New to the ice in Revelstoke this season was a ladies Learn to Play hockey program.
Volunteer coaches Abbi Vigue and Stephanie Miller taught 35 women to play hockey.
“The majority that came to it had never really even skated before, never mind hold a stick and wear all the equipment,” said Miller.
The most improved skater went from barely being able to stand in her skates to scoring a goal at the graduation game at the end of the program.
Both Miller and Vigue played hockey their whole lives, and professional hockey as adults to boot. Vigue played Tier 1 hockey in university and Miller played in the ladies Junior A league.
They wanted to share their passion for hockey with the women of Revelstoke.
And it worked.
For Sarah-Monique Chanona, participating in the session wasn’t just about learning to play hockey, she said she also found friendship, strength, empowerment and “just so, so much fun!”.
“I moved here three months ago and underwent some serious changes in my relationship and living situation and basically found it hard to adapt to a community that I felt was overruled by a bunch of ‘practically pro’ dudes,” Chanona said via email. “I love the outdoors and being active but I am neither a great skier and never really knew how to skate properly. Makes it a little intimidating to go out and met friends in a new place like Revy! The ladies learn to skate posting was even a little intimidating at first, that is until I got to the first session and every single woman there was nice and encouraging!”
Heather Wells’ experience was similar as another newcomer to the area.
“Most of us were on the same boat, we could barley skate never mind hold a stick properly,” Wells said in an email. “The girls were all so supportive of each other, helping out where they could even if it was just to help you stop before crashing into the wall! Within a few weeks we were all skating like pros, stopping, passing pucks and shooting! It was amazing just how fast we learned, I think that all comes down to the great coaching by Abbi and Steph, they did an amazing job and made the full experience enjoyable.”
For Stacy Batchelor it was a chance to learn a sport she had always wanted to try.
“I have always wanted to play hockey, but found it intimidating to drop into a scrimmage with a bunch of seasoned players,” she said in an email. “It’s hard being the only beginner! The L2P series was fantastic as there were girls at every level – those putting on skates for pretty much the first time to players who were confident and wanted to hone their skills. The focus was on skating, puck handling, and at the end we played a ‘graduation’ game. It was low pressure, fun and challenging at the same time.”
Kaylin Sutherland and a friend joined in order to get out of the house in the evenings.
“I was so nervous and frankly a little scared the first night,” she said in an email. “I could barely skate and had zero experience playing.”
Sutherland added that she is extremely grateful for the opportunity and looks forward to continuing to work on her new hockey skills.
Lisa Shauer said she was skeptical of the program at first.
“When people in Revelstoke say they are beginners at a sport it usually means they are quite good,” she said in an email. “So when I saw the ad to learn to play hockey I was skeptical that they were truly open to ALL levels. Having only ever skated a handful of times I was nervous but drawn to the program because I wanted to get moving and to try something new. From day one, the girls never once made me feel like I was out of place or slowing the group down. In fact it’s been the complete opposite- every week I’m encouraged by this awesome group of ladies to keep going, push a little harder, and throw a dance move in whenever possible.”
Miller said that the ages ranged from 15-55. The very first thing she and Vigue had the women do when they stepped on the ice was learn to fall down and get back up again.
“There was definitely a lot of confidence building in this whole program, and just learning how to be on a team as well,” she said.
Miller and Vigue have been fielding comments from women across the province wishing there was a Learn to Play option in their community. Miller hopes it will take off.
But for now, the duo are planning another program to start in January and hoping to start a girl minor hockey team next season.
“It was an amazing experience,” Miller said.
You can find more information on the Revelstoke Women’s Hockey Facebook page.