Teammates For a Weekend

“All players need to bring a black and a white jersey.” “Door prizes at the party.” “Goalies play for free.”

With these website-based tidbits of information about the 2nd Annual International Whitehorse Women’s Hockey Jamboree swirling in my mind, I met organizer Lily Gontard over lunch and asked her just what will be happening this weekend when more than 60 women from Yukon and BC hit the ice.

The first question that came to mind was: what is a jamboree and how is it different from a tournament?

A jamboree, Gontard explains, is like a tournament but instead of teams signing up to play, individual players register. Each person sends in their name, their position and their skill level, and then the organizers make teams as equal as possible out of the lists. Often the teams are so equal that whoever has the best goalie wins.

The open format means that women who don’t play in the Whitehorse Women’s Hockey Association (WWHA) can lace up for the jamboree. It also means everybody has some experienced skaters on their team and everybody has some novice skaters on their team.

The option for spontaneity is one of the Jamboree’s greatest features, Gontard says.

“It’s really nice to see other women coming out. If they can’t commit to playing in the league, they can commit to a weekend of playing.”

While the majority of women signed up for the weekend do play in the regular league, almost a quarter of the jamboree participants do not.

And for women who do play in the WWHA, they get a chance to play with new teammates for a weekend.

Each team will play four games, with two 25-minute periods per game. The short and fast form of the games keeps energy high and attitudes fresh, giving players a dose of very fun hockey.

The appetite for women’s hockey has been growing steadily in Whitehorse. The WWHA is in its third year. The season started with skills camps – WWHA hosted Beginner, Intermediate and Goalie camps in September – and skating clinics are held throughout the year with coach Sue Roy and skating instructor Trish Pettit.

As for the Jamboree itself, attendance will be up significantly in its second year. The first annual Whitehorse women’s hockey jamboree had 46 players take part. This year there are 61, and there are five teams, up from last year’s four.

There was interest from women in Prince George, Vancouver and Juneau – mostly through word of mouth enthusiasm.

“We talked to gals from various communities, in Yukon and outside, but really only had word of mouth and ads in the coming events, posters, promo postcards, radio interviews,” Gontard explains.

The format of the Whitehorse Women’s Hockey Jamboree is modelled after the popular Women’s Hockey Jamboree run by Val Drummond in Haines Junction. Drummond is, not surprisingly, as excited as Gontard about the increase of women’s hockey opportunities in the Yukon.

Drummond has been running the jamboree since 1996, and it has been held every year with the exception of 2010. This year, the Haines Junction event was scheduled to overlap with the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. There are now enough female players playing in the YNHT – Davida McLeod, of the Gwich’in Gladiators, was voted this year’s Most Inspirational Female, for example – that Drummond cancelled her event.

“We started the Haines Junction jamboree so we could have women’s games, but not just have Whitehorse come and beat the crap out of us,” she laughs. “And it’s been so successful that we have to move our jamboree to February next year to keep room on the calendar for it all.”

Back to this weekend’s Whitehorse event. Women’s hockey allows body contact, but not body checking, so there may be some bruises but hopefully no stitches when the players attend the Saturday night banquet.

Skill awards for most valuable player, most sportsmanlike player, and more will be handed out at the Saturday festivities.

And who knows, that night’s dancing (there’s a DJ hired), or the door prizes, might affect the whole day’s worth of play on the Sunday.

Gontard says the deadline to register for this weekend’s jamboree has passed, but if there are more women interested in playing, they could possibly be fit in. The cost is $85, including insurance.

Interested players can contact the organizers through their blog: That’s where the mystery of the black and white shirt requirement is explained, by the way. Teams will be idenitified by wearing one of the two colours.

For Gontard, the most compelling reason to sweat and stickhandle through multiple games at this weekend’s hockey jamboree is simple. “For me, the word ‘play’ is really important,” she said. “The Jamboree is all about fun.”

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