The coach of the senior boys hockey team at Churchill secondary never expected what happened at a 6 a.m. tryout over the Christmas break in December, 2013.
More than two dozen players, including three girls, wanted to compete for the Bulldogs in the B.C. High School Hockey League, a province-wide league that counts the Magee Lions as the only other Vancouver team.
UPDATE: Bulldogs lose 5-7 to Elgin Park in the Tier 3 B.C. championship in Coquitlam on May 1.
“I was stunned to see I had over 25 show up,”said Matthew Jefferson, the Churchill coach who started the school’s boys hockey team because a girl asked if she could play.
Alisha Wong claimed the city championship with the Bulldogs girls hockey team in a 1-0 overtime win against the Kitsilano Blue Demons in March. She wasn’t ready to hang up her skates.
“I do enjoy playing with boys more because it is a higher competitive level,”said Wong, who captained the school’s girls team and is used to competing with boys. She plays on a midget house team with the Vancouver Thunderbirds Minor Hockey Association.
Like minor hockey across the country, the B.C. high school league isn’t strictly for boys. Churchill is one of about five teams that include girls.
“From a girl’s point of view, I do of course believe that we should have more co-ed teams,”said Wong.
Emily Froese also plays for Churchill’s two hockey teams as well as a midget rep team for the Vancouver Angels in the city’s girls hockey association. There is no gender divide on the Bulldogs, she said.
“It doesn’t really make a difference because we’re still teammates and friends,”said Froese. “It works out good.”
In fact, the season has been more than good. Churchill plays Surrey’s Elgin Park Orcas for gold in the Tier 3 championship tonight in Coquitlam.
Churchill is the first Vancouver team to compete in a the league’s championship. They finished the short regular season with three wins and a loss, then went on to beat Whistler 5-1 in the quarterfinals and then West Vancouver 6-1 in the semifinal to compete for the provincial Tier 3 title.
The league is designed to help grow the game of hockey for both boys and girls in British Columbia and is currently in its fifth year with 22 teams in three tiers.
“Over the years we’ve probably signed up 100 kids that haven’t played minor hockey, including girls”said league coordinator Aaron Crawford. “It’s definitely good for people to go out and see girls compete in the championship game.”
Bulldog Anthony Ho said his female teammates hold their own among the boys and he believes it’s important to form co-ed teams so girls and their hockey skills get the recognition they deserve. “People generally think of girls hockey as a bad sport but it’s not that different from guys hockey.”
The girls championship hockey banner — and possibly a co-ed title, too — proves the girls at Churchill can play hockey.