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Female hockey alive and well in Simcoe County

Great time for women's game, says Barrie Women’s Hockey Association chief
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Girls and women taking up hockey – and excelling at it – is nothing new. All of a reminder we need is to watch our women go for gold once more in Korea in February at the Winter Olympics.

But how deep is the talent pool for female hockey players in this country and where are those pools?

Rob Whitehead is president of the Barrie Women’s Hockey Association (BWHA) whose flagship team is the Barrie Jr. Sharks, competing throughout Ontario. Whitehead says women’s hockey has spread like wildfire.

“Over the past few years, the BWHA has grown from just over 700+ players throughout our various fundamentals, house league and rep team divisions, to 820+ players registered for the 2017/2018 season.

Hockey Canada also revealed that, although participation numbers remained virtually unchanged at about 500,000 players (both genders) nationwide, male enrolment continues to decline while female enrolment picked up the slack and has keep the numbers steady, with female players now making up 100,000, or one in five!

Whitehead adds, “Across Simcoe County, we have seen the female game grow with the Huntsville Girls Hockey Association, founded in 1972, move from one team to eight teams (this year).

“This is an exciting time to be involved in female hockey and the BWHA executive is very focused on continuing to provide opportunities for female players in Barrie and throughout the region to participate in the game of hockey.”

Rob says, while boys and young men have had development models in place for decades, the female game is catching up, saying girls and women “are competing at high levels through their youth, just like the men and now have great opportunities to play junior level hockey, while also seeking scholarships through Canada and the United States to play high level hockey, while seeking an education.”

What’s more, the professional Canadian Women’s Hockey League features teams in Calgary, Montreal, Markham/Stouffville, Toronto, Boston, and two teams in China.

The highest league in Ontario is the PWHL (Provincial Women's Hockey League), for girls and young women aged 15 through 21.

“The Barrie Jr. Sharks has been participating in the PWHL for seven years. Over the years, the Jr. Sharks teams have been made up of players from Barrie and surrounding cities within Simcoe County, other cities across the province and also the United States.

“Outside of the PWHL, the BWHA has competitive rep teams participating from novice through midget divisions throughout Ontario, as well as senior teams, with players over 21. These teams also have the opportunity to play for a provincial title.”

There are also development stream (DS) teams in novice, atom, peewee, bantam and midget divisions. “These DS teams form in November to provide those players in our House League divisions, who are looking to develop their skills in an effort to make the step to rep hockey or simply play at a slightly higher competition than house league offers.”

Whitehead says the BWHA just wrapped up its 27th annual Sharkfest female hockey tournament in mid-November. In October, the Ice’d Pink Day was held at Barrie Molson Centre in honour of Melissa Sutton, a hockey mom with two daughters participating in the BWHA, who lost her battle with cancer early in 2015.

“All in all, $10,000+ was raised to support the Canadian Cancer Society. The BWHA was graciously given a donation from the Barrie Colts Community Social Fund, to match monies raised and bring the total donation to $20,000+.”

Whitehead concludes, “Our season is just reaching the halfway point with lots of exciting hockey to be played at all levels.”

To learn more about the BWHA, please click here.  


Glenn Wilkins

About the Author: Glenn Wilkins

Glenn Wilkins, in a 30-year media career, has written for print and electronic media, as well as for TV and radio. Glenn has two books under his belt, profiling Canadian actors on Broadway and NHL coaches.
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