A brand new, all-girls regional hockey team is taking to the ice.
The NWO Mystix is a collaborative effort made up of 17 girls born in 2012 from six communities. The communities participating in this new team are Sioux Lookout, Lac Seul, Dryden, Fort Frances, Ear Falls and Red Lake.
“It’s really opened up the door for our girls to go out and have some fun,” says Mystix head coach Doug Pierce.
Pierce has been involved with youth sports in Sioux Lookout for over 10 years. During that time, he has coached his son and daughter in their hockey, soccer and baseball teams.
When his daughter transitioned from skating to hockey, Pierce noticed that there was a large number of girls playing in mixed hockey throughout the region and weren’t able to develop their skills.
Pierce knew from seeing girls playing in older all-girls leagues that they were able to really flourish in their abilities when not on mixed teams. The all-girl leagues also helped build the players build strong friendships as well as self confidence.
Living in a small town, Pierce knew that options for girls’ sports programs were limited. However, the talent was very much there within the communities. Most of the girls on the Mystix had already been playing on mixed AA teams.
In February, after a tournament in Sioux Lookout, Pierce began speaking with the parents in other communities and noticed that they felt the same lack of girls only programs. Each of the communities on their own could not have made their own teams, with only a small number of serious female players. By puling the six communities together, it became a possibility.
This inspired Pierce to create the region's first ever all girl’s hockey team. In early March, the Mystix was officially formed. The girls started out not really knowing each other, but quickly started bonding during practises and drills.
“It’s amazing seeing the friendships form and bonds being made," says Pierce. “They’re really coming together.”
He also knew the importance of having women team leaders and so he brought on a female assistant coach, trainer, two young women to promote positive female role models.
“We’re building something here that we can carry on as the girls get older,” says Pierce.
The Mystix played in their first tournament in Winnipeg on April 21 and 22 against a league of older girls. They will be playing their next tournament over May 25-weekend.
“The first tournament had really helped the girl’s bond and be more prepared for their next one,” says Mystix social media manager Dan Sutton.
Earlier this week, The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) donated $10,000 to the Mystix regional hockey team to attend the Minnesota Summer Finale tournament in Minneapolis from Aug. 25-27.
The Mystix has been surrounded by an outpouring of support from each of the six communities. With large donations from NWMO, Evolution Mining, Hartley Road Rescue and Wabigoon Fire, the girls have only had to pay $100 in registration fees.
Practises have been held in Dryden, with plans to hold the next one in Eagle Lake as it is one of the only arenas outside of Thunder Bay still with ice in for the season. The girls will get the summer off, and will hopefully see the return of the ice for some practice before they head to Minneapolis.
“These tournaments, this extended season, these come with huge costs and its not easy to do; if it weren’t for our sponsors stepping up, we really wouldn’t have been able to do it,” says Pierce. “The private businesses and the mom-and-pop shops have been so willing to donate and that is so humbling.”