Twenty years ago, a partnership between Girl Scouts of the United States of America and USA Hockey wouldn't have been likely.
As this weekend at the Soldotna Sports Center shows, times have changed.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, just under 30 girls ages 5 to 13 participated in the Put the Biscuit in the Net Program. More than half of the participants were Girl Scouts. The program is a collaboration between USA Hockey and the Girls Scouts designed to expose girls to hockey.
"We want Girls Scouts to be responsive to the interests of the girls," said Joyce Cox, the field executive for the Susitna Council of Girl Scouts, which includes the Kenai Peninsula. "A lot of girls were interested in playing hockey, so we did this program."
In the 1990s, Girl Scouting had a renewed emphasis on physical fitness with the inauguration of a health and fitness national service project in 1994 and the GirlSports initiative in 1996.
Put the Biscuit in the Net is part of the GirlSports initiative. In 2003, Girls Scouts also took a new approach to serving girls ages 11 to 17 with the STUDIO 2B program. The approach involves more options for girls and a "by girls, for girls" philosophy.
At the same time, hockey has been a growing sport among girls and women. In the 1992-93 season, USA Hockey had just over 10,000 girls or women registered. By 2003, that number had grown to 48,483.
Put the Biscuit in the Net, started last year, is seen by USA Hockey as a great way to keep increasing the number of girls playing hockey and is seen by the Girl Scouts as a great way to promote fitness and serve the needs of its members.
Margo Dreyer, the Girls/Women's Pacific District Representative for USA Hockey, said the program was held in Alaska for the first time last year. This is the first time the program has been held on the peninsula.
The leader of the program at the Sports Center was Pam Dreyer, who is from Eagle River and now is a member of the U.S. national team. Dreyer, the daughter of Margo Dreyer, is one of two people in Alaska trained to lead Put the Biscuit in the Net.
The girls took to the ice for an hour to an hour and a half on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Friday, the girls were fit with gear donated by the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association. KPHA volunteers and Dreyer then helped teach the girls how to put on the gear.
Saturday, the girls were introduced to the "twig" and the "biscuit," or the stick and the puck. The girls also took a Girl Scout pledge that said they would use the stick properly.
Sunday, the girls played cross-ice games, received some awards and received a packet that included a patch, a hockey manual that went over what they had learned and a Girl Scouts brochure just in case they weren't already involved in that program.
"At a young age, kids learn things easier," Pam Dreyer said. "This is a great opportunity for them to start skating and playing hockey.
"They learn to skate and play hockey so quickly, they get a lot of positive reinforcement."
After the girls were off the ice, Rick Johnston, the coach of the KPHA Lady Hawks, gave a presentation to parents about how their daughters could get involved with hockey.
In 1999, Johnston started the Lady Hawks, who are the first all-girls team on the peninsula. He said the Put the Biscuit in the Net Program is a great way to expose girls to hockey.
The cost was $20 for Girl Scouts and $30 for those who are not Girl Scouts. Parents did not have to take the risky step of buying gear for their daughters only to find out they didn't like the sport.
Ted Barton, the president of KPHA, said every effort would be made to keep girls who keep playing supplied with gear. Barton said cost is a big reason parents are fearful about getting involved in hockey, and that is why KPHA is doing things like waiving the registration fee for the first 100 4- to 6-year-olds to sign up this season.
"The girls all seemed to have a great time," Margo Dreyer said. "They fell down, but they got up and persevered. We haven't had any tears, which is good.
"The parents also were very receptive."
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