Saturday, 23 February 2013

Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest Recap

There's something about seeing the joy on a child's face when he or she meets an idol. Last weekend, a number of young girls had the opportunity to meet Sami Jo Small as she ran them through the paces at Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest at MTS IcePlex in Winnipeg. I have not seen so many smiling faces and happy children in a long time, and Sami Jo Small made sure that the smiles lasted the entire day with her infectious positivity and unbridled enthusiasm. In short, it was a pretty great day.

It was an early morning as players began rolling in at 7:30 in the morning for registration for the 8:30 event. The red team started on the ice with Sami Jo early in the morning, and the pink squad followed after them. There was some off-ice training that happened at the Total Hockey Training Centre that included having teammates help their teammates in navigating a “puck minefield”. The goaltenders were given their own session with Olympic goaltending great Sami Jo Small and the instructors, and there was a classroom session for each of the groups as well. All in all, it was a busy day, but it appeared the kids loved their time on the ice with their Olympic hero.

If there was one thing that impressed me most about the event, it had to be the excellent coaching provided by Hockey Manitoba staff and players. A number of women from the Manitoba Women's Junior Hockey League were on-hand to help players through the drills, and Hockey Manitoba showed their commitment to excellence by stressing fundamentals and skills in terms of helping the young girls build a solid hockey foundation. If this commitment continues, Manitoba should be sending larger contingents of hockey players to Hockey Canada women's camps than in the past.

Over lunch, the younger ladies got a break, and that allowed the women of the Manitoba Women's Junior Hockey League to showcase their talents in a skills competition! The ladies showed speed, accuracy, puck-handling, and some incredible overall skill throughout the showcase. The goaltenders, however, were nearly unbeatable as they stoned shooter after shooter though the shootout, and were only beaten a couple of times in the side-by-side relay drill. Needless to say, these women showed why they are on Hockey Manitoba's radar – they were excellent, and they showed a ton of skill in the event!

Having worked the Philadelphia-Montreal game the night before with CBC's Hockey Night In Canada, Cassie Campbell-Pascall didn't make it into Winnipeg until noon. Her arrival at MTS IcePlex was greeted with much cheering as the only woman to captain a team to two Olympic gold medals in women's ice hockey was finally part of Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest in Winnipeg!

Both Sami Jo Small and Cassie gave some great speeches to the girls about following one's dreams and not letting others take those dreams away. Both ladies stuck around and signed everything put in front of them by their young fans despite their attendance being needed at an afternoon coaching clinic. I cannot stress how courteous and gracious these two women were, and that is the type of person all of the girls at Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest should aspire to be.

One of the coolest things that I've seen was the 120-degree photo opportunity, essentially creating hockey cards of the girls as they were captured mid-shot. Each player was given a barcode that they wore on their helmets, and the photographers were able to attach the 120-degree image to the player's registration. The girls could then go to the Hockeyfest website and download the image of themselves for their own use. Honestly, this was some cool technology, and it appeared the girls were enjoying themselves in the spotlight.

At the end of the day, Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest was an absolute success if you base the conditions on how much fun the girls had over the course of the event. If you have a daughter, this is an event I must recommend you have her attend. She will gain a ton of hockey knowledge and skill, and most likely develop a few new friends along the way.

I want to thank Sheena Findlay, the Assistant Manager of Canadian Media Communications for Scotiabank, for her assistance in not only getting me into Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest so I could bring you a first-hand report on the event, but for putting us in touch with Sami Jo Small for The Hockey Show and for her advice and information on the event. She's a top-notch individual and I cannot thank her enough for her help. Thanks again, Sheena!

Make sure you check out Scotiabank Girls Hockeyfest when it comes to an arena near you! Tomorrow, I'll have an update from a Hockey Canada event as the bronze medal and gold medal games from the 2013 Female World Sport School Challenge take place! See you then!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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