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Playing in the Canadian PCAHA Female League

By WWFHA Staff Writer, 05/19/17, 8:00AM PDT


What is PCAHA?

The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association (PCAHA) governs minor hockey in the Lower Mainland district of BC Hockey in Canada, including the area from Hope to the Sunshine Coast. The PCAHA's membership consists of 42 minor hockey associations and 2 above-minor leagues. Approximately 19,700 male and female players aged 5 to 20; 6,000 coaches, managers, and other team officials; 2,100 referees; and many other volunteers participate in the game of hockey within the PCAHA.

WWFHA is one of twelve (12) female associations in the PCAHA female hockey league. The Female League is overseen by a Female Managing Director, and each association is allocated one vote for any league business.

WWFHA supports four Washington Wild teams in PCAHA--double the number from several years ago. The Washington Wild teams that participate are two at the U19 age group, both which play in the PCAHA 17U division, another at the 14U and one at the 12U age levels.

Washington Wild teams are considered guests in the female division, as PCAHA votes each year whether or not to accept the organization and each team for the season. Although originally a non-voting member, WWFHA’s long standing support of and cooperation with PCAHA over the last fifteen years has earned us an invitation to be a voting member for years now.

Washington Wild play in the following female divisions in PCAHA:

  • 17U A Midget - 19U Rep Tier 2/AA team
  • 17U C Midget - 19U Rep Tier 3/A team
  • 14U Bantam - 14U Rep Tier 2/AA team
  • 12U Peewee - 12U Rep Tier 2/AA team

The Benefits of Playing in PCAHA Female Division(s)

Playing in PCAHA provides WWFHA’s student-athlete the highest level of age-specific female hockey in the Pacific Northwest. Beyond the physical, personal character and social benefits of playing the sport of ice hockey, playing age-specific all-girl hockey allows the player to be challenged by her peers, which spurs rapid development. Simultaneously, she learns the high level female game that college and national teams play.

Head Coach Brian Idalski of the University of North Dakota (UND) says,

  • "We want players to have at least 4-5 years of playing girl's hockey, as we don't have the time in college to help them make the transition.
  • We recruit players from female leagues and tournaments - we go to a few scouted tournaments a year and then off-season camps.
  • I not in favor of tournament-only teams [teams that don’t practice and play together in a regular league] because they don’t focus on development." (players consistently practicing together)

Kelly Katorji, independent women's college hockey scout and owner of the Rush Programs and the prestigious women's Beantown Classic tournament mentioned the importance of playing all-female hockey,

  • "It is fine to play boys’ hockey when you first start playing and especially when there is no other place to play. 
  • However, consider making the transition to all-girl hockey when it is available so you can get used to the game, develop in the girls system, and be on teams that are seen and scouted.
  • Realize that the girls’ path to college hockey is completely different from the boys’ route to college hockey."

What about Driving Time?

Washington Wild teams provides home ice through The SportsPlex in Bellingham, per the provisions in the PCAHA contract for WWFHA to participate in the league. Teams play home games in Bellingham and away games in the Lower Mainland, BC.

Many new players and parents to WWFHA’s PCAHA teams worry about the 1.15 hour drive (from Highland Ice Arena) to Bellingham for home games and approximate 2+ hour drive to Canadian rinks.

Unlike the boy’s PCAHA league, ninety-eight percent of all our games, home and away, occur on the weekends, allowing for fewer late nights and missed school. And this year, each team will play 2 games (home and away) on the same day; thus, reducing additional monies for overnight stays in hotels.

Unlike the boys’ Rep teams whom have to travel the mountain passes for games 2+ hours away, the route to play female PCAHA games is on a flat I-5 highway.

While the drive initially seems burdensome, our families carpool and make great use of travel time by doing homework and connecting with family and teammates. Unfortunately, hockey across the country requires traveling long distances; some female teams in the Midwest and in California travel over 4 hours to games, or even fly to league games.

Fortunately, the proximity of the US/Canadian border allows players in our area to compete against high caliber female teams. Players and families tell us they get used to the drive, and even enjoy the time together on the road!

Studying on the Road – Advice from Veteran Players

WWFHA knows that success in school is as important as, if not more so, success on the ice, especially if a player aspires to play college hockey. The veteran players actively create time to study and do homework around their hockey schedule. Mastering study scheduling is a critical time-management skill for college, whether you play hockey or not. If you have questions or need advice, we will connect you with a veteran player for tips. See below for a couple of common practices.

  • Travel to Bellingham/Canada: Many players complete homework and study while driving to/from games and practices. They also hit the books in the locker room and rink before/after team activities.
  • Tournaments: When players miss at least one day of school for a tournament, team coaches and managers set time aside between games/meetings/meals for “study hall”. 

The General PCAHA Schedule

  • September:
    • PCAHA allows teams to set up exhibition games in the month of September; with prior approval.
    • The coaches and manager of each team schedule their exhibition games. The individual team’s slush fund covers the cost of ice and referees.
  • End of September - October:
    • PCAHA holds tiering games to determine a team’s placement in their age division. During this period, expect to play teams much stronger or much weaker than your own.
  • End of October:
    • PCAHA places your team in an appropriate strength division based on the results of the tiering games. They provide the game schedule for October – December.
  • January:
    • PCAHA adjustments the divisions based on the results of the first half of the season, and then they provide the game schedule for January – March.


What Players Need for PCAHA

  • PCAHA Registration Form
    • WWFHA’s Registrar, Adam Young, sends you a PCAHA registration form if the player has never previously played in the league. Adam registers all WWFHA players participating in the PCAHA female league.
  • Neck Guards
    • Canadian safety rules require all girls to wear neck guards during all games regardless of location. Play It Again Sports in Lynnwood (16929 WA-99 #110, Lynnwood, WA 98037) sells a variety.
  • Mouth Guards
    • USA Hockey safety rules require all girls to wear mouth guards on the ice at all times--both at practice and during games. Coaches ask players to leave the ice if they don’t use a mouth guard during practice. On ice officials assess penalties to players not wearing mouth guards appropriately during games, regardless of location.

Additional Tournaments

  • The coaching staff and board select tournaments in the US and Canada for each team that enhances the PCAHA schedule, that best furthers development and, for the highest level teams, provide exposure to collegiate scouts. All tournaments and exhibition games must first be approved by the PCAHA Female Managing Director.
  • After PCAHA approval, each team’s manager re-schedules PCAHA games such that the team can attend tournaments; thus, be prepared to play three games in one weekend to make up for PCAHA games that would be otherwise missed because of tournaments.

Link to PCAHA Rinks

The US / Canadian Border

WWFHA recommends that you plan ample time for the US/Canadian border crossing. If you haven’t done so already, register for NEXUS passes to expedite crossings. NOTE: if you are interested in NEXUS, register ASAP. The wait time for an interview can be significant.

You can choose your interview site. Generally, Blaine’s wait time is shortest. When using the NEXUS lane, EVERY occupant of the vehicle MUST bear a NEXUS card—otherwise, you MUST use the general lanes.

Border Forms / Carpooling

If you drive a player other than your own, WWFHA recommends bringing the attached travel form. You and your guest player’s parents complete and sign it prior to travel across the border. Border agents frequently ask you to present this completed form (or one substantially similar).

Cell Phone / Data Plans in Canada

Prior to embarking on your first trip to Canada, check with your cell phone provider about data and roaming charges in Canada; prevent surprises on your bill. In many cases, cell phone provider offer free texting. To check email, find free Wi-Fi—arena coverage is generally spotty.


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