Welcome to the wonderful world of girls hockey, where we are less like ice fairies and more like ice harpies (though we are far better looking than that mental image suggests, I assure you).
Our association, Vancouver Girls Ice Hockey, which was founded in 1973 under the name Killarney Girls Ice Hockey Association, comprises 12 teams made up of players from ages four to 18. They consist of tykes (ages five and six), novices (ages seven and eight), atoms (nine and 10), peewees (11 and 12), bantams (13 and 14), midgets (15 to 17), and a nonexistent—but planned, if we can find enough players—juvenile team (ages 18 to 20).
The VGIH is Vancouver’s only all-girls hockey association.
There are rep, or “A” teams, and house teams. Rep is the more competitive option, where a player has to try out and is not guranteed a spot, while house is considered less competitive and no one is turned down.
Volunteers are essential
From president to coaches and managers, we’re volunteer-based. Devoted hockey parents volunteer—or are volunteered—to fill the positions of timekeepers and managers (my mother filling the latter role one year with the help of another mom), and dedicated coaches give their time freely to us players.
We go by the name Vancouver Angels—not a very intimidating name for a hockey team, but a name worn with pride all the same. It’s quite noncompetitive until the last year of bantam, when the girls begin adopting a bit more attitude due to the naturally occurring combativeness of teenage girls (at least, that’s my experience).
I joined my slightly younger sister in hockey during the second year of peewee, with a solid grip on skating—my father having taught us almost as soon as we could walk. But I didn’t learn hockey in those earliest days; instead, I played the similar but also very different sport of ringette.
Even in practice situations, I quickly realized that hockey is much harder than it looks on TV. A not-so-fond memory of my very first practice would be that of another girl’s father—who was helping out—giving me a disapproving look, accomanied by a shake of his head, for missing a pass, but other than that, I was made to feel very welcome.
The real Sedin sisters
Now, six years later, my passing still may be a bit iffy, but I’ve improved a lot since that first awkward attempt. Often, I’m asked if it bothers me to play on the same team as my sister. Nope, it doesn’t, even though we don’t agree on everything and we are very different: she is a lot happier and more bubbly than I am, often apologizing to players she trips or knocks over, and telling me when to skate away from a confrontation.
Coaches have put us on the same line whenever they can, so we’ve become simply the Butlers—insert a Sedin reference here.
Our association has three midget teams: rep (or midget A), C1, and C2 (with 1 and 2 not being levels but just numbers to distinguish between the two teams). Our team, midget C1, has girls of every skill level, from girls new to hockey to those who have been at it since they were much younger. Regardless of our proficiency, we all get as close to equal ice time as possible.
Our team isn’t the fastest or the strongest, but we are quite passionate about what we do. When all are accounted for, we are a mighty enthusiastic force of 13 skaters and a goalie (for whom we are extremely grateful, due to the fact that goalies are hard to come by—we have no backup).
Win or lose, the focus is on improvement
We haven’t always done very well, but we are fighting—almost literally, sometimes—our way through rough games, mediocre refereeing, injuries, and sometimes just plain bad luck.
When we lose, we reflect on what we did well and are reminded of what we can improve upon, and when we win, it’s the same except with a bit more celebrating. Home games are at the Agrodome at the PNE, though we don’t draw crowds big enough to fill those stands.
Our fan base consists of siblings, parents, and friends. My mother comes to most of them; my father drops us off when she can’t (and stays to watch), and, occasionally, my ever-supportive boyfriend comes to cheer us on.
Its not a bad rink on which to be based: the ice surface is large, and it has an amusing echo at centre ice. Away games are peppered across the Lower Mainland, stretching to include Whistler and a team out of Washington state (with whom, after our last tournament, we have a growing rivalry). Practices are usually twice a week, located wherever we can get ice time: the Burnaby Winter Club, the Richmond Oval, the Agrodome, and Hillcrest are our most commonly used rinks.
Good times or bad, our fearless leader, Krista, who is possibly the best coach in girls hockey (based solely on my opinion)—along with three great assistant coaches: Cheryl, who is our ever-cheerful safety person, and Liz and Jackie, who are both ex-Angels—keeps us in good spirits, putting up with our shenanigans and occasionally partaking in them.
Krista is a fun coach and one of my role models. She has a way of coaching that makes us listen—not by making her word the unbending law but because we want to. We all share in the equally proud, disappointing, and aggravating moments associated with hockey.
In short, I couldn’t ask for a better group of people with whom to play my final season.