Fostering Inclusivity: Chilliwack’s Youth/Adult Hockey League

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The Chilliwack Youth/Adult female hockey League is one of three winners of the 2023 Game Changers contest. When faced with the reality that her daughter may not be able to continue to play past grade 7, Jennifer took action. Unable to find an ideal hockey league that combined affordability and flexibility, she went on a mission to create a space where everyone can play. The league is welcoming to newcomers and seasoned players who want to play without being on a strict schedule.

What were the primary challenges or issues that prompted the creation of Chilliwack’s Youth/Adult Female Hockey league and how did the existing leagues fall short in meeting the needs of female players?

The smaller league my daughter played in did not include females after grade 7.  There were other leagues that include females, but cost and time were more than we were able to commit to.  Wanting to just play once a week for fun (so that she could also have time for other activities), we could not find anything that suited her after grade 7.

How did the league address the problem of affordability and time commitment? How does the once-a-week game format accommodate other passions and extracurriculars?

We run non-profit, and try give our players the lowest possible rates to play.  Ice time and insurance are expensive and we split the cost evenly among all players.   We only play once a week so no practices and just do a fun game each week.

Can you share your personal experience of falling in love with the game at 38? How did this experience inspire the creation of a female hockey league?

I started playing at 38 because we needed as many players as we could get in order to get the league started.  Having never played before, I had to learn quickly and found that it was an awesome sport to play and actually much gentler on the body than other sports.  Gliding on ice is not jarring like running on a field in soccer.  Playing hockey allows me to have a break from the stresses of life and just focus on something entirely different for an hour.

Do you run other events or activities to promote camaraderie and skill development among players?

We just play once a week for fun.  I do run a lot of other events.  Mostly sports and physical education classes for homeschool children during day time hours as well as homeschool spring and fall soccer.  Again, at lower costs compared to similar events because we want to make sports affordable for homeschool families (most of whom are single income families)

How will the league use this funding to promote female participation in sports in Chilliwack?

We will put the money straight towards paying for ice and insurance and offer lower season registration and drop-in fees for all players.

How does the combination of both youth and adult players play out in a game setting and how do you balance skill level on the ice?

We adjust teams as necessary throughout the season.  With drop-in players it does create a bit of difficulty making sure teams are balanced because who’s there varies from week to week.  We emphasize fun and make it not about winning.  Skilled players are kind enough to back off from a beginner player and allow them to play the puck from time to time and then will go hard against other skilled players making for a fun experience for all.

What impact has the flexibility of the program had on attracting participants to join?

We have had players of all ages and skill levels join and we are welcoming to everyone. 

How has the league been able to grow and evolve since its establishment and what are the future goals and aspirations for the league?

We have been growing slowly, even though covid tried to shut us down.  We have two solid teams that still have room for more players.  We would love to see more players join and as the teams grow we would love to increase to more teams down the road.

Has there been a response from the Chilliwack community towards your initiative and how has the community shown support for women’s hockey in the area?

The City of Chilliwack has been great to work with in getting us ice time and giving us good rates. We are still trying to spread the word so more people know about our league and would love to have a newspaper article printed. 

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