in the 22nd annual tournament for recreational level club teams.
Bladon said her aim for the competition was to empower the players, who typically are one of three girls playing in a hockey team full of boys. Many players told the coach they had never had practices that hard, she said. In return, they surprised her by going further than she had expected.
The players came in timid, yet in a short amount of time, she said she saw them grow.
“When your skates hit that ice, you’re a hockey player…I don’t settle for mediocre I settle for your best, whatever your best looks like.”