Three months after the British Para Ice Hockey Association (BPIHA) launched the nation’s women’s Para ice hockey programme, it has already recruited 27 athletes and will host its first national training camp beginning on Friday (29 October).
The three-day camp will be held in Liverpool at Planet Ice Widnes Arena, and will include on-ice and off-ice sessions, along with classroom sessions in order for the athletes to get to know each other, develop a team culture, and clarify their expectations and goals for the squad.
Athletes were recruited to the programme based on their Para ice hockey experience, background in other elite sports, and potential to classify in the sport based on their minimum level of impairment. Half of the group signed a “high-performance athlete agreement,” meaning they are highly likely to classify and would look to be a part of the selection process of the 2022 World Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge.
Peggy Assnick, a long-standing captain of Canada’s women’s Para ice hockey team since its formation in 2007, is taking on the head coaching role for the newly established team after previously serving as an assistant coach for Great Britain’s men’s team at the 2019 World Championships B-Pool. Ian Offers and Karl Nicholson are serving as the assistant coaches.
The athletes will be supported by 14 volunteers at the camp, who were recruited via social media and will be assigned to various areas such as medical, coach development, communications, equipment, fundraising and logistical support.
Coaches and staff are encouraging camp participants to post their experiences to social media using the hashtag #ChallengingTheWorld in order to spread the word about women’s Para ice hockey in the country.
Following the first training camp, the team hopes to plan one weekend camp every two months moving forward, and to support the athletes between camps off the ice.
The mission of the BPIHA women’s programme is to find people who are passionate about empowering women in the sport and to help establish a sustainable women’s Para ice hockey plan of action in response to World Para Ice Hockey’s call for national teams ahead of next year’s World Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge.
The Women’s World Challenge is expected to take place in either September or October of 2022 and will be a reoccurring event during the 2022-2026 quadrennial cycle. The event will be a stepping stone on the road to the first-ever Women’s World Championships in the future, with the goal of expanding female participation in Para ice hockey worldwide.