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‘An excellent step forward’: Prince George female minor hockey helps form regional league

Three 'A' divisions back on ice for competition during COVID-19 pandemic
PGMHA North Zone League 2020-21
The Prince George Minor Hockey Association teamed up with three other regional groups to form the Female 'A' North Zone League for the 2020-21 season. (via Submitted/Jessie Sprague/Kyle Balzer, PrinceGeorgeMatters)

It’s a collaboration years in the making in an effort to grow the game among young female athletes.

Earlier this month, the Prince George Minor Hockey Association (PGMHA) returned to the ice for 2020-21 competition at the Under-18, -15 and -13 levels as part of a new northern and interior B.C. cohort league while following COVID-19 safety protocols.

The Female ‘A’ North Zone partnership consists of four organizations; Prince George, Williams Lake, North East and the North West District.

BC Hockey spokesperson Theresa Philips says all associations understand the need to adhere to health restrictions in order to keep the league in play and avoid any suspension.

“It's so unbelievably exciting to see this come to light,” said Philips to PrinceGeorgeMatters.

“I've been involved with Minor Hockey for almost 20 years now and 15 of those with female. We've come a long way. We still have a way to go but this is an excellent step forward.”

The league is currently scheduled to go until mid-January to allow teams to schedule around games outside the zone.

If they do so, however, they’ll be forced to quarantine for 14 days before going back to a rink.

Philips says the opportunity to play meaningful games is a great deal to the young women wanting to take the ice during the unprecedented times, with divisional winners set to receive recognition by season’s end.

“They are excited,” she said.

“It's nice to have the season laid out for them [...] know that they are playing for a banner is also nice for them as well in the absence of [provincial] Championships.”

A work in progress for many years, with roadblocks along the way, it was the number of interested girls hockey teams that solidified the Female ‘A’ North Zone League.

“We finally have found ourselves in a position where we have enough ‘A’ level female teams to be able to organize a league,” Philips explains, touting a total of nine teams spread across the three age groups.

“This speaks highly to the Districts and MHA's that have worked tirelessly to promote, recruit, and retain female players in the north and I am so proud to be able to work with such a strong group.”

With COVID-19 restrictions varying across each city in northern B.C., the only place where spectators won’t be allowed to watch is Prince George, including the CN Centre, Kin Arenas and the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.

Those local match-ups, however, aren’t scheduled until late November.

Williams Lake, Fraser Lake and Taylor are the communities that allow fans in their community rinks, and will also host the tournament-style weekend contests.

Philips says, as a result of the approved cohort, the participating associations won’t have to quarantine for two weeks in between as per viaSport and BC Hockey’s guidelines.

She hopes, one day, to see a league be done as well for recreational hockey in the north with a similar framework involved.

The teams involved for each division are as follows:

Under-18

  • North East Predators
  • North West District Minor Hockey Association
  • Williams Lake Timberwolves

All three clubs scheduled to play for the first time this weekend, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, at the Cariboo Memorial Complex in Williams Lake.

Under-15

(Records after first weekend of play)

  • Prince George Capitals (3-0)
  • North East Predators (2-1)
  • North West District Minor Hockey Association (0-3)
  • Williams Lake Timberwolves (1-2)

Teams are scheduled to play their next set of games in Taylor, Nov. 21 and 22.

Under-13

  • Prince George Capitals
  • Williams Lake Timberwolves

First weekend of play is currently slated for Nov. 28 and 29.