Over the next two weekends, Meadow Park Sports Centre will host the Women's Spring Fling, with 24 teams and over 200 players vying for titles in four different divisions.
But it'll all be done with an eye toward the future.
Organizer Melissa Talaro said all proceeds from the tournament will go to the Grindstone Award Foundation. She has known Grindstone founder and former professional player Danielle Grundy for many years, and after attending a Grundy-run tournament in Kelowna last year, was inspired to organize one of her own. When the chance to take over the Spring Fling came up, it seemed like a perfect opportunity.
"I always want to leave a legacy behind," she said. "Who else better to do it than the Whistler Women's Hockey League running the show? As a succession plan for our league, the development of female hockey is a great (initiative) to be a part of.
"In five or 10 years, when we start retiring, who's going to take over? The kids in our community ... We just went backwards and thought of the grassroots."
The Grindstone Award Foundation seeks to make the game accessible to girls who might not otherwise be able to play because of financial considerations.
Talaro said she didn't start playing until she was 20 because she couldn't afford to play as a child.
"I thought (that) I need to break down those barriers for these kids," she said. "We have so many opportunities in Whistler to play so many different sports, but I wanted to focus on hockey. It made sense to combine the two, the foundation and running the tournament."
The weekend will also include a free camp for women and girls ages five and over to try the game on Saturday, May 5 at 1 p.m.
University of British Columbia assistant coach Dom Di Rocco will join Grundy, who played for Dartmouth College and in Switzerland, former Mercyhurst University player Dani Ayearst, and midget-level coach Michaela Case will also be on hand. Players need skates, a stick and a helmet.
"We're trying to grow the game, from minor hockey to youth hockey to girls' hockey also up to women's hockey," Grundy said. "We want to be a machine that spreads that positive message.
"It's a natural progression that we would want to offer something like this to the locals in the community.
"(Talaro) was excited by what we were doing and she really wanted to do something for others in her hometown," Grundy added.
At last summer's tournament in Kelowna, the foundation raised enough money to support 10 players all over the country.
"We're just getting started," Grundy said. "We're one of the only charities that supports only female hockey players, so we're doing something that's kind of rare."
Grundy said those interested in applying can do so at grindstoneaward.com before the Aug. 1 application deadline.
"We go through the applications and determine the amount of need and determine who the grants go to," she said.
Grundy said at every level of hockey, female players are a step behind where they should be, which is why she hopes to draw more attention to the game.
Talaro is already looking ahead to 2019, as she hopes to find ways to provide grants to Whistler Secondary School students or Mount Currie residents.
Talaro has competed in the tournament in previous years, but is in her first year at the reins.
"It's bigger than I thought—it was going to be six to eight teams and then thought, 'You can do more,'" she said. "I brought it up to 12 each weekend, and it's been fun trying to coordinate 24 women's teams."
Talaro said the tournament was always circled on her calendar when she and her team finished their regular season in Vancouver, and she was eager to see it continue.
"It was the last road trip (of the season)," she said.
This weekend's action, running from May 4 to 6, will comprise of the A and B divisions while next weekend will see the C and D division teams compete from May 11 to 13. Teams will come from as far as the North Peace Region, Kamloops, Kelowna, Port Alberni, Courtenay, Nanaimo, Victoria and two from Seattle in addition to the Lower Mainland squads.
Talaro also plans to hold a silent auction in support of the Humboldt Strong Community Foundation during the second weekend. The charity will support families of the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last month. Anyone interested in providing a draw prize can contact Talaro at email@example.com.
Warm's season ends
Whistler goalie Beck Warm saw his Western Hockey League season end on Monday night.
The Tri-City Americans fell 6-5 in overtime to the Everett Silvertips in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. The Silvertips will face the Swift Current Broncos for the WHL championship starting Friday.
Warm appeared in two postseason games, recording a win to go along with a 1.80 goals against average and .917 save percentage.
Cruz fourth in World Cup debut
Lucas Cruz was just off the podium in his first-ever UCI World Cup downhill race in Croatia on April 21.
At Losinj, the Pemberton rider posted a time of two minutes, 30.79 seconds (2:30.79), about five seconds back of winner Thibaut Daprela of France. Great Britain's Kade Edwards and Australia's Kye A'hern took the other podium spots.
In the men's elite division, Whistler's Finn Iles struggled to a 56th-place finish. American Aaron Gwin took the win over countryman Luca Shaw and Australia's Dean Lucas.