‘We can really build the fabric of this country’

Sami Jo Small skates with hockey camp attendees during a drill where players try to get the puck past the instructors, who play the role of defenders during an on-ice session Tuesday. Small was one of the instructors at the camp which saw dozens of young female hockey players from across northern Saskatchewan attend to learn more about the game. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

North Female Hockey Program Camp shows how far women’s hockey has come, and its huge potential for growth

When Sami Jo Small was growing up, not a lot of girls played hockey.

The co-founder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and three-time Olympian always had the play with the boys, and didn’t have many hockey-playing female role models to look up to.

When Small joined her first Olympic team, some of the women had only been playing hockey for a few years.

“When I was growing up, I never really saw another girl playing. My first women’s team was the Olympic team.”

On Tuesday, Small was in Prince Albert to coach dozens of little girls who dream of playing hockey on the highest levels. Small participated in off and on-ice sessions as a part of the third annual North Female Hockey Program camp.

“It’s super exciting to see what they have created in the last three years,” Small said. “For the instructors, it gives us an opportunity to give back to the game in a way that we never thought was possible growing up. To see young girls with huge smiles on their faces getting to compete against other girls, and meeting friends from other teams is something most of us never had the opportunity to do.”

Head instructor Robin Ulrich, the head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Women’s hockey team, had a similar experience to Small growing up in the world of hockey. For her, it’s all about showing the next generation of women what they can accomplish through the game.

For more on this story, please see the August 23 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald