Katie Ferguson

Katie Ferguson

BC Hockey selection camp brings best of the best to Lake Cowichan

Cowichan Lake Recreation is calling its latest sporting event a huge success, following the provincial U18 Invitational

Cowichan Lake Recreation is calling its latest sporting event a huge success, following the provincial U18 Invitational Selection Camp at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena last week.

The camp finished Sunday morning, capping off an intense five-day training and selection process for the top 80 under-18 female players from across British Columbia, all gunning for the chance to play with Team BC this fall.

“We’re trying to focus in on skill development and fitness and try to make the best team we can possibly make going into U18 nationals this coming November,” said Brianna Davey, BC Hockey program manager for female high performance. “We want to have the best athletes we possibly can from across the province to choose that final team from and this is just the starting point.”

This is the first year BC Hockey has hosted an invitational event like this to help determine which players get chosen for Team BC in the fall. In the past, the event was called the BC Cup and was a tournament-style event during which the players were evaluated.

“It’s not a play-down, so there’s no winner, there’s no trophy [anymore],” said Davey. “We just changed it to make it a development camp so we improve the girls’ skills, helping them improve as players and helping our program improve as well.”

During their time in Lake Cowichan, the girls received position-specific skills development training, covering everything including the basics — stick handling, passing, shooting, skating — and other elements like nutrition and off-season training techniques.

There were five evaluators present throughout the workshops and games, assessing everything from skating ability and passing to work ethic and confidence.

Forty of the girls will advance to similar training camps in July and August, after which 25 will progress to a series of tournaments in September followed by the final selection for Team BC.

“It’s a long process,” said Davey.

Davey commended the staff and facilities at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, describing both as “phenomenal.”

She said having the dorm-style sleeping arrangements at Centennial Hall was perfect for them because it “allows for the team-building, allows for us to have all the girls on site so they live and breathe the game for the five days that they’re here. We can control the environment they’re in, the food, so we know all these girls are having as much of an equal experience as we possibly can.”

Linda Blatchford, Cowichan Lake Recreation manager, said from her perspective the weekend went very well.

“Everyone seems very, very happy,” she said. “We feel it’s gone very smoothly. It was very easy to accommodate their needs.”

Blatchford noted that while the event brought in revenue for Cowichan Lake Recreation (which, in turn, helps to reduce the tax requisition they need to ask for), it also had positive economic spin-offs for the wider community. The approximately 100 players and BC Hockey staff were accommodated at the arena, but their families would have been staying in the surrounding area and also spending money at local businesses.

“When we put the bid package together in October for this event, it was an opportunity for us to bid for two years running. So we bid for 2016 and 2017, we just don’t know yet if they’re going to be coming back in 2017 because they haven’t announced that,” she said. “So fingers crossed for sure.”

This year there was one local player invited to participate in the camp. Katie Ferguson got her start in hockey playing for the Lake Cowichan Minor Hockey Association.

She said that whether or not she moves on to the next round of camps, playing at this year’s invitational was an incredible experience.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” she said. “I was trying not to think about it. It was nice having everyone I know be there. My grandparents got to watch, which was great because they haven’t got to see me play all year because they can’t be going over to Vancouver every weekend.”

Last September, Ferguson moved to Vancouver to attend the Vancouver City Hockey Academy to focus on training every day.

She said whether or not she ends up on Team BC in the fall, hockey is definitely a big part of her future. She is still not sure where she will go for her Grade 12 year.

“I want to be somewhere I can be on the ice every day and get the exposure I need to get offers from universities and scholarships,” she said. “Playing for a university — that’s the main goal.”

She said in the meantime, she’s taking things one step at a time and enjoying her experiences along the way.