Canada’s Tournament Capital is certainly living up to its title this week; Kamloops will be the centre of the hockey world, and the centre of women’s
hockey in the province of British Columbia.
In addition to the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship, which will feature the eight best teams in the world, the city will welcome three B.C. Hockey
provincial championships and the Western Shield senior women’s championship at the same time.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase female hockey, and what better way to promote it than to have the best players from around the province alongside
the best in the world here in Kamloops,” says Paul Crawford, who is leading the planning of the tournaments for the women’s worlds host committee. “When
the girls come to town, they get to see their idols play. It seemed like a natural fit to us.”
The sheer numbers alone are impressive: in addition to the eight international teams, the tournament schedule will include 21 teams competing in
provincials, and another 10 facing off in the Western Shield. That means in excess of 700 players, plus coaches, staff, parents, and fans, will descend on
the B.C. interior.
Teams are coming from Prince George, Richmond, Surrey, Castlegar, Williams Lake, Kelowna, and Vancouver Island, among other spots, for provincials, and
from as far west as Brandon, Man., for the Western Shield.
In total, including the world championship, more than 80 games will be played at five venues across the city.
So just how do organizers plan on making it happen? Where will the players stay? Where will they eat? And what kind of a logistical challenge was it to
bring so many tournaments together at one time?
“The city was accommodating and made sure we could get ice where we needed it,” Crawford says. “It’s one thing we do really well here in Kamloops; there’s
a huge amount of people who work together to make sure that these events can happen.”
And it won’t just be championship-calibre athletes hitting the ice in and around Kamloops; Hockey Canada and B.C. Hockey are hosting development events
through the Okanagan and beyond for young players.
From jamborees in Kelowna and 100 Mile House to Esso Fun Days in Vernon and Salmon Arm, players of all ages will have the chance to play hockey and take
part in the festivities surrounding the women’s worlds.
In the end, the host committee and the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association are hoping that all of the events this week will pay dividends in the future,
leaving a strong foundation for female hockey in the region.
“How do we use these events to help coaches at all the different levels of the game? How do we get the grassroots hockey going in this region?” asks Jon
Pankuch, president of the KHMA, and co-chair of the women’s worlds host committee. “If we can use these resources to get more girls playing, I think from a
competition standpoint it’s good for the game. It starts when these girls are really young; we need to get these girls out on the ice, and hopefully
they’ll keep playing and enjoy the game.”
It’s not a radically new idea; when Kamloops hosted the 2014 4 Nations Cup, events such as the Esso Fun Days contributed to eight girls signing up for
hockey the following season
“Eight girls may not seem like a whole lot,” Pankuch says, “but when you have 160 in the [minor hockey] association, it’s a good percentage.”
So ready or not, the world and the province are coming to Kamloops.
And who knows, maybe a player who’s on the ice at a provincial championship or Esso Fun Day could be wearing the Maple Leaf in a few years. Everyone has to
start somewhere, so why not here?