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Barrhead hockey team embraces girl power

Barrhead U11 Blazers compete in all-girl hockey tournament in Edson
The Barrhead U11 Girls Blazers pose following a game from an all-girl tournament in Edson on the March 23 and weekend: Pictured: centre front is goaltender Ryleigh McGinn. Front row from left: Tynne Arcand, Perry Warehime, Kinsley Cote-Wilson, Chloe Kippen and Riley Grabbler. Top row from left: Madilyn McNallie, Aven Barton, Sophia Kippen, Taylor McNallie, Chesney Braucht, and Sadie L’Heureux. Coaches from left:Stacy Warehime, Candace L’Heureux, and Megan Kippen.

BARRHEAD - In late March, a Barrhead U11 hockey team participated in a first, an-all girl's five-team tournament in Edson.

However, it almost did not happen.

Barrhead Blazers head coach Candace L'Heureux said that, noting the difficulty she and the other coaches had getting Hockey Alberta's approval to release players from neighbouring hockey organizations, as they needed more girls locally to fill the 13-skater, one-goaltender.

L'Heureux, an assistant coach for U13 and U9 Barrhead Minor Hockey Association (BMHA) teams said she received the invitation from tournament organizers in mid-January.

"I knew Barrhead had a few teams with two or three girls on them, and I was excited about the potential of getting them all together on one team, letting them get to know each other and make connections," she said.

L'Heureux said she knew she would need to draw upon nearby hockey associations as they would need more girls to complete the roster. The Barrhead team included three players from Westlock.

"You want to have at least two full forward lines, plus two defence along with a goalie," she said.

L'Heureux also credited the Edson tournament organizers, saying it was a difficult tournament to host.

She added that initially, the organizers wanted to host a U9 tournament, but Hockey Alberta requires teams to play half-ice in that age group.

"[The organizers] wanted to have a full ice game, and to help teams round out their rosters, they allowed a few over-agers," L'Heureux said.

Eventually, she said, after several e-mails back and forth, Hockey Alberta, as a one-off, decided not to allow a U9 tournament, opting instead for a U11, which would enable the organizers to host a full-ice tournament.

It also meant that teams, instead of looking to fill out roster spots, would have rosters of mostly "underagers".

"Which was great. It gave the girls a better experience," L'Heureux said.

L'Heureux also thanked BMHA for giving them access to practice ice to prepare for the tournament and to Pro North Hockey, who sponsored the team and supplied the girl's jerseys.

"The girls were so excited to have their own jerseys, with the team name and logo," she said, adding the players bandied around possible team names, eventually deciding on the Blazers.

But the move up also presented a challenge, L'Heureux said, as most of the Blazers had only played half-ice.

"They were playing full-ice for the first time, with off-sides and icing, so it took them a little while to learn the rules," she said, adding a lot of time at the younger age levels they don't keep score.

The result, L'Heureux said, is that the games were only sometimes competitive.

"But the score really didn't matter to the girls," she said. "I'm so proud of the girls. Whether we were up or down by a lot of goals, they worked so hard and gave it their all every shift."

To demonstrate how little the score meant to the Blazer players, L'Heureux relayed a story about her daughter, Saddie, who jokingly said after coming to the bench after a shift, "Our butts are going to be red  after this game because we are getting our butts kicked out there."

Joining L'Heureux behind the bench was Stacie Warehime and Megahn Kippen.

"We thought it was important to have an all-female bench as well," L'Heureux said, adding both Warehime and Kippen have coaching experience.

She also noted that she and Warehime were on the same 'AAA' U18 hockey team, adding history seems to be repeating itself, with their daughters playing together on the Blazers.

L'Heureux hopes the Blazers will be back in some form or another, adding that she knows the organizers of the Edson tournament plan to host it next year.

She also hoped that the Blazers' experience would also inspire more girls to play competitive hockey.

Barry Kerton,

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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