ORONO, Maine — Meghan MacDonald, women’s director for the Maine Amateur Hockey Association, was delighted with the way Sunday’s Girls Hockey Day went at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena.
While many youth hockey events try to introduce new people to the sport, Sunday’s four-hour get-together had a different theme.
“This was a day of celebration for the girls,” said MacDonald. “We don’t want to neglect the girls who are already playing.”
About 35 girls from around the state met for an on-ice skills competition, similar to what the NHL players did before the All-Star game, took a tour of the Alfond facilities, had a pizza party, then listened to former University of Maine women’s players Kim Meagher, Rachel Gettings and Jennie Gallo talk about how hockey had influenced their lives.
“They talked about [keeping] grades [up], making good choices and being good role models,” said MacDonald.
After that, the players and their parents could stay to watch the UMaine women’s hockey team take on Vermont, a game won 3-0 by the Black Bears.
“The day was a great success,” said MacDonald, who is in her first year with the Maine Amateur Hockey Association.
“I’m just kind of getting my feet wet,” she said.
Sunday was the best day for the event, but the fact people only had a couple of weeks’ notice made it difficult to get a larger turnout.
Brewer, Midcoast Skaters’ Association in Rockport, and some teams from Bangor, Penobscot Valley Hockey Conference and Auburn also couldn’t make it.
“Our [Under-]16 team had a prior [two-game] commitment,” said Brenda Parker, girls representative for Auburn Youth Hockey. “But the squirt girls coach allowed his players to miss the game. We had five or six from the U-12 team.”
But according to MacDonald and Parker, everyone who did attend enjoyed the outing. Bangor and PVHC were represented, and a couple of Brewer girls were able to get to Orono in time for the women’s game, said MacDonald.
“I’ve received a lot of positive feedback,” said Parker, who is also an assistant coach with the high school girls co-op team representing Edward Little of Auburn and Leavitt of Turner.
MacDonald said the girls from the different associations got along well.
“[At the pizza party] it wasn’t just the Bangor girls sitting with the Bangor girls or the Auburn girls sitting with the Auburn girls,” she said. “They were all intermingled. It was a really positive thing for the day. They were all chumming around together.”
Parker credited MacDonald and the coaches she lined up.
“The way they had the program set up made it easy for the girls [to get to know each other and work together],” she said.
The ice was divided into three sections for the skills competition and players from each association were in each section.
“It wasn’t a big clump. They did a good job [keeping everyone busy],” said Parker. “And the parents loved watching.”
There was another aspect the parents liked.
“It was no cost, too,” said Parker. “Hockey is an expensive sport. All this time on the ice and then the game afterward at no cost. A lot of parents were very appreciative of that.”
The highlights for the Auburn girls, said Parker, were the first and last activities.
“The skills competition was exciting and the game was, too,” she said. “Most of our girls stayed until the end [of the game], and it appeared most of the rest did, too.”
There were a couple of gifts, also. Names were drawn for the winners.
“The UMaine women donated a signed stick, autographed by all the players,” MacDonald said.
The other was a special treat.
“One of our girls got to ride the Zamboni,” said Parker. “All the girls were cheering her on, too.”
MacDonald thinks the day was a good start.
“Some of [the girls] may have made friends for life,” said MacDonald, who already is looking ahead to next season.
“I think it would be nice to have one in the fall and then this time of the year,” she said.
MacDonald hopes to be able to set up one for southern Maine and the other back in the north.
With more lead time, turnout could be even better, especially if a Zamboni ride is available again.
State tourneys start Friday
February is tournament month for youth hockey teams around the state, and they kick off this weekend with the Tier IV (house) teams.
Eight teams are split into two pools at each site.
The squirts (ages 9-10) are scheduled to play Friday through Sunday at Sawyer Arena in Bangor.
The peewees (11-12) play at Mid Coast Rec Center in Rockport, and the bantams (13-14) play at Ingersoll Arena in Auburn.
The Tier II and Tier III tourneys are Feb. 17-19.
All of the state championships are Feb. 25-26 at The Colisee in Lewiston.