Support girls hockey in the Portland area through partnership between WJH and RCHC

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In 2019, Winterhawks Jr. Hockey (WJH)--run by the Portland Winterhawks organization--took on the co-ed youth hockey program in Portland, which had previously been run by the non-profit, Portland Jr. Winterhawks. The 2019-2020 year saw girls hockey hold strong under a partnership between WJH and Rose City Hockey Club (RCHC), which was established in 2013 to create a thriving, affordable ice hockey program for girls that provides them with the skills needed to succeed on and off the ice. RCHC’s efforts over the last 7 years have opened up valuable opportunities for female players, both new and experienced, to play with girls. Several girls have played for both Winterhawks Jr. Hockey and Rose City Hockey club, gaining valuable - yet different - experience from each organization. The partnership model gives our girls choices, helping to grow girls hockey in the area. Across the nation, the rate of growth of girls hockey registrations is outpacing boys by more than 6 times; RCHC coaches and board members have the depth of knowledge and experience to turn these numbers into a successful program that is fun, accessible to girls at all levels, and competitive for elite athletes.

A new vision for the 2020-2021 season presented by Winterhawks Junior Hockey via an email on February 25th from Mike Johnston, Vice President and General Manager of the Portland Winterhawks, proposes to have the WJH organization run girls programming at the 10U and 12U levels - without cooperation from RCHC. This proposal threatens to terminate the RCHC-WJH partnership, leaving fewer opportunities for girls to play hockey with girls. The letter suggested the program would be an add-on to participation by female athletes in the co-ed WJH programs rather than an independent program; we recognize that this addition of girls programming is a positive move to provide more opportunities for girls. However, we believe this additional program does not replace the value of girls programming offered through RCHC and we feel that a partnership model will serve the girls better, particularly those in 14U and up.

We have some concerns with this proposal and regarding the dissolution of the WJH-RCHC partnership:

(1) Mr. Johnston's letter indicated that additional skills sessions will be held for girls in 10U and 12U, twice per month and with a separate budget; at this early stage, it is difficult to know how this will be managed, and we are concerned that low or variable enrollment could negatively impact opportunities for girls within a given season. 

(2)  What happens to the girls who are 14U and up? The letter made no mention of opportunities for girls at an age where female-specific programs are extremely valuable. 

(3) How will WJH ensure that girls vying for college scholarships have opportunities to be scouted? Most metropolitan areas of similar size to Portland have female hockey leagues at the 14U and above level, and scouts tend to attend female-specific tournaments rather than co-ed tournaments where far fewer girls compete; will WJH be able to ensure that our female athletes get the attention they deserve?

(4) Will WJH ensure that hockey is accessible to all girls? Currently, RCHC, as a non-profit, is able to offer scholarships to players in need, and the costs to participate are much lower than they are for WJH programs. This is a barrier for participation of some female players, particularly those whose are relatively new to the sport. In addition, RCHC welcomes players who are new to the game at all levels, believing that hockey is for everyone, not just elite athletes. 

As parents and supporters of RCHC, we want:

(1) RCHC to remain partners with Winterhawks Junior Hockey (WJH) and for both Associations to work together to provide complementary programming that allows our families to choose to participate with RCHC, WJH, or both;

(2) the Winterhawks to provide an ice contract to RCHC for the 2020/21 season by May 1 2020, with reasonable ice times at market price. This is essential both to allow RCHC to plan programming for the upcoming season and since 16Us participate in tryouts in May for programs in other states. Last year RCHC lost seven players in one birth year to WA and CA due to programmatic uncertainties. In 2020, RCHC has the opportunity to provide a state-wide Tier II Nationals-bound team for the first time  - if they can confidently ensure weekly ice slots for the team.

As parents interested in promoting girls hockey in the Portland area, we would like for Winterhawks Jr. Hockey Club to meet with Rose City Hockey Club to figure out how to move forward in a working partnership that offers complementary programming for the benefit of all players. The details and terms of the partnership should be formalized in writing, ideally with the articulation of plans for future growth and development of all of our young hockey players.

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