Growing up in Canada means learning hockey by osmosis, yet most Squamish women have likely not stepped on the ice in hockey skates.
But that is easily rectified with the adult Squamish Women’s Hockey Academy, which has a new session running on Wednesday evenings Nov. 3 to 17.
The academy, founded and run by Squamish locals and hockey veterans Evelyn Schellenberg and Katie Jones, includes a beginner 101 course.
The organizers say it is the first hockey skill development program coached by women for women to be offered in town.
For beginners, head coach Jones focuses on introductory skill development such as skating, shooting and passing, and learning the rules and fundamentals of the game.
Even if women have only ever worn figure skates — or have never skated — they can feel comfortable joining this course, Schellenberg said.
This is for any woman who wants to come out and give it a whirl, she said.
"Our head coach, Katie Jones, is a teacher by day. It is in her soul to be able to transfer her hockey knowledge organically. So if people sign up and they have only had figure skating or even no skating experience, we teach them the fundamentals of skating, we teach them about edge control."
The program is designed to get newbies game-ready in a fun and safe environment while having the opportunity to connect with other local women, Schellenberg said.
There is also an Intermediate Skills course for women with hockey experience who are looking to bring their game to the next level.
The focus for that course is on power skating techniques, puck control, passing and shooting in a faster-paced environment.
Women are more comfortable being coached by other women, Schellenberg said, and the academy is a non-judgemental, welcoming and supportive environment to learn the sport or improve on skills.
For Schellenberg, 43, her passion for hockey started young — really young — at about four years old.
Though her mom originally put her in ballet, which she hated, she was obsessed with watching her goalie brother play hockey and begged her mom to let her play.
She did and Schellenberg has never looked back.
"It was great. I played for Team BC in my high school years and I helped launch the Squamish Women's Hockey League here and I have played on the same hockey team in North Van for 20 years," she said.
She's a goalie, just like her brother.
"It takes a certain type of person to want to get pucks drilled at you," Schellenberg said, with a laugh.
"I have always loved playing hockey in general. I play forward as well now and of course, I play in net. Being a goalie is my passion and always my favourite thing to do."
She started the academy in 2020 because she has seen so much growth in Squamish and wants the opportunities to match that population increase, she said, especially for girls and women.
"Not having to go to the city or Whistler to play," she said. "We wanted to create a safe and fun environment for local women to push themselves; to do something different while having some laughs with ladies who are all starting out at the same level," Schellenberg said, adding that she has met many women who have sons or husbands who play and who are interested in playing, but who have been intimidated to join the running Sunday-night Squamish Women's Hockey league.
"They want to show their sons that mom is a badass too," Schellenberg said.
A league of their own
The end game is to start a girls' league, Schellenberg said.
A school-age girls' only academy is slated for this spring to help facilitate that dream.
"I am hoping this will maybe create a buzz, with people talking to their daughters, saying "Are you interested in doing this?"
Schellenberg's academy business partner, Jones, is also a born and raised Squamish local and is well-known for her hockey achievements.
She grew up playing hockey with boys' teams.
"She is a huge success story coming out of Squamish in hockey, especially as a female," Schellenberg noted.
The mandate of the academy is to encourage women to get out of their comfort zone and try something new.
"We have so much growth in this community, I was born and raised here, so I have seen everything happen here and being able to have programs for our girls here, for women here, it is unheard of so we are super passionate about doing that," Schellenberg said.
So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, Schellenberg said.
"People love it," she said. "We are just having fun out there."
The sessions are $150.
Register at squamishlive.ca. For the beginner sessions, enter barcode: #58552; for intermediate enter barcode: #58553.