A total of nine young female hockey players from the South Slave Region were on the ice over the weekend for the first high-performance hockey camp of its kind.
Sponsored by Hockey North and Hockey NWT, the camp was designed to introduce new players to the game, improve the skill of existing athletes, and create a high performance program to an “elite” hockey team for the Northwest Territories, coach Amy Doerksen said.
This weekend’s camp, which began on Friday night at the Ben Sivertz Arena and concluded on Sunday afternoon with dry-land evaluations at Princess Alexandra School, was the first in a series of camps designed to establish what kind of talent is available in the communities, as well as what players need to get to the next level, Doerksen continued. Doerksen, who is from Yellowknife, and fellow coach Jessica Cox, from Fort Smith, will be traveling to Fort Simpson just before Christmas, followed by visits to Yellowknife, Normal Wells and Inuvik by the end of February.
“So when it comes to the Arctic Winter Games, the Canada Winter Games, or even just every year, just picking a tournament somewhere to take the girls to play at a higher level, knowing what kind of athletes are out there,” she said.
Doerksen said a select number of the girls will then be invited to a week-long camp in Yellowknife at the end of March. At the end of that camp the coaches hope to create a team of 15 skaters and two goalies, who would then travel to AA midget or bantam tournaments in Alberta.
“That’ll be kinda the end goal that we will be working towards,” she said.
On Friday night participants spent time working on a number of skills, including skating, stick handling, passing, shooting and physicality.
“We spent some time on the basics, and then, as we moved through our practices became a little bit more complicated and we started incorporating those different elements,” Doerksen said.
On Saturday morning, the players worked on positional play, including one-on-ones, two-on-ones, two-on-twos and play in both the offensive and defensive zones.
Doerksen, Cox and Hay River Learn to Play coach Kim Ivanko then ran an Esso Fun Day came to work on skills with a number of younger players midday on Saturday. Players ran through a number of skill stations on passing, stick handling, and shooting before finishing off the day with a scrimmage and trivia challenge.
The high performance camp continued with a session on making healthy choices on Saturday night, followed by an exhibition hockey game. It wrapped up Sunday with on-ice evaluations followed by fitness testing and interviews Sunday afternoon.
Sisters Caitlyn and Susie Chambers were both impressed with the camp.
“It was fun and challenging,” Caitlyn, a grade eight student at Diamond Jenness Secondary School, said.
Caitlyn, 13, has taken part in hockey camps before, though they were always mixed.
“I liked being with all girls … it makes us feel more equal,” she said proudly.
Younger sister Susie agreed.
“It was really fun,” Susie, a grade seven student at Princess Alexandra School, said.
With the camp, Doerksen said the hope was that the coaches could eventually skip beyond the basic play, and concentrate more time on the positional and strategic side of the game.
We’re not there yet, but I think we can get there,” she said. “We just have to stick with a longer-term plan.
While the idea for a high performance camp for female hockey players has been thrown around before, this was the first year organizers were able to get something off the ground, Doerksen said. The hope is to sustain them for years to come.
“We realized there was a need out there and a need to develop the players that are currently playing, but then also attract new players to the sport,” she said. “In some regions, the numbers aren’t great, which is the purpose of (Esso Fun Days). In combining both of them, we thought it was kind of a nice fit.”