Playing hockey isn’t a Canadian birthright.
For some families, the sport is just too expensive. For others, including many new residents of Canada, the sport isn’t even on their radar of fun activities for their kids to experience.
For the Burlington Girls Hockey Club (BGHC), which counts 700 house league and rep girls as members, it’s a problem that was magnified when the pandemic
interrupted everyone’s schedules and levelled off growth in the younger divisions. The health of any sports club depends on attracting young members to grow with the club.
In an ambitious move, BGHC board members introduced a fundraising plan to boost the numbers of four- to six-year-old girls playing in the league from the current 60 to as many as 200 or 300, starting this fall.
Launched in April, “Grow The Game” directs funds to cover the cost of registration, equipment and game instruction. In other words, girls 4-6 play free.
“If you don’t set ambitious goals, you’re never going to get them,” says BGHC board member Kelly Allin. “We think by asking people to sponsor a child it’s a very tangible, magical thing to do. We think we can get there.
"We’ve gotten a third of the way there already.”
Allin, the club’s treasurer, says he’s quite confident the program will be a success. The sponsorship page on the club’s website was up and running as of last week and features a number of ways to donate to the cause.
The Grow The Game initiative asks area businesses and individuals for financial support to pay the $700 fee to finance one player’s expenses, with an overall goal of raising $150,000. This is in addition to other programs such as the BGHC Angel Fund to financially support underprivileged female hockey players ($10,000), a scholarship fund to assist five BGHC players in post-secondary scholastic pursuits ($10,000), and a community partnership program to attract annual sponsorship arrangements ($10,000).
Over the first year of Grow The Game, the BGHC board has committed to set aside funds in case there’s a shortfall. The goal is to run the program for several years.
“We think it’s important enough to risk a little bit (this year),” Allin says.
The rewards of the sport are numerous and important for girls, adds Allin.
One big plus is that hockey is just plain fun.
“There aren’t too many kids who try it, have fun with it, and then (drop it),” says Allin.
Hockey also benefits physical and mental health, skill development, socialization and empowerment. Head coach Celina Clark focuses on development and skills to help her young students grow a love of the game.
For the older age groups, registration fees are up a bit, from $700-$900 depending on age group and skill level. Despite inflationary times, efforts are being made to keep the price as affordable as possible, says Allin.
“If, in three years we’ve had some success, all those families will have their own friends and younger sisters and their own networks,” he says. “The game of hockey for young girls will be much more widely a part of the conversation.”
For more information on the program for the youngest divisions, visit the BGHC website.