Inspiring girls one game at a time

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Girls are making history in the world of hockey, whether they’re taking home the gold medal or are just stepping out onto the ice sporting their team colours for the first time.

The Lakeland Jaguars are promoting girls in sport across the region, bringing together girls of all ages from across the Lakeland and beyond in the name of hockey.

On Saturday, Jan. 21, the Jaguars celebrated the female game as part all of Alberta Hockey Day, encouraging young girls interested in the sport to give it a try.

Women in sports, such as Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic gold-medalist in women’s hockey, are encouraging girls to get active. Particularly, in traditionally male-dominated sports like hockey, they’re reminding them it’s not just a boys’ game.

Head coach for the Lakeland Peewee Jaguars James Stokes said it’s because young girls are looking up to these women that the Jaguars saw a spike in girls signing up for their league.

“The girls now have people to look up to like Hayley Wickenheiser and other great players like that. They have those role models and I think it goes a long way,” said Stokes. “They are promoting the sport, and the young girls are buying into it.”

Captain of the Peewee Jaguars Sydney Dutertre said Wickenheiser is an inspiration for all girls, including her fellow teammate Berry Rosychuk who finds hope and encouragement from the female all-star.

Devin Dutertre, director for Bonnyville-Cold Lake female atom and peewee program said Alberta Hockey Day provided a platform for conversation about girls in hockey, and the all-girls teams within the area that are available to them.

“We know there are lots of girls out there that are still playing in mixed leagues. I have had some come over and tell me that they wished they had known about (the Jaguars) sooner,” he added.

Over the years, Stokes has coached both boys and girls teams, including his daughter’s team prior to her days with the Lakeland Jaguars. He noted there was a visible difference between her time on the mixed team and the all-girls team.

“They interact differently when it’s just the girls. With the boys, as much as they try not to be, they can be a part of the team but they are always a little bit of an outcast. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the boys hangout with the boys and the girls end up on the side on their own, but with just girls it is a lot different,” Stokes explained.

Over time, the all-girls teams form the same bond as any team does through travelling together, playing together, and winning and losing games together.

Hockey is a sport that builds teamwork, life skills, and friendships that will last a lifetime both on and off the ice. Devin said, players “learn structure and discipline. You are not only making a good hockey player, you are making good citizens.”

Sydney added playing all-girls hockey has taught her how to be a leader, and has improved her on-ice skills.

Prior to joining the all-girls league, Sydney played on a mixed team, and would sometimes feel left out. Being a part of the Jaguars has given her a sense of belonging.

“It is more interactive, sometimes (on a mixed team) you get left out,” noted Sydney.

Rosychuk, left wing for the peewee Jaguars, made the move to the all-girls team two years ago.

“It’s really fun. You have good coaches and they teach you well and you get so much better,” Rosychuk said. “I have learned to share and help other teammates.”

Rosychuk and Sydney encouraged any girl interested in playing hockey to give it a try.

“If you are a girl, join girls hockey, because it is lots of fun and you get to interact with others,” Sydney said

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