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St. Albert Female Hockey Day a sign of growing interest in the sport

At Servus Place, "Female Hockey Day" brought girls from the Edmonton region and Calgary together to compete and learn from one another
The St. Albert Sharks and the St. Albert Chargers girls' hockey teams off the ice with Under 7 team the St. Albert Ice Queens.

Over a dozen St. Albert all-girl hockey teams hit the ice at Servus Place on Sunday for the city’s first Female Hockey Day.  

The event comes at a time when the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) has cranked up excitement for women’s hockey and led to record crowd turnout at games.

Teams ranging from Under-9 all the way to Under-18 AAA competed against players from the Edmonton region and Calgary, collected donations for WIN House women’s shelter and tackled skill competitions together.

Events like Female Hockey Day are possible in part because interest in women’s hockey is on the rise, said Lisa Magera, one of the event’s organizers.

“[St. Albert has] a very healthy program,” she said. “We're hoping events like this will create buzz and showcase the need to have girls get more involved and to continue to grow the sport.”

The biggest challenges for the game are ensuring girls can compete with players of similar skill levels, and creating pathways for talented young players to enter professional hockey, according to Magera. Events like Female Hockey Day forge community in the sport and create more opportunities for players.

Ava Vervynck, a left winger for the St. Albert Sharks U18 team, said the Sharks were “on fire” in their 3-1 game against a Sherwood Park team.

“I love the competitiveness,” 16-year-old Vervynck said. “Just being out on the ice — it's an amazing feeling being out there and playing the game.”

Vervynck hopes larger audiences start tuning in to women’s hockey.

“It's a dream that I think everybody in the women's community is trying to achieve at the moment,” she said. “The new PWHL league is amazing for that, because now there's a whole bunch of people who are getting invested in learning more about it.”

Marie-Philip Poulin, Olympic gold medalist and forward for the PWHL Montreal team, is especially inspirational for Vervynck.

“I've always admired her leadership and how she is a team player,” she said.

Although Vervynck isn’t sure how far her journey in the sport will take her, “any opportunity I can take to go to the next level, I'm always there for it,” she said.

Sisters Emma (15) and Zoe (12) Lommer also played at the event.

Younger sister Zoe picked up hockey again three years ago after taking a break to try other sports. She’s not sure how far she’ll go in hockey, but she plans to try out for a U15 AA team next year.

“I like when there's more focus on the female game,” said older sister Emma Lommer, who plays for the U15 AA Chargers. “It was really special.”

However, she wishes the event garnered more support from St. Albert’s male hockey teams.

“Maybe they could have volunteered or came and watched the games like we … do for them,” she said. “I think that would … make us feel like we mattered in the organization.”

A player since she was just four or five years old, Emma Lommer joined the sport because her cousins and most of the boys she knew played. She joined co-ed teams but still noticed an attitude that “boys are better than girls for the sport.”

“That was hard for me,” she said. “There was no one like me … So I really had to focus on what brought me joy and what I really liked about the sport. Now there's the PWHL, and we get to watch that instead of just the NHL. Now I have a goal.”

About the Author: Riley Tjosvold

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