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Program in Digby introducing girls to hockey

The Digby arena has been the site of a new introductory hockey program for girls, an initiative of the Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association.
The Digby arena has been the site of a new introductory hockey program for girls, an initiative of the Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association. - Contributed

Initiative of Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association benefitted from Maritime NHL’ers for Kids

A new program of the Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association that’s introducing girls to hockey has been a hit and will go longer than initially planned.

The program, which is being held at the Digby arena, began in October with one-hour sessions on Monday nights and it was originally scheduled to end Nov. 26, but the decision has been made to keep it going – with a session every other week – until the end of February. Organizers had expected about 15 participants but ended up getting 23.

Seeing that the female hockey participation rate in its area was considerably lower than some other comparable rural areas – in Newfoundland, for example – the Clare-Digby association wanted to establish a program that would introduce girls to the sport, says Josée Soucie, female co-ordinator with the CDMHA.

The association was able to launch the new program with a grant from Hockey Nova Scotia, which covered various expenses – most importantly ice times – and the hope had been to use money from the grant to purchase hockey equipment for program participants to use.

Hockey can be a pretty expensive sport, Soucie notes, especially for someone who isn’t even sure they will like the sport and stick with it. Through the Hockey Nova Scotia grant, the new program only would have been able to provide gear for about seven participants, she said.

Fortunately, the CDMHA had received 25 sets of hockey gear recently from the National Hockey League Players Association, a donation facilitated by Maritime NHL’ers for Kids, a non-profit organization that tries to ensure boys and girls are not denied a chance to play minor hockey for financial reasons.

(Maritime NHL’ers for Kids held their 19th annual fundraising event in Digby this past July.)

The CDMHA agreed to allot gear from the NHL’ers for Kids donation to girls wanting to take part in the new female program.

 “The only criteria was that they must never have played organized hockey before,” Soucie said. “And so, all these girls have never played hockey (before) and would likely have not tried it except for this program. The thing is, it can be intimidating for girls to go onto the ice and be outnumbered by boys. And boys and girls learn differently ... So (this program) is just kind of a more conducive environment to how they learn.”

Participants can keep using the donated hockey gear as long as they keep playing, she said. If they decide not to play anymore, they can return the equipment and someone else will get to use it.

Soucie said three program participants had registered to play minor hockey in the Clare-Digby system.

Girls taking part in the new program range from five to 13, although the idea initially had been for the age range to be from five to 10.

“We have two 11-year-olds and one 13-year-old,” Soucie said, adding that she didn’t want anyone turned away because of their age. Besides, she said, regardless of how old they are, “they’re all just starting out.”

And they seem to be enjoying themselves and doing well, she said.

“The girls are having fun and their progress is remarkable,” she said. “Also of note, none of this would be possible without the dedication of our numerous volunteers on and off the ice.”

Thanks to the donation of equipment through Maritime NHL’ers for Kids, money that initially had been budgeted for hockey gear will go towards ice time, enabling the program to go longer than the original six-week timeframe, although the sessions will now be every two weeks instead of every week, with a break for the holidays.

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