BRIDGEWATER – The u9 Western Riptide girls team will take part in a unique experience, later this month.
The team, made up of 19 girls coming from Hubbards to Bridgewater, will host the Metro West Force (MWF) Northern Lights team that will be a part of the annual Girls' Global Game series.
The game will take place Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre.
The International ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) developed this unique event in 2015 to help celebrate girls in hockey. Last year, 38 countries participated in the event over a weekend in February.
This year, one game will be played in every province and territory in Canada. Teams will don white (home) and red Hockey Canada jerseys and once the games are completed on that day, the scores from each game will be tallied to find the overall winner – red or white.
Head Coach of the Riptide, Grant Johnston, says the girls are excited for the event, but doesn't think they realize how big this event might be as compared to their regular league games.
"We will bring out the red carpet, we have a few guest speakers, a ceremonial puck drop, music and an announcer which the u9 girls never have," he said. In addition, they will be playing full ice and he hopes there will be a larger than normal crowd on hand to cheer them on. Regular season crowds are mainly made up of parents, he added.
As well, they will be playing at a big venue, the LCLC. The team normally plays out of Chester and for games, the team is split up into two squads and they play half-ice games. Johnston did say, they would be playing a week earlier, a full ice game, so they will be a bit familiar with the size.
"They know it's going to be something kind of special, but they have no idea. There could be 200 people there watching with music and an announcer. It's going to be a cool event for these girls," said Johnston. "We're looking to bring out the community to show support for these girls. The more people we can get, the more exciting it is for the kids."
There is no charge for admission to the game, but there will be a 50/50 and a chuck-a-duck during one of the intermissions.
This is just the second year for the Riptide organization to have a u9 squad. Johnston said it's been a huge success, attracting 20 players last year and 19 this year.
"Last year was a bit of a learning curve for us. We are playing at the intermediate level which is the top level offered in our province," he said. "We saw some huge growth and huge development last year and even more this year."
For him, having this all-female program is such a huge boost to female hockey on the South Shore and in the province. Introducing the u9 program has also allowed the Western Riptide to become an official female organization, because they can now offer a full slate of teams from u9 to u18.
"It's been a huge win for female hockey in this area. Seeing the girls play on an all-girls team at that age level has been a phenomenal experience for parents and coaches," he said. "I think it also shows the growth of female hockey outside of metro and shows that we have the ability to do something like this is a rural area."
For the 2022-23 season, 96,217 girls/women were registered with Hockey Canada, including 12,485 in Nova Scotia.