Fighting hard for a roster spot
Forget all the fabulous food and that feel good family stuff, for 45 young female hockey players the Christmas break was as much about game-faces and putting their best foot forward at their first-ever high performance selection camp.
And for two local players — 13-year-old Chloe Cook, and Elizabeth Goodman, 14 — making the cut was the best present of all.
“Oh yeah. For sure,” Goodman chuckled when The News caught up with her.
Played out at Oceanside Place Dec. 30-31, the U16 Girls Island tryouts saw a strong crop of players take to the ice at Howie Meeker Arena looking for a spot on the team that will represent Vancouver Island in hockey at the 2012 BC Winter Games slated for Vernon Feb. 23-26.
“That’s a pretty big camp — it was a really good turnout,” Ian Turner, Vancouver Island Female High Performance Coordinator for BC Hockey, said from Victoria, pointing out the norm over the past few years has been between 35 and 40 hopefuls.
“We had just about every top player on the Island out for the camp,” he said of the primarily 14 and 15 year old girls vying to be one of the 20 players selected to the team.
The camp, he said, started off with an up-tempo, 90 minute drill session, followed by fitness evaluation. The players broke for supper then returned to the rink that evening for a two-hour mini-round robin.
The goalies were on the ice early the next day for their evaluation, followed by another three hours of play.
After that they were interviewed individually, and then the selected players and their parents are brought together for a team meeting and introduced to the coaching staff.
“It’s a busy couple days,” he confirmed.
According to Turner there were five locals in the mix. Cook plays defence on the Oceanside Bantam boys rep team, and Goodman is carded out of Nanaimo and plays for the North Island Edge Bantam A girls rep team this season.
Elizabeth and her family moved here from Duncan nine years ago and she has been playing organized hockey for six years now.
The oldest of three with two brothers, her favourite player is Sidney Crosby.
“It’s a lot of fun and just being out on the ice and playing the game ... it’s such a rush,” the good natured teen surmised enthusiastically when asked what keeps her going back to the rink.
Like all the other girls at the camp, the local girls have made a lot of sacrifices to be there, and were duly thrilled with the chance to represent the Island on the ice on the provincial stage.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Elizabeth said of the camp. “Knowing that some of the girls had been on the team last year, and that you’re one of the newbies out there ...
“There’s just more pressure on you to be the best you can be at that time, and you are always being watched. It was a good experience because I got to see all the other girls, see what the competition is like on the Island,” she said easily, paused, and made the point “and then going into the interview room and them telling you you made it ... it feels great.”
The girls know each other but have never played on the same team before.
Chloe and her family moved here from Port Hardy three years ago. A student at Springwood Middle School and oldest of two siblings, she started playing hockey “when I was four years old.”
“Definitely,” she shot back when asked if she’s excited about competing in the BC Winter Games
Her favourite NHL player is pain-in-the-butt blueliner Jonathan Toews from the Chicago Black Hawks.
Both girls said they want to keep playing the game as long as they can, and harbour dreams of representing their country.
Chloe added another element to her game this year when she donned the stripes as part of OMHA’s referee program.
“I really like reffing — it’s hard to fit in my schedule but I really enjoy doing it,” she said.
Asked his take on the two locals, Ian flipped through his notes and was quick to comment “both girls had good camps.”
Elizabeth, he said, had to be up to the challenge as the bar was high.
“It was a real strong group ... we don’t tell them where they rank, but she was in the top group of forwards. She battled for a spot, for sure.”
Chloe he said “was in the top six defence she had a strong weekend as well and beat out 12 other defencemen to get on the team.
No stranger to the game, Turner has 25 years of coaching under his belt and has been with the female program since ‘96. He oversaw the U14 Girls evaluation camp held at Oceanside Place back in August.
For many of the players attending these camps it is their first time vying for a spot on a roster “so that stress to bear is definitely there,” he said of the evaluation camps, adding the main goal “is always to provide valuable experience to the Island’s young female players.
“It was really fun and it was a great learning experience too,” confirmed Chloe. “Just being out there with a whole bunch of really talented girls. I’m very grateful to have made the team ... it was hard, but I went in there knowing it was going to be tough competition.”
Based out of Victoria, Turner says female hockey “is going strong on the Island — even more than some other places in the province ... the Island often has the biggest camp in B.C.,” he said, adding that in the big picture, “it’s going very well — there’s girls teams in almost every rink.”
The BC Winter Games are held every two years. On the off year the girls can compete in the BC Cup.