Ottawa Valley Thunder prepares for new season
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Thunder coach Asha Kauffeldt discusses scoring on the net with players during the Thunder Skills and Conditioning Camp at the Pembroke and Area Community Centre.
When Manon Rhéaume appeared in the nets for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, she became the first woman to play in a National Hockey League game.
In the 25 years since that historic exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues, women's hockey has never looked back. Since 1998, for example, the Canadian women's national ice hockey team has won four gold medals and one silver at the Winter Olympics.
Through the Ottawa Valley Girls Hockey Association, inspiring young players in this region are seeking the chance to not only compete but follow in the footsteps of Shannon Szabados, Marie-Philip Poulin and Hayley Wickenheiser. Last week, the inaugural Thunder Skills and Conditioning Camp was held at the Pembroke and Area Community Centre.
The camp, which saw 20 girls training in two groups, included an intensive off-ice program to complement on-ice activities. It was also convened in advance of tryouts for the Ottawa Valley Thunder. However, this unique hockey experience is a camp operated by females for females.
“When I was starting, my parents didn't even think girls could play in hockey,” said Thunder alumni and coach Asha Kauffeldt. “This is super exciting to see how far it's grown since I was a kid.”
Along with Kauffeldt, the camp has other alumni coaches including Katie Comeau, Brianna Delaurier, Shannon O'Grady and Abbey Perrault-Sanders. The camp focused on many on-ice skills and strategies including explosive take-offs, stickhandling, scoring, defending and how to put the puck into the net on a shoot-out.
Many of the girls attending felt it has been a worthwhile five days of hockey. Alex McMillan, who plays defence, has been with the Thunder for two seasons now.
“It's fun to get out on the ice and work as a team,” sadi Alex. “I am a very defensive person. I like to protect our goalie.”
For 13-year-old Taytun Brand, who attends Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School, she has found vast improvement in her game especially moving the puck past the goaltender.
“You get meet new friends, learn new skills and get better at this sport,” she said.
“I have really gotten better at my deking,” added Alexis Waito. “Here you get to make new friends and meet new people.”
The Ottawa Valley Thunder competitive team tryouts will be held Aug. 19 through Aug. 31.