Women’s hockey tournament in Campbell River highlights increased popularity

CHEK

Teams from Campbell River and Parksville hit the ice for an afternoon game Friday, just one of many to be played over the weekend in a tournament that’s highlighting the growth of women’s hockey on Vancouver Island.

“Hockey in Campbell River is growing. I joined it when I first had my babies and I needed to get out of the house and it was pretty small then but it’s definitely growing now,” said Sara Orr.

Now there are several teams to choose from, girls don’t have to play on boy’s teams and there are teams for every age group.

“Back when I started there was like 11 of us that would all play together when I was younger,” said Elizabeth Bettenson. “Per age group, you were lucky if you had any more than that so now to have a lot of girls, enough for two teams for a couple of divisions here in Campbell River.”

The weekend tournament has 14 teams from around the Island, which would have been unheard of for a women’s tournament a few years ago.

“Girls hockey in general is getting bigger, girls hockey is growing and now all the university girls that come out and finish university have a place to come and play hockey. Years ago they didn’t,” said Lorrie Herman.

Players like Lisa Lloyd who played university hockey in Alberta. She’s happy to be able to keep playing now back in her home town Campbell River.

“Growing up we had Wednesday practice that were girls from age six or seven to like 16 and to see now there’s multiple teams across different age groups in Campbell River and the Island, it’s pretty exciting,” Lloyd said.

However, even with the growing popularity, in 2023 women only accounted for 20 per cent of all hockey players in Canada.

The new Professional Women’s Hockey League with Canadian teams in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal could change that and is already a massive hit filling arenas with fans and young players as far away as Campbell River with hockey dreams.

“I love it,” said Grace Walker. “I want to play in it.”

Melissa Brooks has played in Campbell River for 25 years, many of them on boys teams. She loves to see the growth of women’s hockey and the PWHL.

“I wish I was playing in it, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “It’s really cool and they’re actually getting paid to play which is amazing.

The tournament runs all weekend at Strathcona Gardens in Campbell River.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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