Aasha Brah loves playing hockey with her twin brother, Armaan.
But because the 10-year-old says she’s not a very good skater, their games are confined to chasing a hard orange ball around the driveway of their Port Coquitlam home, taking shots at the garage door.
New girls-only divisions being started by the Tri-City Minor Ball Hockey Association (TCMBHA) will give Aasha a chance to develop her stick handling and shooting skills on an equal footing with Armaan.
The president of TCMBHA, Aman Brah — yes, he’s Aasha and Armaan’s father — said the formation of the new U13, U16 and U19 female-only divisions will give players who want to discover and grow into the game at their own competitive pace an opportunity to play without the physical aspects that can be a component of co-ed divisions.
Brah said the new girls’ teams will be able to play opponents from Richmond, Surrey, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver, where female programs have already been established.
He said the time is right for the Tri-City association to get in the game as newcomers to hockey want to learn about it without the pressure of having to be proficient skaters and experienced ice hockey players look for an off-season activity that can sharpen their abilities and maintain their fitness.
Brah said female players are a growing cohort among the TCMBHA’s nearly 500 members who play in age brackets from five- and six-year-old Tykes to U21.
He said ball hockey’s low cost for equipment compared to the sport’s ice version is an allure; players need just a stick, helmet and gloves, as well as shin guards and soft elbow pads.
The ball hockey season runs concurrently with the box lacrosse season.
That sometimes makes it tough to attract players and secure floor time in the three facilities — the Poirier Forum, Port Coquitlam Community Centre and Port Moody Rec Centre — where games and practices are played. But the inclusive nature of the sport keeps the benches populated.
“As long as you can run, you can play floor hockey,” Brah said.
Aasha Brah said she developed her love for playing hockey watching her brother play ice hockey in the PoCo Pirates program since he was five years old. But her lack of skating proficiency kept her from trying the game herself.
In the driveway, though, Aasha said she can deke around Armaan, wire a pass to the blade of his stick and make the garage door rattle with her shot.
“I feel I’m pretty good,” she said. “If I play longer, I think I can beat him.”
Armaan shakes off the challenge. He said practising ball hockey with his sister makes him better on the ice as he’s able to focus on developing his shot and stickhandling abilities.
But, when pressed, he admits he’s disappointed he’s not able to compete with his sister on the ice.
“I’d actually show her how good I am,” he said.
The TCMBHA is holding a free “Try Ball Hockey” event at the Poirier Forum on Feb. 11 – 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. is co-ed, and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. is girls only.
Interested players are required to register at the association’s website and they must have a CSA-approved helmet with cage, hockey gloves and a stick.
Registration for regular season play closes on Feb. 28.