The Kevin Bell Arena will be busy this weekend as women hockey players from around the state meet for the annual Jamboree tournament.
Homer’s Karen Weston has been with the local Hockey Divas since she first moved to Homer in February 2006. It was the first winter the 30,000 foot Kevin Bell Arena, located on the Homer Spit, was open to the public.
Things have changed since then.
“We have gotten a lot better! Back then, I don’t think there was anyone who had grown up playing. Now we have women on the team who have had far more experience: they played as youth, in high school and college.
“When I watch the women who grew up playing hockey it’s just a different world. They don’t think about their skating, they don’t think about how they handle their sticks. It’s a different deal.”
The group originally started to encourage and increase participation at when the rink first opened.
Chip Duggan was the first sponsor of the women’s team, originally called “Duggan’s Divas.”
There are several women who have participated since the beginning: Leslie Slater, Emily Hutchinson and Jessie Cashman. About 40 or 50 women now play regularly.
The Divas practice twice each week and have games with the Kenai Queens monthly. There are state tournaments available for participation also, depending on can and want to attend.
The tournament this weekend is the Homer Jamboree.
A jamboree-style tournament means each participant signs up as an individual and then the teams are made up of all the various participants from around the state.
“This makes it more of a focus on the fun of being together and playing hockey rather than competition because you can’t get too serious if you’ve never played with the people on your team,” Weston said.
Where this tournament falls in the year, “we’ve really made it a place for new skaters to feel comfortable and have a good time. It’s just a celebration of women’s hockey,” she said.
The tournament will include people from all over the state: Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks.
“I think we have over 100 women registered. We have a waiting list this year! It should have a good impact on Homer’s winter tourism,” Weston said.
“There’s always room for more women to join the Divas. We’re happy to help people find the gear they need. It’s pretty fun! A great way to spend the winter.”
The tournament games begin Friday night and go through Sunday morning. A schedule is available on the Kevin Bell Arena website at www.kevinbellarena.org.