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First Shift program gives girls a low-cost intro to hockey

38 local girls are benefitting from this year's program, which includes gear and training to lower the barrier of entry into the sport
A welcome event and personalized equipment fitting took place on Nov. 11 at the Wasaga Beach RecPlex.

The Collingwood Lightning Girls Hockey Association introduced a new partnership with the First Shift program to help more young girls fall in love with Canada’s official sport. 

When it comes to hockey, suiting up a new player can be expensive. The First Shift program provides new players full hockey gear and on-ice sessions at a low cost, so they can experience the game for themselves. The program is sponsored by Bauer and Hockey Canada, and is open to players aged 10 and under who have never previously enrolled in minor hockey. 

When Kaitlyn MacDonald, player and coach development with the Collingwood Lightning Girls Hockey Association and U18B coach, learned that the program was available to associations across the country, she hastened to apply.

“It was a no-brainer,” said MacDonald, “we have to offer this opportunity to young girls in our community.” 

For only $229, participants received brand-new Bauer Hockey Equipment and six on-ice trial sessions. The on-ice sessions are run by female instructors and volunteers, with drills focused on a fun range of hockey experiences to encourage young girls to participate in the sport even after the program is completed.

“We are very passionate about empowering all ages of girls in the sport, so the majority of instructors and volunteers are female,” said MacDonald. 

The association hosted a welcome event and equipment fitting night at the Wasaga Beach RecPlex on Nov. 11, where 38 girls between the ages of five and 10, all brand new to hockey, received a personalized equipment fitting. MacDonald and the rest of the association were ecstatic with the registration numbers.

“I knew there would be interest, I just didn’t know how much,” she said. “Numbers skyrocketed."

The on-ice sessions take place at Central Park Arena in Collingwood from Nov. 18 until Jan. 6. Afterwards, the girls will be invited to join a fundamentals program for the remainder of the season, and MacDonald said hopefully next year, they will want to come back and join the association as part of a team. 

“We want them to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new. That’s what the association has always been about,” she said.

MacDonald said hockey has given her so much in her life so far, she is happy to be able to lower the barrier of entry for so many young girls in the community. So far, she said the girls seem to be having an amazing first experience with the sport. 

“I was a little girl who wanted to play hockey,” she said. “I think if you give young girls an opportunity to invest in themselves and be around other positive women, it’s a powerful thing. I am passionate about giving girls the opportunity to see themselves in that role, too.”

Now in its sixth season, the Collingwood Lightning Girls Hockey Association has gone from 30 girls and four hours of ice time per week to 250 girls and 25 hours per week of ice, with over 85 staff and 17 board members.

“None of this would have been possible without all of our volunteers,” said MacDonald. “We all support each other, everyone wanted to be involved.” 

While nothing is set in stone for next year, the association is hopeful that they will be able to offer the First Shift program again.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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