PRINCE ALBERT -- This weekend marks the 20th year Prince Albert has hosted its female hockey tournament.

Organizers believe it’s the longest running girls hockey tournament in Canada.

Forty-one teams from across western Canada, from Novice to Midget AA, are competing from Jan. 3-5.

“It really surprises a lot of people if they come to watch a game. You take your Bantam AA and the Midget AA, with the skill level of the game, it's entertaining,” said Prince Albert Minor Hockey tournament organizer Luc Robin.

The skill level in female hockey has risen significantly over the last 20 years because more girls are starting to play hockey at four or five years-old, Robin said.

Tournaments like this provide female teams with an opportunity to play their own age group and gender. Girls teams often play boys teams for practice.

Players from the Prince Albert Foxes said the back-to-back games have given them an opportunity to gel as team.

“I think it brings us closer all together as a team and as friends,” Julia Cey said.

The Bantam Double A league of 13 and 14 year olds was added to the tournament this year. It’s a development league for players looking to advance. The tournament provides an opportunity for players to get scouted to join Midget AAA teams.

“These girls are getting to experience at a higher pace and it's pushing them outside of their comfort zone so they have to think and react a lot quicker and it's providing them with new skills. Some of them are hoping - their goal is to play Midget AAA down the road and possibly even university or college,” said Carey Lehner, a parent of a player.

Prince Albert hosts the Esso Cup, the Canadian female midget championship, April 19 – 25, 2020. Organizers of the tournament said they want to capitalize on the momentum and are promoting weekend passes to the Esso Cup to fans.