New Saskatchewan U22 junior women’s hockey league aims to fill gaps in sport

Hockey Saskatchewan is establishing a new women’s U-22 league for the 2023-2024 season.

The inaugural season can’t come early enough for 19-year-old Zoe Kourles, who has longed to return to competitive hockey since she quit her skating after graduating from Regina Rebel’s AAA under-18 team.

She was frustrated by the lack of options for women looking to extend their competitive hockey career.

“Options, you’re playing Division 1 [college hockey] “Play for college hockey here in the states, in the CIS, or you’re done,” he said.

Kourles said the new league came at the perfect time for him. He played on intramural teams during his hiatus from competitive hockey, but couldn’t get over the joy he felt while playing junior hockey.

Zoe Kourles has been looking for a new competitive hockey option since graduating from the Regina Rebels AAA under-18 team. (Posted by Zoe Kourles)

Creating more female representation in hockey

More than a dozen communities in the state have expressed interest in the league. Four to eight teams are hoping to pitch for the inaugural season of hockey Saskatchewan, with Regina and Saskatoon being the centers.

Blaine Stork, president of the Saskatchewan Women’s AAA Hockey League, said it was overdue.

“There is a huge gap between players who decide to become coaches in the future from a junior hockey player,” Stork said. “It [league] It helps fill in some of the gaps.”

Kourles, who has previously coached hockey and high school basketball, hopes this league will lead to more women in coaching and managerial positions in the sport.

“It’s a great gateway for women to coach and build an overall women’s community,” Kourles said. Said. “It would be nice to have a female coach, a female assistant coach, a female coach, and a female manager.”

Hockey Saskatchewan currently requires at least one registered female coach for any women’s junior hockey team.

Hockey Saskatchewan GM Kelly McClintock says she wants more women to participate in women’s hockey in the state.

“We want all female staff, all female actors, all female officials,” McClintock said. “This is the environment we want to create.”

female hockey player on ice
Tayen Sulmic plays defense for Prince Albert’s U-18 AA team. (Presented by Tayen Sulmic)

Tayen Sulmic plays for Prince Albert Foxes’ under-18 AA team. She said that having female coaches is beneficial both on and off the ice.

“As a female player, it’s good to have female coaches because they can understand you better and bond with you better,” Sulmic said.

A Hockey Saskatchewan assignment team is working on a process for communities/teams to apply to be part of the inaugural season. An announcement regarding this initiative is expected in January 2023.

McClintock hopes the women’s under-22 league will promote a senior women’s league in the future.

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