Three local girls were part of a group of 150 young women who spent their Thanksgiving weekend meeting Olympians, making friends and playing a good old-fashioned game of hockey.
Jenna Duimering, Hannah Petrosino and Taylor Schmitt spent last Saturday in Mississauga for the IIHF World Girls Hockey Weekend.
The “Long Game” involved four continuous games in four age groups across 11 branches. It began in Newfoundland at 9:30 a.m., and ended 15 hours later in British Columbia.
Kevin Schmitt, coach of Atom C, president of Woolwich Girls Minor Hockey Association, and father of Taylor, said it was a unique opportunity for them.
“It was a great experience for them to meet girls from all over the province and to be involved in a province-wide event, not just a region-wide event. And to be involved in a Canadian-wide for Hockey Canada as the scores accumulated across the country,” he said.
“It was really nice to see that. When the Atom girls hit the ice it was already 15-14. The score had come from Quebec and then we sent it on to Manitoba.”
Taylor said her favourite part was meeting impressive Canadian hockey player Natalie Spooner. She was the first woman in hockey history to earn the gold medal in the Winter Games and the Clarkson Cup in the same year. She previously played for Team Canada and now skates with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
“I liked playing with girls I’d never played with before,” Duimering said. “I just thought it was fun because I’d never done that before.”
Duimering’s been playing for seven years, Petrosino for five, and Schmitt for five.
“The environment, everyone’s always so friendly,” Petrosino said. “Everyone gets along right away because we all share the love of the sport of hockey.”
Duimering said she’s attracted to the speed of hockey. She loves skating fast, but she wasn’t always so keen on it.
“My parents kind of forced me to, and then I loved it,” Duimering said.
This is also the first year the Woolwich Girls Minor Hockey Association has more than 200 players. They have 204 registered for 2014, compared to 198 last year. They may have lost their Bantam rep team, but Kevin Schmitt says they still manage to bring in 10 to 20 new players each year. Their Midget team is the largest, with 48 players.
Geraldine Heaney, two-time Olympian and iconic Canadian hockey player, coached Taylor’s team for the day. Her daughter was also playing on the same line as Taylor.
Taylor said she enjoys hockey because she gets to “play against people you don’t know.”
Duimering said it was challenging playing with all different levels of hockey. They played at the Midget level, while they typically play Bantam for Twin City. Duimering and Petrosino play for Twin City now because there aren’t enough players in their age group to make a team in Woolwich.
“It’s something different,” Duimering said about playing in Mississauga. “I’ve never played with anyone else before. I’ve only ever played with my team of girls, but I played with girls I never had.”
Petrosino and Duimering said their hockey goals are to take their game as far as they can. For Taylor, only nine years old, it’s all about learning the fundamentals of the game.
“I always wanted to beat my brother,” Petrosino said. “My brother played hockey and I was kind of interested, but I didn’t know. So my dad just signed me up.”
Taylor also joined because she wanted to compete with her brothers. The three girls practice twice a week with their respective teams.
Women’s hockey is the fastest growing sport in the world. The event was created to give girls around the world the opportunity to try the sport.
Petrosino said there were also scouts there watching them play, so that was exciting.
“The girls were really nice from all the other centres,” Petrosino said. “And it was really neat to see how far away all of them came from, Barrie, Kingston, Lindsay.”
Petrosino usually plays defence, while the other two play centre.
Approximately 150 girls participated in the game in Mississauga. The players were randomly selected after filling out an online application.