A Penticton female hockey team will compete with youth from around the world at the International Children’s Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York.
“It’s like going to the Olympics but for kids,” explained Gabby Lindsay, 13, one of players on the Penticton team competing during the Games Jan. 6 to 11.
Sydney St. Hilarie, 14, said she is excited to play against Iceland but also for what will come of it away from the arena — as is teammate Amber Wyse.
“I’ve heard they are more about the experience and meeting new people than just the sport, so I think that will be really interesting and to play other countries,” said Wyse, who is also 14.
Lake Placid has twice played host to the Olympic Winter Games and has a long history of international sports competition. The Games are based on forming nation-linking friendships through sports — advancing the Olympic ideals.
Youth, from ages 12 to 15, will compete in the sports of alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, snowboarding and speed skating. Entry is by invitation.
Penticton is not the only female hockey team from Canada, a squad from Kelowna will also make the trip. After the Kelowna team was invited, they identified to the Games committee that Penticton has seen a growth in female hockey and then were encouraged to apply. From there, 17 players stepped forward and began fundraising to help with costs to get to the Games.
One unique aspect of the team is that they are in a wider age range than they are used to playing with.
“It is the second year peewees and two years of bantam, so you have a three year age spread so that is quite different when you look at the physical and mental maturity of the girls,” said coach Andy Oakes. “It is a bit of a challenge, but the younger girls at every practice are getting a little bit better a little bit stronger and faster.”
Wyse said that made the opportunity even more interesting for her.
“I am on a team with 17 and 18 year olds, so now to play with the younger girls it is really different, but really fun. There was always a couple girls that I looked up to so I think it is nice to be someone that they look up to,” said Wyse. “I hope we have a really good time as a team and we all bond. I hope we try our hardest and see how many games we can do well in and meet new friends.”
And, if they came home with a medal — that would be pretty cool too.
“Yeah, that would be nice too.”
While the Games are built around the different sports, Oakes said the focus is developing friendships.
“We want to be competitive and work hard and play hard but at the end of the day it is not all about winning,” said Oakes.
The Games are comprised of teams from cities around the world, not by country. There will be athletes from 33 cities, representing 14 countries, that will be competing.
“The cultural and social experience they are going to have is totally, totally going to help them develop as people. That is what is most important. The hockey experience is going to be the hockey experience, but they are going to come back more mature, more worldly, more cultured,” said Oakes.
He added a positive side affect is the players bringing those memories back and telling their friends.
“The local group here has done a great job with promoting female hockey and growing thae game at the female level and this is just one of the rewards for the kids going through that. Hopefully kids will get to see that when we are out there and think hey this is an experience I could have one day and hopefully does attract a few players to the rink.”
Other teams competing in female hockey include Port Moody, Twinsburg (U.S.), Akureyri (Iceland), Ancaster (Ontario) and Lake Placid (U.S.).
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