Immigrants in Canada Learn to Play Ice Hockey

Jade with Karima Mohammad Karim, 17, an immigrant who is learning how to play ice hockey

“A lot of these students have never stepped on the ice or been involved in a team sport,” said Pam Sandhu, vice principal of Princess Margaret Secondary School. The school is located in Surrey, in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC). I recently spoke with Sandhu about a new ice hockey program designed for girls in high school who are new to Canada. 

The program, which began in November 2023, is called Hockey 4 Youth. In Surrey, sponsoring organizations include the Canucks for Kids Fund, a nonprofit run by the National Hockey League team; the Surrey School District; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

“The students meet every Monday and are bussed over to the North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex,” Sandhu said. To date, 25 students are registered in the BC program. There is also a program in Toronto. All costs are covered by the organizations sponsoring the program. 

Many of the students immigrated to Canada from countries where organized sports for women and girls are limited. “The program allows the girls to put on the gear, step on the ice, and go skating for the first time,” said Sophie Gareau, the Hockey 4 Youth program coordinator in Surrey. “The ultimate goal is to break down barriers.” 


Jade with the Hockey 4 Youth team at the North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex 


I recently attended a Hockey 4 Youth practice to interview some of the players. “I’ve always had an interest in sports,” 17-year-old Karima Mohammad Karim told me. “I’ve learned so much throughout these few months.” Karima’s family immigrated to Canada from Afghanistan. 

For Jotsimran Kaur, 16, the opportunity arose from a teacher recommendation. “My teacher asked me to get involved because I’m an immigrant,” said Jotsimran, whose family moved to Surrey from India. She jumped at the chance to try a sport played on the ice.

As Sandhu said of the program, “It has instilled a lot of confidence in the girls. They have a camaraderie now.” 

For the participants, great coaches and program leaders make all the difference. “My favorite part is definitely the coaches,” Karima said. “They’re so kind.”

Jotsimran agreed. “They let us do anything on the ice,” she said. 

Having fun is the ultimate goal of Hockey 4 Youth, Gareau said. “We’re here to give newcomer kids the opportunity to play hockey,” she told me. “We’re here to see them smile and have fun on the ice.” 

Photos courtesy of the author