By Ottawa Sports Pages, for Ottawa Girls’ Hockey Association
The final buzzer has sounded on the 2022-2023 season for the Ottawa Girls’ Hockey Association, but the excitement is buzzing already for the next campaign, particularly with the confirmed return of top female coaches.
Women leading the way behind the bench has increasingly become an OGHA trademark. Roughly 70% of coaches are female organization-wide, with a great number owning university playing experience.
“For a girls’ association, that is very important,” says OGHA marketing and programs director Marc Lugert. “I don’t mean to count the guys out, but there’s a different relationship between the girls and women coaches, and the girls are responding quite well.
“It’s still a predominantly male sport and we’re still battling some traditional views and stereotypes, but we are 100% sure that this is the right direction.”
The OGHA will have past university women’s hockey players at the helm of all their 67’s ‘AA’ teams next season, with Shannon Donnelly (NCAA’s Neumann University) leading the U22 program, Carolyn Campbell (St. Francis-Xavier) at U18, and Tawnya Guindon (Carleton Ravens) for U15.
“We’re so grateful to have the coaching staff we have, these young women who are interested in coaching and helping girls,” Lugert underlines. “It’s had a very positive effect on the association.”
The female leaders act as role models for their players – both as talented athletes and to show their girls that they could have a future in coaching too.
Many OGHA players take coaching and refereeing courses once they reach the U18 age group, and then receive guidance from more experienced coaches who take them under their wing.
The OGHA’s introductory programs – the perennially sold-out NHL/NHLPA First Shift program and the always-growing FUNdamentals program – are led by an all-female coaching cast.
At no time was enthusiasm and leadership higher than during the OGHA’s Family Day Weekend Freeze Tournament, which returned during Winterlude for first time in three years following COVID cancellations.
Older players helped run the canteen, refereed games and helped out with other aspects of organizing the event, while the youngest FUNdamentals girls took part in a jamboree alongside other programs from the region.
“The FUNdamentals girls just loved it,” recounts Lugert. “They all got a medal at the end. There’s no scores being kept, it’s just for them to play around and have fun.”
There were 38 teams in total taking part in divisions from U9 through U18, including many from outside the region. The tournament was for the development stream level, featuring house league players/teams who want to do a little more, but are not ready to play competitive hockey.
“There aren’t a lot of tournament opportunities for the development stream,” notes Lugert, adding that associations from southern and northern Ontario are already asking when they can sign up for next year. “It was a very successful tournament.”
Springtime tryouts are still ongoing to form next year’s competitive teams, which includes reduced fees for the U9, U11 and U13 levels, along with player credits and additional development with the Jr. 67’s.
The OGHA’s top U15, U18 and U22 teams have decided to drop the old-fashioned word “Lady” from their previous Lady 67’s name and will now be known as 67’s ‘AA’.
“It’s been great to see the sport continue to evolve, and to see more and more girls and women get involved,” Lugert indicates. “We’re excited to see our sport grow and we’re looking forward to welcoming many more players into Ottawa girls’ hockey next season.”
Find out more about the Ottawa Girls’ Hockey Association at OGHA.org.