This story was published in the Winter 2023 edition of Total Sports Quinte magazine
Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Girls Ball Hockey Leagues is expanding to the Quinte area region in 2023.
After launching successful leagues in Whitby and Cobourg in recent years, Andee Kitchen – now a Belleville resident – is adding Stirling and Napanee to the mix.
Teams stay within their own centre and the leagues operate independently of each other, but all fall under GBHL.
Seasons are expected to begin in April and run for 10 weeks. In Stirling, teams will play Thursday evenings while Napanee ladies will play Tuesday nights and the younger female participants will have scheduled games Mondays and Wednesdays.
While it can be competitive with talented players on the floor, it’s also fun. Kitchen noted women in their 60s and 70s signing up in the leagues.
“It’s quite diverse and anybody can play,” she said.
Kitchen has been thrilled by the early response in the Quinte area. By mid-January registration was completed for four teams – considered the target number to operate each age group – in the Stirling Performers Ladies Ball Hockey League.
Now a six-team league is within reach for the league that will play out of Stirling Arena. Eighteen players and two goalies are needed to make that happen.
GBHL has a great offer for anyone willing to be a goalie – registration is free. In fact, there’s no cost to play at all.
“You don’t have to pay to play and we provide the equipment if you need it so it’s a win-win for everybody,” Kitchen said.
One player in another league had no previous goaltending experience, but didn’t want her team to fold, Kitchen recalled. She had a son who was a goalie and decided she would give it a try, watching some videos online to help her prepare. It was challenging, but she had fun and is returning to the crease again.
Kitchen said the leagues have provided a great opportunity for mothers or single ladies to have something to do for themselves.
Her own ball hockey journey began in Oshawa.
“I started playing in 2008 and had no idea what I was doing,” she said.
Her late wife Tracy was into refereeing and coaching ball hockey. In fact, in 2018 they went to the World Championships with the Canadian U20 team that won gold. Those players really only had co-ed leagues to play in and many dealt with bullying from fellow players and staff.
That inspired Kitchen to create GBHL. She launched the Whitby league in 2019 and had 400 participants from ages 5 to 75 before COVID shutdowns slowed things down for a couple of years.
Cobourg’s league was supposed to start in 2020, but was delayed a year. Still ladies have had fun and she expects many to return in addition to new players. Still, Kitchen is hoping to reach more.
“There’s so many that have no idea that it’s an option,” she said.
Kitchen wasn’t sure if she would be able to expand to this area, but it’s been successful so far.
“It’s all about floor time and who has it and who’s willing to give it to you,” she said. “The experience has been nothing short of fantastic.”
Registrations are also starting to come in for the Napanee Valkyrie Girls Ball Hockey League. Younger divisions are for Under-10, Under-12 and Under-15. There are still spaces left for the adult league as well. Don’t forget, goalies are free at all age levels.
“It’s so great to see the expansion because now it’s going to allow more teams for provincials, more opportunities for these girls, more stretch for the nationals and worlds teams,” Kitchen said.
For more details and to register, check out girlsballhockey.ca