The International Ice Hockey Federation is still tallying the numbers from the second World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend, which took place Oct. 13-14 in countries all around the globe. But the single goal of raising awareness for female hockey was accomplished as hundreds of events in 30 countries took place.
"Not everybody buys into female hockey, but more people are, and this just brought up the awareness of female hockey in a lot of areas," Hockey Canada Director of Female Hockey Joanne Hughes told NHL.com. "It's increasing the profile of female hockey tremendously."
While women's hockey is one of the fastest-growing sports worldwide, it's still unrecognized in many countries and many cities struggle to put together just one female team or league.
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Surprisingly, one such city is Vancouver, where the Vancouver Angels are the city's only all-girls hockey association. The Angels, also known as the Killarney Girls Ice Hockey Association, have existed since 1973 and consist of 12 teams for ages 4-18. They took advantage of World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend to get the word out by hosting a drop-in game for atoms and peewees as well as an exhibition game and a Try Hockey Free session for 4-8 year olds.
Angels left wing Tammy Yang, 15, volunteered her time at the event on Saturday as a greeter and helper for the free trial session.
"It was cool to see all these little girls come out," Yang said. "We don't get a lot of attention. I don't think a lot of people know about us, so it's really cool to see all of these new faces."
The Angels had 75 girls between the ages of 4 and 17 come out for the event. As IIHF women's program manager Tanya Foley pointed out, the number of girls that turn out for each event does not necessarily determine its success because each event raises awareness. Even if only 20 girls come to one event, they are a part of the overall global event which involves thousands of girls. Each individual event played a part in the success of the overall weekend and helped to more than double the numbers from the inaugural event in 2011.
Besides raising awareness for female hockey, the events also attempt to bring new girls into the existing programs around the globe. This was accomplished in a big way in Geneva, Switzerland, last year as 15 girls came back after the WGIHW event and asked to train with team on a regular basis.
"It's not just a one-off kind of event," Foley said. "That's what World Girls' Hockey Weekend is about -- it's about looking to the future and getting girls interested. Girls of all ages, these weren't just 4-year-olds, they were girls that wanted to create a team for the Swiss league."
Similarly, in Canada at one of last year's WGIHW events, the team went to a local mosque and asked if the girls there would like to come out for their try hockey free event. Twelve girls attended the event -- and all 12 signed up to join the hockey team afterward. As Hughes explained, World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend is about bringing all sorts of people together through the sport of hockey regardless of race or religion.
"We've had such a positive response from the participants and such a positive response overall that we just see this growing and growing and growing," Hughes said.
World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend has grown so much in just two years that this year's events spanned from above the Arctic Circle (Kolari, Finland) to the country with the most southern city in the world (Argentina) and from East (Seoul, South Korea) to West (Vancouver).
The KL Slayers, the only all-women's team in Malaysia, had more than 30 girls from ages 4 to 18 take part in their event.
"[The] highlight was really seeing the girls' faces as they went on ice for the first time," KL Slayer member Ee Laine Chee said. "Many had decided to try out because they were curious about skating and it was free … I've had a few parents inquire about our hockey school, so obviously the event achieved its aim."
The event in Ankara, Turkey, had more than 100 girls show up, and the event in Argentina brought out 30 girls. According to Foley, the Turkish Hockey Federation has been putting more resources into its female program in the last couple of years in the hopes of growing the sport there.
USA Hockey had events in 34 states, and its total number of events increased from 70 last year to 140 this year. One of the showcase events took place in West Chester, Pa., , where they had every aspect of the game covered -- from female officials and female coaches to a female skate sharpener. The event featured a girls' 10U and 12U Jamboree, Women's Sled Team appearance, 14U Tier II Division of the Silver Sticks Tournament, female-focused ADM (American Development Model) clinic and an appearance by USA National Team goalie Jessie Vetter.
"Our USA Hockey volunteers have proven once again that they unselfishly invest the time and energy needed to effectively grow the game," USA Hockey Director of Women's Hockey Reagan Carey said. "A true grass-roots movement, it's initiatives like Girls Hockey Day that help us grow this sport."
In Boston, Bruins' assistant coach Doug Jarvis helped to run a G.O.A.L clinic for beginners to try the sport. The Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks also hosted World Girls' Hockey Weekend events.
In Canada, girls came out in droves to participate in the events -- especially in Ontario, where the World Women's Hockey Association helped to bring out upwards of 10,000 girls.
"The weekend is all about the girls coming out and the smiles that we see," Foley said. "If we can continue to grow this, it's no longer going to be a question of whether women's hockey should exist, it's going to be part of life and nobody's going to question it anymore."
For a taste of the smiles that graced the globe this weekend thanks to WGIHW, check out the IIHF's tracker for more than 40 stories about the individual events that took place. (http://www.iihf.com/iihf-home/sport/women/world-girls-hockey-day/2012.html)