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poetica

Maple Leafs support women's hockey, other NHL Clubs to follow?

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^ well said

I don't understand why there is such a double standard when it comes to men's sports and women's sports. There were so many leagues that failed prior to the NHL (http://en.wikipedia....key_Association) and now even the NHL is failing in a colossal way. Experiencing challenges along the way doesn't mean we shouldn't support the effort and the vision for the future.

If for nothing else, we should support the cause because those players care as deeply for the game of hockey as anyone in the NHL, maybe even more:

  • The players of this league do not get paid. They work, go to school, and then play games on weekends.

  • The league can't afford plane tickets so most of the teams have to bus to games. A 1 hour plane ride turns into a 7 hour commute by bus.

  • The league has no money to pay its coaches so they have fundraisers to raise the money.

  • Even though they have no money they run a fundraiser every year with proceeds going to breast cancer research. Last year 1100 fans showed up and they raised $15,000

  • After every game the players come back out onto the ice to hang out with the fans. They sign autographs and chat until every fan is satisfied.

Some NHL players don't even have the decency to return the high fives they are being offered as they skate off the ice. Is the women's game anywhere near the men's game in terms of quality? No. Can it get there? Yes. Do they love it equally? Absolutely.

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I thought it was an embarrassment to Canada when the women's National team could scarcely afford a full-time coach despite multiple world championships and Olympic gold. National team players have to work at hardware stores and sacrifice a lot to play for their country (ie Therese Brisson was a Kinesiology prof at U of NB and had to give up her position to prepare for and play in the Olympics).

Nice gesture - but really, $30 k is relatively nothing - Phaneuf makes that much money every period of every game he plays. TMSE makes more than that every minute of every game...

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Nice gesture by the Leafs and Flames. $30k is peanuts to an organisation like the Leafs, and it's great that they are giving these women the opportunity to play.

As was mentioned earlier though, women's hockey still needs a major boost in other countries because at the moment it's just Canada vs. the USA every time, and that isn't particularly interesting.

Awareness and promoting the game is a good thing for the young women and girls of this country. Getting more girls on the ice at a young age is a great thing.

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Here's hoping an expansion comes to Vancouver and the Canucks support them. There's no reason Alberta should have a team but not BC.

Also, it would help if women's hockey got more covereage outside of the olympics. That's the only time the entire country gets to watch the women's hockey.

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There was a good article in the women's issue The Hockey News recently did that talked about how the IIHF is working to increase participation in women's hockey around the world. According to the article, they're devoting $2.1M to a program they call "Women's Hockey to Sochi 2014 and Beyond" for that purpose.

The article says there are currently 145,000 female players in North America currently but that other countries don't necessarily have to reach those numbers in order to compete if they have the right development and resources with just a few thousand players. The trouble is, some countries barely have a few hundred.

Here are a few direct quotes from the article:

  • The IIHF expanded its inaugural World Girls' Hockey Day last year to World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend. IIHF female hockey manager Tonya Foley, hired after 2010, says non-traditional hockey states such as Argentina, Macau, and Malaysia are among the 28 countries participating in the event this month. It means these countries will find a way to bring girls and hockey together, even if all they have is sticks and balls. The IIHF provides recruitment materials and trains people from a country's hockey federation to run learn-to-play events. "It is always better to teach people within nations how to run programs than to do it for them," Foley says. "For many nations, they simply don't have the staff or experience to create their own programs from scratch, but they are able to take the basic information from the IIHF programs to create something that fits their unique needs."

  • Women's hockey is taking root and growing in some pockets of the world. Turkey, for example, designated one if its five summer development camps for girls. Switzerland hosted the women's world championship for the first time two years ago and won its first medal, a bronze, this year. It's unrealistic, though, to expect the Swiss to beat Canada or the U.S. at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. It takes years to learn the skills, training and nutrition to become an elite team in the world. If the Swiss, Germans or Czechs want to beat the North Americans, their most important players right now are under the age of 10.

  • The established hockey country taking the biggest strides is Finland, with 5,000 girls now playing the game, more than double its numbers from 2006.

Source: "The Fight for Sochi" by Donna Spencer in The Hockey News (Oct 29, 2012 issue)

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^ There is hope and there is potential.

I had the honour of meeting the Mexican National Women's Team at Hayley Wickenheiser's festival today. They were wonderful and classy and passionate. And a terrific hockey team. I mean, one would not expect them to be but they were terrific skaters, their goalie was tremendous, and gosh they were physical! Only lost 3-0 to a team from BC and they played great. They were having a great time and that is what hockey is all about.

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And just imagine how much better the next generation of players will be when they have these to look up to and learn from!

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Speaking of WickFest...

HOCKEY: Wickenheiser tournament a hit with Mexican women

Like many a female athlete, Fernanda Chavez gravitated to a sport because her dad played and her brothers were playing and she wanted in on the action, too.

What makes her story unique is that Fernanda Chavez is a hockey player from Mexico City. That's ice hockey – not field hockey, not street hockey, not ball hockey.

Ice hockey in Mexico City? Now that is growing the game.

Chavez, 17, began playing when she was 10. She's now a member of the Mexican women's national team, which is participating in the third annual Hayley Wickenheiser International Women's Hockey Festival at Burnaby 8-Rinks. The Mexicans are one of 62 teams taking part in the Thursday-to-Sunday event.

Chavez responded like a seasoned veteran Saturday when queried about her start in the sport.

“Good question,” she replied in near perfect English. “Well, my dad when he was little, he played in Mexico. Then he teached my brothers and I how to play. My little brother is a goalie for the under-14s and my older brother doesn't play anymore because he is going to university.”

She was a little at a loss for words, however, when asked to describe what specifically she liked about the game.

“Everything,” she said. “It's a sensation... the action... I can't explain. I love checks. I play with boys and I like to be hit and I can hit them. Fighting? No. Just checks.”

Hockey is still in its infancy in Mexico. According to Wickenheiser, there are 22 rinks in the entire country, six of them in Mexico City. Last summer, she touched base with the head of the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation and national team coach Diego Da La Garma during a development camp in Finland.

She told them about her tournament – often referred to as WickFest – and they indicated an interest in participating.

“So they called us and here they are,” Wickenheiser chuckled. “It's crazy. They're really putting a lot of money into hockey in Mexico. It's pretty basic what they need. They're not skilled and I think, for some of them, it's the first time they've even had their skates sharpened properly. So it's a whole other world for them and I'm really happy they came.”

The Mexicans are playing competitively in the midget portion of the tournament but they were also treated to a special practice Saturday morning led by Wickenheiser herself. Fernanda Chavez admitted she didn't know a lot about Wickenheiser when she first heard about her team's trip to Canada. So she did what anyone with a computer would do.

“I searched her on Google and I found her story,” said Chavez. “It's amazing. She's one of the best players in the world.”

Da La Garma, the national women's coach, is an old goalie who has spent time in Ontario playing and working in summer hockey camps. He admitted hockey in Mexico has a long way to go, especially when it comes to facilities.

“The rinks in Mexico City? Honestly? Terrible,” he said. “The ice is, like, pretty bad but we are building two new rinks that will be top class. Actually, we're bringing everything in from Canada, boards, ice maker, everything. But, right now, it's not that good. The boards are not good and most of the rinks are in shopping malls, which doesn't help. We only have three or four that are specific for sports. Hopefully that is going to change pretty soon.”

According to Da La Garma, there is plenty of hockey interest in Mexico even if there are few quality rinks.

“Believe it or not, we are huge hockey fans,” he said. “We probably get four or five NHL games on TV a week so that's not bad at all.”

The Mexicans' appearance at WickFest is another feather in the cap of Wickenheiser, who seems to have no shortage of energy and no lack of ideas.

Now 34, she's still working on her kinesiology undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, still considering medical school, still playing for the national team and still suiting up for the women Dinos when her schedule permits. She opted to skip the school's weekend series at Saskatchewan to attend WickFest.

“I think, in the greater scheme of things, this is the right thing to do,” she explained. “It's four days out of my life and I feel it's important to be here on site and not just put your name behind something and not show up. It's worked out well. It's a challenge but it also fills me up with energy. It's been kind of everything that I hoped it would be to this point.

“I started out with an idea in mind to build a legacy for women's hockey and do something that's a little different and outside the box,” she added. “It's a hockey tournament but it so much more than that. We're looking to the development of the whole player. This is our third year and it seems to be our best so far.”

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^ they are loving every minute of the tournament

They didn't know that each team had to bring their own pucks so they scrounged around in their hockey bags and found about 10 of them to use in warmups. A dad of one of the Vancouver team's players noticed that they didn't have enough and he gave them an entire crate full of pucks that he had at home.

We also have allowed them to store their gear at the rink so that they don't have to take it to the hotel every night.

Everyone has really tried to make them feel welcome. They even got in on listening to some live Dean Brody today. One of the girls was like "ummm is this what country music is like!?" lol. The girls seem right at home. They were having a great time eating burgers and running all over the building today. It's great to see.

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Sounds awesome! And what a great testament of and tribute to the love of the game, especially when contrasted with the current lockout.

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