By OGHA President James Wojtyk
What better way to celebrate the start of Winter than running out to replenish and repair an outdoor rink tarp AND reading the OGHA Update in the Ottawa Sportspage?
Aside from trying to figure out where all the ice scrapers, water pumps and outdoor hose fittings are, it has been a busy time for the OGHA since our last report in the summer.
On Sept. 25, we hosted a Concussion Awareness event for all of our members in recognition of Rowan’s Law Day. Elwood Hall at Jim Durrell Rec Centre had 100+ participants listen to a presentation by Dr. Sunita Nayar-Kingwell, MD, FRCPC (Pediatrics) on Concussions in Young Athletes as well as a very informative Q&A with a number of players, parents and coaches who have had experience with managing such injuries.
A couple of days later, the OGHA hosted a sold-out All-Female Referee Clinic to: (a) increase the number of Level 1 and 2 referees in the region; and (b) increase the number of female officials. These new officials are now busily plying their trade and sporting new striped uniforms throughout the Ottawa District.
A number of Development programs have also come in to full swing. Our House League sessions, run by the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees female hockey team, are receiving rave reviews, and Goalie Army Academy is busily coaching – what the OGHA considers to be the most important position – our girls who want to try being between the pipes.
We have also had our own coaches in the OGHA with the highest level of certifications run a monthly on-ice development session for coaches at any level so that we can all learn from each other and improve our coaching repertoire. We have also had a female-only Coaching Development session, which has led to a number of new coaches and role models for our players on the ice.
From a programming perspective, one of the biggest successes of my tenure so far has been introducing 45 new girls to the sport of hockey through the Bauer/NHL First Shift program. In November and December, our entire female crew of coaches and on-ice volunteers has been putting these girls – all freshly kitted with Bauer gear, from skates to helmet and stick – through some great sessions (all for $199, including equipment!) The improvement has been exponential. While the first step and strides on the ice were tough for some, now they are running out on the ice like an All-Star Game!
At the end of this program, the OGHA will be offering First Shift participants the opportunity to play on a HL team for the remainder of the season OR additional sessions in 2020 that will continue the basics, but with some exhibition games. Kudos to all of the volunteers helping – the smiles, positivity and excitement radiating from the players and parents is truly contagious and really what hockey and sport is all about.
Throughout other aspects of the OGHA hockey spectrum, there have been a number of notable events. Our top team, the Intermediate AA Lady 67’s recently played the South Korean national team while they were on tour. The half-ice Novice transition has been a huge hit with all involved, and the expansion of the Metro Ottawa Girls Hockey League (MOGHL) is also going well, as families are appreciating an increase in teams to play but a decrease in the travel. Our Developmental Stream (DS) program – a hybrid between HL and Comp – started in November to give more girls the opportunity to increase their time on ice with additional practices and games. Both House League and Comp teams at all levels have had some excellent results come back from out-of-town tournaments. It is great to see OGHA teams play so well and clearly show the level of hockey that is being maintained in the Ottawa District.
Lastly, and arguably, the most important issue that has raised itself this Fall is the sudden announcement by the City of Ottawa that they are studying the closure of single-pad rinks in the Central Ottawa area due to “under-utilization”. My 15 minutes of fame is being consumed by this question, with little cameos on CTV News and spots on 580 CFRA.
The OGHA is actively trying to determine what the City has done (to date) and which rinks are potentially on the chopping block. We are also working with other Minor Hockey Assns. within District B to meet this challenge…and will likely call upon member of the public to write letters and attend meetings in the next couple of months to dissuade any premature closures. Given that ice time with the City is much cheaper than others, e.g. $185 (Tom Brown) vs. $320 (Carleton), if this does transpire, then hockey in our area will become much more expensive. If you have any ideas on how to meet this challenge, please contact me – the OGHA Board will be all ears!
As the hockey season flips to 2020, we are planning to have a number of community-based events to celebrate our 20th anniversary, especially during Winterlude and when the City outdoor rinks open in full-force. Looking even further ahead to the end of the season – always sad, I know – the OGHA is going to be implementing an off-ice component/combine to our Spring tryouts for Peewee-ages and above to engender the development of well-rounded and balanced athleticism within our players. So, lots of activities both on- and off-ice for the OGHA as we continue to build the female game in 2020. Please be sure to keep an eye out for any news items on our website (ogha.info).
Yours in girls hockey,
James Wojtyk, OGHA President