The Toronto Leaside Wildcats are committed to advancing women’s hockey here in the heart of Toronto. But following the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, we saw an opportunity to play a part in the development of the sport outside of Canada—specifically, in countries whose female hockey programs were in the early stages of development.
Since 2010 we have, on four occasions, hosted the Women’s National Team of China. The Chinese team has played exhibition games, hosted by Toronto Leaside Wildcats, against the Laurier Golden Hawks (CIS), the Leaside Wildcats Sr. AA team, and, in the past two seasons, against our Intermediate AA Jr. Wildcats. As more national women’s teams come to Ontario for training and development, the Association will continue to work with the OWHA to provide opportunities for these teams to compete against Wildcats teams.
In 2012 we expanded our commitment to international development and hosted a player from the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation’s national program. This midget-aged player came to Toronto for 6 weeks and was rostered with one of our Midget teams, billeting with two Leaside Wildcats families. During her time in Toronto, the player was able to participate in TLGHA games, tournaments, practices, and team training. This proved to be an incredible development opportunity for this player—one that was so successful that in 2013, the Wildcats hosted three midget-aged players and one senior player from New Zealand’s National Women’s Team. Each of these players benefited enormously from exceptional instruction, development, and game experience. The Association plans to keep this program available to international players and is working to build a framework that can be shared with other IIHF women’s and U18 programs.
This season, the Wildcats sent a team to Spain to play an exhibition series against the Spanish National Women’s team. Spain was preparing for the IIHF Division 2B World Championships and was eager to have some solid competition as a part of their training camp. This was an exceptional experience for both the Spanish and the Leaside teams. As with our player billet program, we are working with key players at the OWHA and local ice hockey federations to see if we can take this initiative forward for more teams in more countries in the years ahead.
These initiatives are a unique component of the Toronto Leaside Wildcats programming. We are grateful for the support of countless volunteers and, especially, of the host families who make these opportunities possible. For more highlights of these experiences, check out our Facebook page for pictures and updates on these and other Wildcats experiences.