We tried a Girls Try Hockey Day

Our family has been participating in KMHA boys’ hockey for a number of years, but for the first time, this year we have a daughter in girls’ hockey. I wanted to share her story with you, so that you can understand how the girls’ hockey program has impacted her in just a few short months.

Our 10-year-old had been asking to play hockey for many years. Sadly, we dismissed her pleas since we were still feeling a bit disgruntled about her less than positive experience playing soccer years before. Hockey is a much bigger commitment, a much bigger investment, and to just put on the equipment before games would require more effort than she had been willing to commit to soccer.

After persisting for three or four years, we started to realize she was really committed to this idea of playing hockey. We had grown familiar with the boys’ program and didn’t see it as a fit for her. We knew nothing of the girls’ program.

Last January, I scrolled through my Twitter account and spotted a post about a “Girls Try Hockey” event offered for free that very afternoon. Realizing that this might be just what my daughter needed to fully understand the amount of effort required to play, we dropped everything and headed to Activa in a flash hoping that she could participate even though she wasn’t registered. I was prepared to plead and beg, thinking for sure we’d be turned away. To my amazement we were welcomed by every single person involved in organizing this special day. We were encouraged by the number of people who raved about the girls program everywhere we turned.

“No moms allowed,” I was told as my daughter was whisked away into the locker room. I thought the chances were good that she would change her mind before even having equipment on. It’s intimidating to be surrounded by people you’ve never met, to be putting on strange gear, and to be heading out onto ice knowing that you can’t successfully skate end-to-end. I waited at the door expecting to see her come running out of it. There were a couple of girls who had changed their minds — my daughter wasn’t one of them. She told me later how much fun it was in the locker room. Having the older players help with gear, dancing to the blaring music, and trying on the new jersey that was given to each one of the girls participating. When the kids came out to head for the ice, my daughter was so elated that I was surprised her helmet could contain her smile.

The girls hit the ice for some routine drills. As a non-skater this must’ve been overwhelming for my daughter who spent much of the time trying to get up from a tumble. I waited nearby, expecting that at some point she’d decide it was more than she had bargained for. Ten minutes passed by, and her smile never wavered. The moment I realized that she was in her glory, I couldn’t contain my tears.

Fast forward to fall 2017. By this point she hasn’t stopped talking about hockey. Team evaluations can’t come soon enough — for her at least. As for her parents, we’re still feeling anxious about her playing with girls who’ve had many years experience. How can she keep up and contribute to a team effort if she doesn’t even know how to skate well?

To our amazement, she powered through the evaluations no matter how many times she fell on the ice, no matter how often she struggled with the drills, and no matter how often she needed extra guidance from the coaches. She continued to have such a bright smile that it was easily noticed by everyone around her.

She was soon placed on a team. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about the joy she felt the day that her new coaches presented her with her first ever hockey jersey — or in this case — jerseys. What an honour to be handed Kitchener Rangers Jerseys to represent your first ever hockey team. (Ask her brother what he thinks about that! He’s a wee bit jealous to say the least.)

Taylor is a proud member of the Kitchener Lady Rangers Atom Red team!

The girls on her team are incredibly talented. Most of them have been playing for many years, and a number of them have had the experience of playing for development teams as well. Naturally, we were worried that the girls would be hesitant to welcome a new player with zero experience. The first few weeks with the team were a challenge as Taylor had a lot to learn. No matter what she was faced with on the ice, her smile never faded; in fact, it somehow continued to grow brighter.

Each day after practice, the other girls would find us in the arena to share how proud they were of Taylor’s hard work, or her constant smile, or her newly acquired skills. The coaches continued to have endless patience with her as she required more attention and time than the other players. You could tell that everyone on this team was invested in Taylor’s progress and success.

As each week passes, Taylor only loves hockey more. She wakes up each day hoping to have practice and has never been discouraged by the amount of work and effort required to develop her skills and understanding of the game.

I cannot say enough about the coaches of this team. They are everything you could ever want for your child, the entire group of them. I have never encountered a more positive group of coaches. It’s easy to see why these girls continue to thrive.

The Kitchener Lady Rangers Atom Red Team is currently undefeated. They have some amazingly talented players, but what’s more important to note is that these girls are just remarkable little ladies. They have gone out of their way to help Taylor develop skills, to pass to her in a game or to find extra patience when she’s clueless about being off-side. Add to that the fact that Taylor is hearing impaired. She doesn’t wear her hearing aids on the ice, and occasionally can’t hear when the coaches call her back to the bench. Her teammates quickly discovered that if they collectively knock their sticks against the boards that Taylor will hear the cue to return to the bench. Problem solved. Taylor trusts these girls, senses a genuine sisterhood, and she feels included 100 percent.

The day that Taylor scored her first goal, the entire arena erupted in excitement. That goal was not just an accomplishment for Taylor; it was an accomplishment for the entire team. Each of these girls has helped her to grow as a player and to continue to love every part of this experience. Her coaches threw her up in the air in celebration and presented her with a commemorative puck. As you can imagine, this was a memory she will cherish for a lifetime.

After most games, her coaches will make a point of telling us how proud they are to witness her progress, and how much they enjoy her never-fading smile.

Recently one of the coaches shared, “Taylor plays as though she feels she belongs out there!”

We couldn’t agree more. She started out knowing very little about the game and without enough skill to skate the full length of the ice. Despite that, the outstanding girls on her team have never once made her feel as though she didn’t belong.

As it turns out, Taylor and her new friends are learning lessons that extend far beyond the boards. We have been incredibly humbled and proud to watch as these girls progress as a team.

If you’ve ever wondered whether Girls Try Hockey Day is worthwhile, we are here to tell you that it was a total game changer for our family. Had I not scrolled through twitter that day last January, we’d have missed out on this experience entirely.

Thanks for the opportunity to introduce our daughter to her new favourite sport!

Submitted by Brooke Robinson