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Wickenheiser was instructor at Summerland female hockey school

Women’s hockey star participated in hockey camp in 1990s
Hayley Wickenheiser was at the 1992 female hockey school in Summerland. While she enrolled as a student, she was soon elevated to being an instructor. (Contributed)

In the summer of 1992, Summerland hosted an all-female hockey school, the Summerland Female Hockey Academy.

The origin of the school resulted from the hard work of Larry Hale and Shannon Miller.

One student attending was Hayley Wickenheiser. Immediately, she was elevated from student to instructor.

Wickenheiser has four gold and one silver Olympic medals, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and currently the assistant manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The hockey school also had a showdown against the Summerland Old-Timers All Stars and featured a showdown between National Hockey League player Cliff Ronning and Team Canada goalie Manon Rheaume.

That fall, Rheaume went on to become the first woman to play in the National Hockey League, in two preseason games for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Summerland had been involved with women’s hockey earlier.

In January 1991, the Summerland Minor Hockey Association represented British Columbia at the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association’s first Female Hockey Leadership Seminar in Toronto.

Later that year there were leadership seminars also in New Brunswick Quebec and Alberta.

The seminar’s goals were to develop a strategy to raise the profile of women’s hockey and gain recognition as a Olympic sport. One decision made at that seminar was that Summerland would host an all-girl hockey tournament.

Meanwhile, in Summerland all-girl teams continued to gain popularity.

During the next hockey season, in 1991 to 1992, there were two all-girl hockey teams in Summerland, Penticton and five skilled teams from Kamloops. These teams created the Okanagan Girls Hockey Club.

From March 13 to 15, 1992, Summerland hosted an all-girl hockey jamboree. This Dairyland Hockey Jamboree was organized by BC Hockey’s Johnny Misley and Bill Ennos and female hockey administrator Becki Bookham.

Dairyland Foods and Don Winton funded the Jamboree. There were 145 girls divided into four teams.

During this jamboree, Summerland hosted B.C.’s first Female Hockey Leadership Seminar.

A second leadership seminar took place, later that year, in Prince Edward Island.

These seminars were sponsored by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. At Summerland’s seminar, the featured speakers were Karen Wallace (CAHA female director), Bookham (BC Hockey female director) and Lynncy Powell (Selection Camp for the National Team).

A key conclusion from this seminar was that more girls would register in hockey, if hockey associations offered all-girl teams with separate dressing rooms and female coaching.

In the summer of 1992, Summerland was the site of Western Canada’s first All-Female’ Hockey School.

This was the idea of former NHL player Larry Hale. Summerland-born Hale played four seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and six seasons with the Houston Aeros. He was a teammate of Gordie Howe.

Hale’s goal was to create a girls-only hockey school. Larry created a partnership with Canada’s national coach, Shannon Miller.

Most of the instructors included USA and Canadian National players including Manon Rheaume, Judy Diduck, Daniel Dube and the USA National star players Cammi Granato and Ellen Weinberg (mother of Quinn, Jack and Luke Hughes).

Also part of the hockey school staff was Nancy Wilson and Bookham.

Attendance was high at Western Canada’s first all-girl hockey school.

One of the students registered at the hockey school was 14-year-old Wickenheiser. After her first skate on the ice, she quickly became an instructor.

She shares the record for most Olympic medals won playing for Canada with Jayna Hefford at five.

To promote the hockey school, a featured charity event took place. T

he school hosted a shoot-out between former Vancouver Canuck star Ronning and star goaltender Rheaume.

For each goal scored or stopped, $1,000 went to their player’s favourite charity. There was also a hockey game between the Summerland Old-Timers men’s team and stars from the American and Canadian National Women’s teams. For the record, the Summerland Old-Timers did get a couple shots on Rheaume.

Within a year, there were two all-girl hockey schools in the Okanagan Valley: the Female Hockey Academy of Excellence in Osoyoos under the direction of Miller and Summerland’s Centre Ice Female Hockey School in Summerland under the experienced leadership of Wilson, Linda Fedje and Bookham.

Girls hockey schools quickly expanded across British Columbia including Langley, Richmond, Burnaby and Nelson.

In 1998, Women’s Hockey made it’s debut as an Olympic sport in Nagano Japan. In 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation created the ‘Women’s Under 18 Championship.

According to the federation, for the 2021-2022 hockey season, there are 171,540 female hockey players in the United States and Canada.

A female hockey school was held in Summerland during the summer of 1992. (Contributed)

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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