In honour of the eighth annual World Girls’ Hockey Weekend, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds teamed up with the Grindstone Award Foundation to give 40 female minor hockey players the time of their lives on Saturday (Oct 6).
The girls, ages seven to 16, got to watch the Thunderbirds regular season home opener against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, meet the players in their dressing rooms, take part in a Q&A and then take the ice for a skills clinic.
“This is an awesome initiative,” says Sarah Thon, a Quesnel native and first year Thunderbirds player. “I grew up playing on the boys side of hockey and didn’t have too many female idols and coaches along the way, so it’s definitely great to give these girls such a positive image of where hockey could lead them at such a young age.”
“Hopefully, it will give them something to look forward to and strive after.”
Thon says the possibilities for female hockey players have really blossomed over the years.
“There’s a professional league in Canada and the U.S. and there are a lot of openings to play in places like Sweden too.
“One of the girls I played with is even playing in China.
“At this point it’s possible to make an appealing salary in post-university hockey, which I’d never heard of when I was in high school.”
When back home in Quesnel, Thon helps out with Cariboo Elite 3-on-3 camps and says even in town the change of view on the sport has been huge.
“There’s so many more girls than there ever has been,” she says. “When I got into the coach’s room there were five girls.”
The Grindstone Award Foundation is a charity that enables young female players to participate and improve their skill development in the sport of hockey. The intent is to provide support to communities across Canada and address the needs of players who have a desire to play, but are unable to for financial reasons. The Foundation provides grants to female players under the age of 19 who have expressed a desire to pursue their goals in athletics. Their selection is based on financial need and desire, not on hockey ability.