The Whistler Winterhawks U13 girls' hockey team is headed to Surrey, where they will join other B.C.-based girls' squads at Wickfest: a three-day celebration of their sport.
Wickfest is the brainchild of five-time Olympian (and four-time Olympic gold medallist) Hayley Wickenheiser. The event runs from Feb. 2 to 5 and includes a hockey tournament, but it is marketed more as a festival than as a competition. That's because participants will also be treated to a variety of unique and practical experiences, including team-building exercises, off-ice training sessions, nutritional tips and round-table discussions chaired by Wickenheiser herself.
"I'm super excited for our U13 female team to participate in the Wickfest this weekend," said Jodi Carter, whose daughters play for the Winterhawks. "I'm personally a big fan of Hayley Wickenheiser. She has paved the way for female hockey through grit and determination."
Wickfest has previously been a star-studded event, with big names like country music star Dean Brody, Canadian Olympians Kyle Shewfelt and Erica Wiebe, and Wickenheiser's former teammates Meaghan Mikkelson and Natalie Spooner showing up to the opening reception on Thursday night. There is usually also an on-ice demo featuring NHL alumni like former Vancouver Canucks Trevor Linden, Brendan Morrison and Mason Raymond, Stanley Cup champion Andrew Ference, and Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to play against teams from all over B.C.," said Charli Carter, Jodi's daughter. "Our team will get to hang out lots and maybe meet Hayley and other Olympic hockey players. We also will get to meet with the Canucks nutritionist and learn about fuelling [ourselves] for hockey."
The Winterhawks are known for giving back to their community. Last December, the U13 and U15 teams put together their fourth annual "Fill the Net" fundraising drive, collecting money and non-perishable food donations for the Whistler Food Bank.
Wickenheiser continues to break barriers for women in hockey, serving as an assistant general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs.