This past weekend the Saskatchewan Hockey Association held the annual SaskFirst Program camp and quite a few Weyburn Richardson Pioneer Gold Wings were in attendance.
Those of the team who went included Tori McNabb, Jayden Baker, Karleigh Mackenzie, Kira Barham, Reece Pittman, Lexi Peace, Kiley Davis, Dakota Bowler, Lauren Demmans, Kate Goranson, Sara Auchstaetter and Hailey Verhelst.
The Gold Wings participated in the Female Program which has an under-18 category and an under-16 category. The under-16 program allows girls to be identified and be provided more opportunities at a younger age. The under-18 program is about identifying girls for an under-18 provincial team to participate in the Hockey Canada program of excellence.
Other programs included in the camp are the SaskFirst 14 male program and the SaskFirst midget program. The 14 male program identifies players who will move into the Hockey Canada program of excellence. The midget program gives kids who are late bloomers the opportunity to be recognized and still get opportunities in elite hockey.
Each program has its own camp where the players are split into teams and have a tournament against one another. The Female U18 group played in Southey and the Female U16 group played in Dalmeny. The male midget group were split into two groups with the North Camp playing in Aberdeen and the South Camp playing in Lumsden.
Those selected to move on from each of the programs will once again attend camp from April 10-12 in Regina and will again compete in a tournament in their category.
The male bantam group had the Top 160 Tournament in late December and have the Top 80 Tournament the weekend of Feb.14-16 in Balgonie.
“The SaskFirst Program was introduced by the Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA) in 1988 and since that time the program has brought great pride and accomplishment within our province. The SaskFirst Program was designed to provide a better understanding of the game as well as to promote the development of quality players, coaches, trainers, officials and administrators. The participants are enriched as individuals and can achieve self-satisfaction and enjoyment as part of the hockey community.
The SaskFirst Program promotes a team concept which encompasses the pursuit of common goals. It is emphasized that everyone on the team must pursue their personal goals within the team environment and that no one individual is more important than the team. Team success comes from all team members melding their talents, skills and energies toward the achievement of the team's goals.
Players who participate in the SaskFirst program have their on-ice abilities tested, but also undergo off-ice evaluation and interviews as well as fitness testing. In the end, the players who are selected to move on to the next phase of this elite program prove to be good hockey players and most importantly good people.
All those who take part in the SaskFirst program know they are evaluated based on their hockey IQ, skills, ability and competitive level as well as their intensity, character, and attitude. The SHA believes that all Team Saskatchewan players must be elite in all aspects, which includes both on and off the ice.” (From the SHA website)