The top under 18 female hockey players from across British Columbia will be coming to Lake Cowichan this year for what could be the most important weekend of their athletic careers to date.
On Jan. 26, BC Hockey revealed Lake Cowichan as the host of its 2016 Female U18 Invitational Selection Camp (formerly known as the U18 BC Cup) — a rigorous five-day training camp where the best of the best will compete for spots at a summer strength and conditioning camp, and ultimately to be on Team BC, which will participate in the 2016 Women’s U18 National Championship this fall.
“We’re excited to bring our U18 Invitational Selection Camp to Vancouver Island, as we believe Lake Cowichan will be an excellent host for this event,” said Tanya Foley, BC Hockey female high performance coordinator, in a press release. “It’s a place that’s passionate about hockey — from the arena to the community facilities, the top 80 players will be treated well.”
According to BC Hockey, after evaluations during the 2015/16 season, the top 80 female players from across the province will be invited to the camp, which will feature “a very demanding schedule, pushing players through games, practices, off-ice technical training, and fitness testing.”
The camp will take place from May 18 to 22.
In its press release, the organization said players will be competing in an “elite, challenging environment” and also outlined the 2011 renovations to the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena.
Linda Blatchford, manager of Cowichan Lake Recreation, said she and her staff are thrilled by the news their bid for the camp was successful.
“We host different BC Hockey camps. This is the biggest we’ve ever hosted,” she said. “There’s nothing but economic benefit to the community here.”
Blatchford learned about the camp last fall from a minor hockey association volunteer who suggested they apply. She created a bid application package and formed a hosting committee (comprised of recreation staff and hockey association volunteers), which approved her bid package. She applied in October but did not learn of BC Hockey’s decision until the new year.
Cowichan Lake Recreation will provide BC Hockey exclusive use of four rink dressing rooms, accommodations at Centennial Hall and meals for the 80 players plus 38 team staff, camp staff and officials. BC Hockey will also have access to the rec centre’s gym, multipurpose room and the little league field for training.
“Eighty girls will be invited to this camp and 80 girls will have families that come with them because they will want to watch what happens over the five days,” said Blatchford. “It’s got huge economic spin-off for the whole Cowichan Lake area.”
Because the camp will be taking place on the May long week, Blatchford anticipates that hotels, bed and breakfasts and even camp sites will book up fast.
Family Heritage Days will also be taking place that weekend, and Blatchford said the Kaatza Art Show, which is normally held in the Centennial Hall, will now be hosted in Honeymoon Bay.
While Blatchford emphasized the event’s economic potential, she said the impact on local players will also be enormous.
“It’s a female camp, so it will really inspire the local female minor hockey age group,” she said.
Lake Cowichan Minor Hockey Association president Todd Vaughan agreed.
“The girls here they can have an opportunity to see levels that can be achieved and to strive for that,” he said, adding there are a number of other potential benefits to local players.
“Often times it can be even just creating the contacts. You’re also going to have some of the top coaching, some of the top managing, and to be able to be introduced to these people at a higher elite level of hockey can be a benefit for my group.”
There will also be scouts present.
Vaughan said the work is only just beginning now that the camp has been confirmed, but he has already received offers from volunteers interested in helping out. The association will be holding meetings in the near future to “get the ball rolling.”
“These are going to be the top 80 girls from the entire province that are invited to this try-out. These could possibly even be some of the girls we watch in the next Olympics,” he said.
“To be able to have that elite camp to come here, it’s a good thing for the arena having the ice booked, and for the community and I think it helps to put Lake Cowichan a little on the map, certainly in the hockey world.”