THE opportunities for young female hockey players just got a big shot in the arm as Hockey Canada announced a new event Monday.
St. Mary's Academy will play host in February to the 2013 Female World Sport School Challenge at the MTS Iceplex.
The eight-school tournament will be a huge opening for elite female players with an eye towards the future. Hockey Canada said Monday that scouts from post-secondary institutions across North America, including Canadian schools, are expected to attend the four-day tournament.
The tournament has also enlisted former Team Canada star and Winnipeg native Jennifer Botterill as the guest speaker for the event's banquet at the Victoria Inn.
The three-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion is an exceptional role model for aspiring female players.
Winnipeg's Balmoral Hall and the Shaftesbury Hockey Academy will join St. Mary's as the local content for this national event.
Calgary's Edge School for Athletes, the Banff Hockey School, the Okanagan Hockey Academy from Penticton, B.C., the Pursuit of Excellence from Kelowna, B.C., and Rothesay Netherwood School of Rothesay, N.B., will all compete for the gold medal.
Preliminary rounds are scheduled for Feb. 21-22. A relegation round and two semifinal games will take place Feb. 23 and the tournament's championship game will go Feb. 24, all at the Iceplex.
"Last year we introduced the very first World Sport School Challenge, which provided boys' prep school teams with the chance to showcase their skills on an international stage," Kevin Bathurst, Hockey Canada's manager of schools programs, said in the tournament announcement. "This year we're thrilled to introduce the girls' event, which will give elite female players the chance to hone their skills and compete with their school teams at the highest level possible."
The new tournament is part of Hockey Canada's commitment to help sport schools create learning environments that are competitive across the country.
Hockey Canada currently supports 15 sport schools with formal partnerships, focusing on learning opportunities in combination with developing hockey skills.