The annual Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orillia & District (BBBS) Hockey Tournament is helping women’s hockey grow, players say.
“This year, there are eight women’s teams playing in recreational and competitive divisions,” said Jennie-May Banks, who was playing in the weekend-long tournament Saturday at Rotary Place. “About four years ago, the tournament was opened to women, and we’ve been playing since then.”
The Orillia resident played for a recreational division team called Team Fireball, one of 28 teams playing in the annual fundraiser.
“When I was growing up, girls were offered figure skating and ringette,” she said. “A bunch of them now play hockey.”
And women’s hockey in Orillia is growing, said Banks. With more ice time and tournaments like this that encourage women’s teams to participate, it’s only going to keep growing, she added.
Georgina resident and Team Go Around member, Tracy Draganac, agreed with Banks.
“The age group we have (35 – 45), we didn’t have the chance to play a lot of hockey growing up,” she said. “It’s still the same where we live. There isn’t enough ice time or old teammates move, so we’re trying to play as much as we can with what we have.”
For tournaments like this, said Draganac, they pull together team members and make a girls' weekend out of it.
“We’ve made it a yearly thing,” she said. “We try to pick two tournaments in a year that aren’t far away, because some of our teammates are moms and can’t always play.”
At the tournament though, Daraganac said, players are able to look after each other’s kids if one wants to get on the ice.
And they get to do all this while raising funds for an agency that helps kids in the community, she said.
“I personally don’t have any experience with BBBS, but a friend of mine was a big sister,” said Draganac. “I could see the influence she had on her little sisters — a positive influence. So it’s a great community resource."
Banks had a similar view of the fundraising tournament.
“There’s a shortage of big brothers and big sisters and we’re hoping to raise awareness and get more mentors for (the agency’s) mentorship programs,” she said.
All funds raised during the tournament stay within the community, said Lorie-Anne Roberts, executive director of BBBS. She said the goal is to raise $20,000 this weekend.
“The teams and players like to come out and enjoy the games and they also enjoy the socializing aspect,” she said. “We have fun, food, a raffle and a silent auction.”
The camaraderie and friendship has been bringing Henry Vandenhurk back to Orillia for the past 15 years.
“We have a great time up here,” said the Woodville resident, who plays for the Mississauga Hawks. “Guys we’ve been playing with and against, we’ve known each other off and on the ice for years.”
Even though they travel to Orillia from Woodville, Vandenhurk said, they’re happy to have their funds raised stay in the community.
“As a team, we try to stay away from tournaments where the organizers keep the funds,” he said. “It’s great fun here. You get three games in a weekend and hope to play a fourth (final). If you don’t get to, so be it. You still get to play hockey, hang out with friends, and grab a bite to eat.”