Sunday, January 24, 2021
The creation of all-female hockey associations has done wonders for the recruitment and retention of female hockey players in BC with nine all-female associations in the province, eight of which are in Greater Vancouver and one on Vancouver Island.
Tri Cities Female Ice Hockey Association (TCFIHA) serves the cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody and was founded in 1997. The association has grown from just a couple of teams to over 260 athletes on 17 teams today.
Heather Fox is in her first year as president of TCFIHA, but she has been involved in hockey most her life - as a player, as a parent and now as president after previously serving on TCFIHA’s Board of Directors. Her daughter joined TCIFHA nearly 10 years ago and Heather says “having an all-female association in the Tri-Cities area has given females a place to play and make friends with their female peers. It has allowed female athletes to share their love of hockey with their fellow female athletes.”
Like most associations this season, TCFIHA’s focus is on skill development. TCFIHA has had several players graduate through their development stream, such as current Ohio State University and former Team BC standout Jenna Buglioni from Port Moody. On-ice participation is only one aspect of being a member of TCFIHA, as the association has also put an emphasis on community service. Fox says: “I believe that our association is not only a business - there to provide a service to our athletes, but it is a family, there to look after each other and our local community.”
Traditionally TCFIHA collects items for the food bank but due to COVID-19 protocols, that would not be feasible this year, so the U11 C2 team came up with an idea to host a skate-a-thon and raise money for charity.The U11 C2 team challenged other teams in the association and within a couple of days, there were 10 teams committed to doing a skate-a-thon and after only eight days, they completed 10 skate-a-thons and raised over $25,000 for a local non-profit charity, SHARE Family and Community Services.
SHARE Society is a non-profit, charitable organization supporting over 53,000 people each year across Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore, Belcarra and New Westminster. SHARE provides a wide range of services to support individuals during times of vulnerability. Services include: the local food bank, mental health services, support for children and youth with special needs, parenting and early childhood programs, counselling for substance use and addiction, advocacy supports, services for newcomers and refugees and supports for seniors. Collectively these services aim to wrap around individuals and families during their times of need, to help them achieve their best possible outcome.
The generous donation is welcomed by SHARE Chief Executive Officer Claire MacLean who says the funds will go towards SHARE’s food bank, which supports over 4,200 people each year including 1,600 children and youth with items such as formula for families with young babies along with healthy fruits and vegetables, eggs and dairy for the families in need.
The support of groups like the Tri Cities Female Ice Hockey Association is so important – and it’s not just financial,’ says MacLean. “By teaching a new generation of Tri Cities community members about the services we have available they are reducing the stigma of reaching out for support, and by engaging these young people in the fund-raising process they are creating community-focused, generous individuals. Through groups like the Tri Cities Female Ice Hockey Association our community is building even stronger for the next 50 years.”
Fox adds: “Giving back to our community is important throughout the year, but with COVID impacting so many families during the holidays, it was an especially important time to show that these athletes, coaches, parents, and volunteers care about their local community. It is important for our players to learn leadership skills and giving back to their community. The skate-a-thon was a perfect example that illustrates that hockey is more than just a game for our athletes. There are a lot of things that COVID is impacting and stopping this season, but COVID cannot stop community.”
This will not just be a one-time thing for TCFIHA who will continue to support their community and continue to grow the game of hockey and support their athletes. It is an association where participants make friendships with peers that they sometimes would not even meet without the sport, as they come from different communities and often attend different schools.
Looking ahead, Fox says: “As far as retention goes, we focus on making the experience for players a positive, complete experience. We have been growing every year, even this season, with COVID, we have normal registration numbers.”
When you join TCFIHA it means that you are there to learn not only the sport of interest, but to learn life-skills such as leadership, being a team player, compassion for others, following instruction, and more. These life-lessons help players grow and serve them as tools to use the rest of their lives.
Tri Cities Female Ice Hockey Association joins a growing list of associations that have been recognized for their growth of hockey and service to their community as Surrey Female Hockey Association (2020) and Vancouver Female Hockey Association (2018) have been named BC Hockey Minor Hockey Association of the Year at the annual Awards Gala recognized by BC Hockey in honour of Frank Spring, past president and life member of BC Hockey.