Without question the first Girls’ Hockey Day hosted by the White Bear Lake Area Hockey Association in Minnesota was an unqualified success.
“On a normal day, the bleachers [at Vadnais Heights Sports Complex] would be half full,” WBL Girls’ Hockey Director Steve Snyder said of the Jan. 12 event. “On this day, the bleachers were all full and people were standing around the boards. This definitely was outside the norm.
“Throughout the day, because there are two rinks at this arena, people who were at a boys’ game trickled over. Throughout the entire day there always was a large group of people.”
The event in the Minnesota community consisted of seven girls’ hockey games played consecutively throughout the day. Besides teams from the WBLAHA, neighboring communities such as Highland, Stillwater and Forest Lake also sent youth teams. In addition, games were played between the varsity teams of White Bear Lake High School and Cretin-Derham Hall.
“The idea was a collaborative between our White Bear Lake High girls’ coach Jerry Kwapick and me,” Snyder said. “We asked ‘What can we do to celebrate girls’ hockey?’ The intent was the promotion and recruiting and how to get more girls involved in girls’ hockey.
“It morphed into a celebration because we had hockey associations from the area come into town and play.”
Overall, approximately 200 girls participated, commencing with Under-10 all the way through the high school level.
“When we first started talking about it two years ago we were opening a new arena [Vadnais], which offered us two additional sheets of ice,” Snyder said. “Prior to the rink being built, it would have been difficult to host this event.
“I didn’t want to throw this on a calendar so we wouldn’t be able to make this a competitive event.”
One of several reasons why the day was a success was because of the work of a dedicated group of volunteers who helped plan and coordinate the event. One person, for example, secured ice time. The group as a whole was in charge of creating and distributing marketing material.
“We had people solicit items to be donated to the event,” Snyder said. “As we talked one of the main goals was — because there were going to be seven games throughout the day — we wanted a girl who played at 10 in the morning to stay all day.”
As a result, every hour a drawing was held only for girls from the White Bear program, and the lucky girls received a $10 gift card.
“Besides that, every game that a person attended received a raffle ticket, and we had another drawing during the second intermission of the high school game,” Snyder said. “The big prizes were headphones, plus a bunch of stuff that was donated by the University of Minnesota women’s national championship hockey team from last year — things like signed hockey sticks and posters.
“We wanted people to stay throughout the day. At the end of the day we had almost 600 raffle tickets in the bucket.”
In addition, every girl who participated received a gift bag.
Snyder didn’t exactly have to twist arms to persuade other organizations to participate.
“After we secured ice time, nobody had to be coaxed into participating,” he said. “We reached out and said, ‘We’d like your participation. Here’s the date and the teams you’ll be playing.’”
Another factor in enticing people to fill Vadnais almost to the rafters was the amount of marketing material that was distributed around town.
“One thing we really tried to capture is girls’ hockey has been booming,” Snyder said. “But over the last year and a half, we’ve seen a decline in the number of girls playing hockey. I was trying to re-energize our local community and help other communities.
“The bottom line is I want girls’ hockey to remain front page news rather than being stuck on the last page of the sports section.”
Parents from the aforementioned communities were urged to bring their girls even if they never had played hockey.
“We wanted them to see what this truly is about in hopes that they might say, ‘Hey, this is something I want to be a part of because it looks like it is fun,’” Snyder said.
In the same vein, player retention and recruitment were goals for the Girls’ Hockey Day.
“Luckily in White Bear Lake we’ve had a high retention rate,” Snyder said. “In our younger ages, we’ve seen a decline in new girls signing up. But I’m hoping come registration time, we’ll see a spike in numbers.”
Not surprisingly, Snyder has expanded his vision when the second annual Girls’ Hockey Day is scheduled for 2014.
“This year we considered it a baseline,” he said. “Next year we would like to make this bigger. What I’d like to do is find associations outside our district — outside of the Twin Cities area where they’re struggling for numbers.
“Bring them down into our area for this day and try to energize girls’ hockey. We want to have a farther reach than in the Twin Cities area.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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