For Jodie Atkinson, hockey has been part of her life for over 30 years.
And, the longtime player-turned coach was recently recognized for her efforts as a guiding force in girls hockey in the region.
Atkinson was presented with the Fred Heslop Minor Hockey Award, one of only five to be handed out across the province this year to individuals who have made significant contributions to BC Hockey, their association, and community.
“I was surprised when I received the phone call,” she admits. “I actually had to do a search to find out who Fred was.”
Heslop, a 20-plus year volunteer from Trail and past president of BC Hockey, passed away in 2013
Atkinson and her twin sister, Stacy, grew up in Bonanza.
They played for a number of teams growing up, eventually ending up together on the University of Calgary Dinos women's team before playing a year in Switzerland.
As she celebrates her 39th birthday (for a second time) her passion for the sport and wanting to see its growth continues as a parent, her daughter following in her footsteps.
“The quality of play is incredible,” Atkinson says, when asked if the sport is gaining in popularity with girls and young women. “We're also getting more quality coaching and getting more girls in the game.”
There is one aspect, though, she tries to drive home.
“Hockey should always be fun and in order for it to be fun, it should be competitive as well. You can create fun in a competitive environment. Treat these girls like they're high-performance athletes. They improve, get better, and gain confidence."
One the objectives, she says, is not only attract girls into the sport but keep them playing as they grow up.
As popularity grows in the Peace, on both sides of the border, it's her wish to bring together enough teams to form an all-female league.
Right now, based on numbers, Dawson Creek's under-11 and under-13 teams are combined.
“I would love to have enough girls to form teams for each age-group both here in Dawson and Fort St. John where girls can play locally within their level.”
With a strong foundation and leadership, Atkinson believes “the sky is the limit.”