“I started playing hockey when I was four years old, because I wanted to keep up with my older brother,” says Vanessa Bogaert.
Twenty three years later, Bogaert is the president of the Whitehorse Women’s Hockey Association and a passionate advocate for getting more women involved in the sport.
“This sport has so many opportunities,” she explains.
“You have the chance to travel, you learn, you meet new people, you gain new experiences. Plus, it’s really fun!”
The Whitehorse Women’s Hockey Association aims to share this cornucopia of benefits with more women in the community. And they’re doing that by meeting the territory’s women where they’re at.
“We promote the sport for both competition and fun. We have members who are completely new to the sport and others who have been playing for 35 years,” Bogaert says.
“Those new members who are lacing up their skates for the first time can count on the guidance and support of our more experienced members. We have a very supportive and approachable community who are always willing to help.”
The association tries to walk the talk when it comes to offering every individual who gets involved the best experience possible. Beginning on September 15, it will be running a series of clinics covering a wide range of skills so that everyone can walk away having learned and improved, regardless of their experience level coming in.
“I love taking part in our clinics,” says Bogaert says.
“I always learn something new and see improvement in my game, despite the fact that I’ve been playing for more than 20 years.”
The first of these clinics, targeting goalies, will take place between September 15 and 22.
“We are hoping to build our goalie pool,” explains Joelle Hodgins, the association’s vice-president.
“This is especially a chance for women who have wanted to try it before, but didn’t want to test it out in a game, to put on the pads and give it a try.”
She adds with a laugh, “Plus, this camp is free!”
The second option available to skaters is skills camps taking place between September 16 and 27.
There are both beginner and intermediate options for these camps, so regardless of your level of experience you should be able to find a camp that has something to offer.
“We have some great local instructors to show new players everything from what equipment to wear to how to shoot,” Hodgins says.
Bogaert highlights the fact that camps build on each player’s individual foundation and level of play to help her improve her game.
“Camps also give everyone the opportunity to build new relationships and camaraderie. We always have a lot of fun,” she adds.
Finally, the association is providing an opportunity on September 27 for more experienced players to suit up in stripes.
It hopes to build a pool of female referees for their league, although males are also welcome to take part in this final clinic to train new referees.
After everyone has had a chance to improve their skills, the real fun gets going with league play opening on October 3.
“The first few games will be practices so that we can build some team dynamics before the games begin,” Hodgins explains.
In future, the Whitehorse Women’s Hockey Association hopes to see its numbers swell to the point that it could run both A and B divisions.
If you would like to join their growing ranks, though, you need to hurry. Registration is due by Friday, September 14.
To learn more, check out the association’s website at http://whitehorsewomenshockey.com.
Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].