THUNDER BAY QUEENS HOCKEY
Media Release: Thursday, December 21, 2017
The Girls Are Alright
THUNDER BAY, ON — Recently, Joanna and I at PuckShots Photography got to do a special Christmas shoot for the Gridlink Atom Queens. We like to post a blog on our website around Christmas time and have a corresponding Christmas-themed image if possible. Since we had the Atom Queens as an attentive audience I took the opportunity to talk to Head Coach Jason Mallon about the sudden boon of skill in girls hockey. Jason has two daughters in hockey and has seen girls hockey mature over his 9 years of coaching girls hockey. Last year, Jason was the assistant coach on a very successful Fury Jr Thunderwolves girls team. "They won the Westfort Atom A division and had some very good showings down in Minnesota taking on top 10 U10A teams” Mallon recalled, “Our team had success against these teams."
Indeed I remember being on the Westfort Minor Hockey board when a request was made from outside the organization to put the dominant girls team into the Atom AA division. To their credit, the Westfort board reasoned that there are often dominant teams in Atom A and we shouldn’t make a special case this time just because it’s an all girls team. "Let them play. Let them win a trophy.” A year later, Jason coached a second straight all girls team to a Westfort Tournament Atom A division Championship with the Gridlink Atom Queens, though it didn’t come without some very close games.
I was interested in the decision to start an Atom division Queens team, "The overall goal of this new Queens program is to bring girls together at a very young age, develop their skills, increase their puck touches, increase confidence, teach them the life lessons of playing hockey and most importantly build friendships for life.” Jason explained. "The reason why we want to bring these girls together at a young age, is so we can start building these relationships early one and create a consistent message as they move through girls hockey.” Jason sites Minnesota girls hockey as an inspiration as they’ve been the number one feeder system to NCAA women's hockey in the United States. "Our goal is to develop as many girls as we can and give them every opportunity to become a better hockey player.”
Jason elaborated on what Thunder Bay Women’s Hockey Association (TBWHA) has been doing in regard to growing the girls’ game, "It's not about playing a ton of games, its about developing their skill sets. It is also very important that girls build confidence at a young age or the fun slips away. When you play an actual game, it's fun to touch the puck but in many instances lots of kids don't touch the puck. In TBWHA we have implemented some concepts to make sure all girls touch the puck and we girls encourage all players to be creative, to skate with the puck and be confident with the puck.”
As with many things regarding youth, it takes a village. While Jason credits USA Hockey and Minnesota Girls Hockey for being the inspiration and TBWHA for implementing practical applications, Mallon also gives credit to Lakehead Minor Hockey League (LMHL) for their hand in growing talent, "Without LMHL, we would have no teams to play locally and we cannot thank them enough for their fantastic support of helping develop girls hockey in Thunder Bay which in turn will develop all hockey in Thunder Bay.”
Yes, the girls are alright. But more importantly, they’re loving playing the game and from what I can tell from our photoshoot, there are a lot of friendships blossoming.
Travis Ulrich is the contributing media coordinator for the Thunder Bay Queens as well as owner of PuckShots Photography.