Girls’ minor hockey in Manitoba isn’t in decline – but it is changing.
The transformation is evident in how teams are amalgamating across communities to avoid small teams and small leagues.
Carolyn Matthews, 30, is a hockey player, a coach, and the vice-director for the Pembina Valley Minor Hockey Association. This year, in total there are 20 girls’ hockey teams playing with the association.
Teams from Eastman region have joined Pembina Valley Minor Hockey Association in some age brackets to create larger leagues for increased competition.
“We are known to be a very strong region,” says Matthews. “We have some really good coaching…we’re a very passionate region for our female hockey.”
Matthews says, at the moment, they haven’t gained many more players, but they also haven’t seen a decline.
“Some of the younger years coming up, there are quite a few numbers,” says Matthews. “It’s gradually looking like we’re going to increase.”
The Pembina Valley’s organization isn’t necessarily unique, though.
In Winnipeg, over the past 10 years, there has not been a decline in minor hockey. Total registration floats between about 9,000 and 9,800 players each year.
For girls’ hockey alone, Hockey Winnipeg had an increase of about 40 players from the 2012-13 season to the 2013-14 season.
Jessica Maynard, 18, grew up playing hockey in Morden with her dad and brothers, however she only spent four years playing on organized girls’ teams. She says she played to have fun, but two years ago, she quit.
“It’s weird not having that every winter, looking forward to it,” she says.
She had to quit because there weren’t enough girls in Morden to form one team, so they joined up with neighbouring towns. Maynard says she was too shy to join.
The next year, there was no team in Morden for her age group, other than the regional triple-A team.
“I really regret not playing,” Maynard says. “I really miss it. I miss skating.”
Two years ago, it may have looked bleak in the league for girls in Maynard’s age group, but now there are more opportunities for girls to play hockey.
“I think maybe it was just my year because now so many people are playing hockey,” Maynard says. “You see other people growing up playing hockey, so that’s what you want to do, right?”
This year, for the Pembina Valley’s 15 to 18 midget age group, in addition to the regular three-team league, there are regional double- and triple-A teams. The bantam age group, which covers ages 13 to 15, has six teams at the basic level, and a regional triple-A team as well.
Certainly, some of the regions have shifted, and there may be poor years, but girls’ hockey isn’t going anywhere in Manitoba just yet.
Three 10-year-old female hockey players talk about female hockey. Kenady Christensen, Danika Thiessen, and Alyssa Matthews explain why they like playing hockey, and what might make them quit.
Kenady Christensen says she hopes to continue playing hockey, but talks about why she might quit
Danika Thiessen says if she ever decided to quit, it might be if the sport was too aggressive
Alyssa Matthew speaks about why she might quit hockey