GANANOQUE, ONT. -- Girls hockey is taking off in Gananoque, Ont.

In the last year the town has seen an uptick in the amount of girls of all ages signing up to hit the ice.

From skating to stickhandling, when it comes to hockey, 11-year-old Jude Campbell loves it all. 

“I personally like shooting at the net and getting goals,” she says.

The centre for the under 13 Gananoque Royals team is one of a growing group of young girls in the town hitting the ice this season. 

 “If I have the puck and I’m skating I just feel like I’m on top of the mountains or something,” she explains.

This season, the Gananoque Royals have teams in the U9, U13, U15 and U18 divisions. 

Before the pandemic, house league organizers say they saw a large drop in the number of kids signing up of all ages and struggled to fill teams, but this season saw more than a dozen new faces lace up, from ages of 7 to 18.

Samantha Kelly, the president of the Gananoque Girls Hockey Association, says a big part is the pandemic and people wanting to try out the sport.

“We were able to have a U9 team which we haven’t had in a few years. We were able to have two U18 teams which is fantastic. Our U13 team was massive,” she explains. 

Ruby Campbell, who plays centre for the U15 Royals, says for her getting to know her teammates in her own hometown was the best part. 

“This year, our team has like, a really strong bond,” she explains. 

Campbell says having local female teams at all levels is important to inspire younger female players, and those who may be thinking of giving it a try. 

“Looking to the U18 players seeing them successful seasons year-after-year and going, ‘Oh I want to do that.’ I want to be that successful,” she says.

Kayden Moorehead plays for the Under 18 team, and says she loves it.

“I feel empowered almost, because you can change the game by making a certain play or communication with your team,” she says. “It just makes me feel powerful.”

With more players set to sign up next year, the town’s league continues to grow, and the 16 year old hopes to keep the momentum going. 

“It’s a really fun game,” she says.