Kraft Hockeyville Win Will Help Grow Girls’ Hockey in Sydney

Cape Breton is a small island in Nova Scotia with a huge passion for hockey. Locals describe the island the way they describe their love for community hockey: fierce, resolute, and resilient. Given these qualities, it should come as no surprise that they are the winners of Kraft Hockeyville 2022.

As a result, the town of Sydney will receive $250,000 towards arena upgrades to the Canada Games Complex, the opportunity to host an NHL preseason game and $10,000 worth of equipment from NHLPA’s Goals & Dreams fund.

Providing More Ice Time for Girls’ Hockey

Unlike most communities that enter to win Kraft Hockeyville, the Sydney group, led by Christina Lamey, isn’t trying to fix an arena they are already in. They are aiming to provide a permanent home to the 20 girls’ teams in the Cape Breton Blizzard Female Hockey Association who are currently using leftover ice time at a dozen local rinks even though they are just as big as any boys’ hockey association.

Kraft Hockeyville Winner Sydney Nova Scotia
Kraft Hockeyville Winner, Sydney Nova Scotia (Sportsnet)

Through a stroke of good fortune, the Canada Games Complex, which was built 35 years ago to host the 1987 Canada Games, wasn’t being used and is still in great condition. The problem is that the ice-making equipment within the building is finished so that’s where the funding from Kraft Hockeyville, which was supported by Team Canada star Marie-Philip Poulin this year, will come in handy.

The ice time problem isn’t only caused by the number of infrastructures available, it’s also a policy issue. The reality is that municipalities are still allocating ice time based on who had it first regardless of the circumstances by which they came to have it which means that male hockey teams own all the hours in the arenas.  

Bringing the Canada Games Complex back to life will help balance the scales and provide female players with the opportunities that they deserve.

A Successful Structure Leads to Increased Participation

For the longest time, girls’ hockey was treated with a very individualistic-type philosophy whereby any girl could go and join a predominantly male minor hockey association. That is until Hockey Nova Scotia decided to shift its mentality and try something new.

Related: Marie-Philip Poulin is Keeping the Spotlight on Women’s Hockey

“In 2015, they started to create female hockey associations, emulating the Ontario model, and now the whole province is serviced by one,” explained Lamey, President of the Cape Breton Blizzard Female Hockey Association. “In those years since 2015, the number of girls’ teams has more than doubled, so this approach works. It gets girls into hockey and introduces them to the sport on a level that parents feel comfortable with and want to invest in because their daughter is going to play for a long time in a girls’ league.” 

Inside of Canada Games Complex in Sydney Nova Scotia
Inside of Canada Games Complex in Sydney Nova Scotia (Sportsnet)

Lamey hopes that the 330 girls currently playing in her association benefit from everything that comes with the Canada Games Complex becoming the country’s first arena that will serve as home ice for women’s and girls’ hockey thanks to winning Kraft Hockeyville. They’ll be looking to host some national tournaments while also continuing to work with Cape Breton University, which has become a very culturally diverse location, to start programs for new Canadians to introduce them to hockey. Plus, she wants to contribute to better communicating to the public about where and when to watch women’s hockey given that the visibility of the sport is not on par with the participation levels.

“We’re just going to keep doing our thing,” said Lamey. “Winning Kraft Hockeyville and moving this arena project forward is turning our situation from very limited to an unlimited ability to envision our goals. I can’t wait to see where we go with it.”

Lamey and her team managed to grow the game with a scarcity mentality since they didn’t have much to work with. Now imagine what they’ll be able to accomplish with increased resources and an arena they can finally call their own.

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