For the first time in history, Fort Frances will host the OFSAA 'A/AA' girls' hockey championships in 2022.
Chris Sinclair, who curently is the head coach of the Muskie boys' team, put together a bid for Fort Frances to host when he coached the girls' squad back in 2018-19, and it was accepted earlier this school year.
“So for every OFSAA championship, they accept bids up to three years in advance,” he explained.
“It's really quite an easy process as there is one form you need to fill out stating you would have the accommodations and the facilities available to host, as well as including names of potential committee members. From there, OFSAA reviews all the applicants and makes the selection. If there is only one bid then that school gets accepted. If there is more than one, then it goes to a more formal interview process.”
Sinclair said that his process to put the bid together to host began with talking to Fort Frances High School principal Jen Leishman, followed by getting the approval of the school and the Rainy River District School Board.
From there, he went to the Muskie girls' hockey Redline Club, which is comprised of parents of the girls on the team.
“At the time I was the coach of the girls' team, so I brought it up at one of our meetings and everyone was on board with the idea,” said Sinclair.
"Once I had everything put together, I sent the application in towards the end of last school year. At the beginning of the school year this year, I received an email back from OFSAA saying 'congratulations'. It was very exciting news for the girls' program, the school, and the community to be granted an opportunity to host an event like OFSAA.
“I made the announcement to the girls' team and their parents earlier this year, but didn't want to take away from the girls' season this year,” he explained
“So I haven't really talked about it too much, until now.”
Kenora was the last NorWOSSA-based place to host the girls' all-Ontarios back in 2015, where the Muskies won a silver medal for their all-time best outing at the provincial championship.
Current Muskie girls' assistant coach Amy Penner was the captain of that team.
Fort Frances has hosted several different OFSAA championships in the past, including boys' hockey and curling just within the past few years, but never girls' hockey.
“Each and every time Fort Frances hosts an OFSAA event, the school, the community, everyone gets behind it,” Sinclair lauded.
“It's amazing to see such a small town come together and I have no doubt that it will be much of the same in 2022 when the OFSAA girls' hockey championship comes to town.”
In terms of why Sinclair wanted to host OFSAA, he said that when he coached the girls back in 2018-19, most of them were in Grade 9, meaning that the majority of the team would be graduating seniors come 2022.
On top of that, another four of the Muskies were in Grade 10 who could potentially return as Grade 12+ students for that year.
Looking at the team the Muskies had, and the potential that the girls were capable of, he said it was a “no-brainer” to put the bid in to host in 2022.
“Having an OFSAA at home, playing in front of all their family and friends, I thought would be a great way for them to finish their high school hockey careers,” said Sinclair.
"I think it will be a great experience for the large group of girls who will be playing in their final year of hockey, and I know they are all excited for the opportunity.
“When deciding to coach the girls, I had a four-year plan with them,” he explained
"We would go through their high school hockey journey together. As mentioned, I had large group of Grade 9's on my team, and it was kind of like we would start at square one and see where we could get by Year 4 when we would host OFSAA, with the end goal being a potential gold medal.
“Myself and my coaching staff were on board, parents were on board, it seemed like it would be the perfect fit,” he continued.
Because of all that, Sinclair said it made his decision to leave the girls' team to coach the boys this past season all that much more difficult.
“I enjoyed my year coaching the girls, and although I wouldn't be coaching them anymore, I felt that going through with this would be a good way to give back to them,” he remarked.
“I felt they deserved this opportunity and convening this event for them and the girls' program would be a good way to support girls' hockey.”
Sinclair knows that 2022 is a long way away, but also feels that it will come quickly.
To host an event as big as OFSAA, it takes a lot of support and volunteers to make it a success.
“I have had a lot of people reach out already, but always appreciate any extra help in whichever ways possible,” he stressed.
“If you are interested in helping out with this event, please contact me at email@example.com.”