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All-girls hockey team returning

Whistler to enter atom team into PCAHA girls' league
ON THE BENCH Members of the Whistler Winterhawks' atom girls' team take a breather during training. <ParaStyle:CUTLINE\:CUTLINE Credit>Photo submitted

Jeremy Robb saw a gap in minor hockey in Whistler.

While his daughter Olivia has played for several years and stuck with it, Robb has seen plenty of girls play for a season or two before leaving the sport. To keep them playing, Robb organized a five-session camp in the spring to help determine whether there was enough interest in hosting a team. In all, 14 players came out and formed a club under the existing Winterhawks banner in the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association's girls' league.

The team will play half of its 20 games in Whistler and half on the road in the Lower Mainland.

"We had the sense that there was a need for it. I kind of felt as though the girls were not continuing playing because they really didn't want to play with the boys," Robb said. "I thought maybe if we tried it out where it's just offered to girls, then maybe we'll have a better opportunity to give the girls a chance to be around their peers."

Robb wasn't entirely sure why girls quit, but wondered whether it had to do with the boys' style of play leaning too much into a crash-and-bang style.

"It's maybe the physicality. As they approach the age this group is at, and that's nine- and 10-year-olds, [the boys] definitely start to become more physical. That's not to say that the girls can't keep up, but I do find that not every girl wants to play in a physical game. Sometimes they just want to play to have fun," he said.

Robb said the camp and subsequent formation of a team had "a really positive response" from the start, and believes it's a sign for the season ahead. Even though many of the players are new to the game, he's bullish on what they can accomplish.

"It's a really good group and they're all excellent little athletes, too," he said. "All our girls, except for four of them, are brand-new to hockey. It's going to be a lot of fun just watching them develop through the season and see where we can go with it.

"Whistler kids don't always match up in skill, but they do match up in athleticism and I find halfway through a season, these kids really make up the difference. They play so many sports and they're ready. They know how to compete."

Robb hopes that hosting the single team is the start of building a proper girls' hockey association, with the eventual outcome being that girls can stay in Whistler to play competitive hockey instead of joining a Vancouver-area team.

"The goal, ultimately, would be that the girls this year move on to play peewee next year, and we have more girls join behind them so we can have an atom team and a peewee team next year," he said.

"Being a community with one ice sheet, it can be hard to gain the ice time," he said.

Robb noted these efforts are different from the previous all-girls' team in Whistler, which featured girls of all ages as opposed to fitting into existing age divisions.

As well, there will be an all-female Esso Fun Day session prior to the season at Meadow Park Sports Centre on Sept. 8 from 9:45 to 11:45 a.m.

"We're trying to make it so it's all females on the ice that day—there will be no male coaches," Robb said.

Head coaches will be hockey-player-turned-MTB-star Georgia Astle, as well as former U Sports players Kayla Dodson and Christine Maile.

Those interested in signing up can contact Robb at