Girls’ squad looks to take the next step

There’s an old Chinese proverb that states “a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”
Chris Hill, head coach of the Muskies girls’ hockey team, couldn’t help but reflect on how far the program has come following the first week of tryouts and scrimmages last week at the Ice for Kids Arena here.
“A couple of years ago, if you showed up you might have gotten a jersey automatically just because we didn’t have the numbers,” Hill recalled.
“This year, we had 33 girls try out so that’s more than we’ve ever really had.”
It isn’t just the number of girls trying out that has Hill encouraged about the direction of the program, but the quality of the players he has on the ice.
“My first year here we had to work on skating,” he remarked. “Now we can look and see if they have a little vision on the ice—if they already know where to go.”
Hill believes the improved quality of the players can be attributed directly to the number of girls who have gained experience playing in the Fort Frances minor hockey system.
“The last 10 years there’s been a lot more kids getting involved in girls’ hockey and I think now at the high school level we’re starting to see those kids come of age,” he said.
“When they started the program, a lot of kids moved over from ringette to girls’ hockey,” he added. “Now we’re seeing a lot of kids that have actually played league hockey all the way up through to the high school level.”
The increased talent on the ice has Hill excited about the possibilities for the upcoming season.
“We’ve been pretty impressed with a lot of the girls out here,” he enthused.
“I’m excited. I think once we go through a few practices and dryland [training], I think we’re going to be able to hold our own in the league this year.”
There certainly will be some fresh faces on this year’s squad, with no fewer than eight new players suiting up for the black-and-gold.
The young players will be asked to fill the void left by the departure of five veterans from last year’s team—something Hill thinks they are more than capable of doing.
“We’re impressed,” he said of the ability the rookies displayed in camp. “We’ve got a lot of younger players that I think might be able to fill the void a little bit.”
With selections for this year’s team made, the Muskies now will focus on preparing for their first game action when they host a tournament Oct. 27.
The team will travel to Manitoba a week later (Nov. 3) for one last tournament before the start of league play Nov. 7.
If all goes well, Hill hopes this season will be yet another step towards becoming perennial contenders for the NorWOSSA crown.
“Every year we take a few more steps forward,” he said. “Last year we won a few more league games and did things we hadn’t done before, so this year I think we can only build on that and be a little more successful.”