Sami Jo Small returned to her hometown of Winnipeg to participate as one of the leaders today, and it was great seeing her once again. Her enthusiasm for this event and her positivity around the girls is infectious, and there were a ton of smiles seen as she interacted with the girls today. Sh is truly an ambassador for the game of hockey, and her contributions to furthering hockey in this country should not be underestimated in any way.
Joining her on the ice was three-time Olympic gold medalist Cherie Piper! Cherie was born in Ontario, but she continues to help Sami Jo Small at her Winnipeg hockey school in the off-season. Cherie was awesome to speak with as she prepared for the day, and she really brought an up-tempo pace to her drill. She was funny in the stories she told, kept the girls moving at a good pace, and looked like she was having fun out there. She may not be from Winnipeg, but she'll always be welcome here!
Sami Jo and Cherie met the three groups of young ladies this morning, introducing themselves, telling a few stories, and laying out their expectations for the girls as they prepared to run them through some drills. All of them included basic fundamental skills: skating, stick-handling, and, most importantly, learning while having fun. The Hockey Manitoba instructors were excellent in ensuring that the girls had fun while completing the drills, and there were lots of smiles seen on the ice from both players and instructors.
Personally, I love this event. According to a recent Scotiabank Community Hockey Poll, "nearly seven-in-ten (68%) hockey parents say that girls have the same opportunities as boys to play organized hockey in their community. When asked what inspires their daughters to play, parents says their top reasons are her friends play (62%), they are fans of a professional hockey player (43%) and the success of the Canadian women's Olympic hockey team (43%)." Having a pair of gold medal-winning Olympians as instructors at Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest is another reason why over 300 girls turned out in Winnipeg today for their chance to meet their heroes. Getting a one-on-one interaction with their heroes is what will keep these girls in hockey.
"When I was growing up and playing, these types of opportunities didn't exist for young female athletes," Sami Jo Small said, "so this event is really a great opportunity for these girls to learn both life and hockey skills that I hope they remember throughout their lives."
Most will never forget meeting their heroes, let alone remembering the skills, and I will always be happy to cover this type of event whenever it happens. The smiles seen today are a sign that women's hockey has a bright future in this country thanks in part to Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!