Wow, girls play hockey?

April 6, 2023   ·   0 Comments

It was winter, 1971. I was in grade six and Women’s rights was about to come to my little town in a surprising and unexpected way.

The grade eight girls of the Town School challenged the grade eight girls of my Township School to a hockey game at the local arena the next Saturday!

While this is hardly news nowadays, it was huge news in the two schools at the time because back then girls only took figure skating lessons and participated in rope-skipping and whatever other limited female-oriented activities were available to them at the time. The only time girls were ever involved in hockey back then was when they were cheering on the boys who were playing in the games.    

It was such a big deal at the time that I begged my parents to take me in to the arena in town that Saturday to see the game. They had to go to town anyways so they just dropped me off at the arena before game time and then went about their business in town. There was no admission at the door so I just scampered in and found a good seat along the boards near the blue line.  

It was hardly a riveting event. It was just a bunch of girls, in full equipment and mismatched sweaters, ankle-ing around the ice in white women’s figure skates while chasing the puck. They would swat at the puck when it came close to them or try to carry the puck down to the other end of the ice before they got stick-checked by someone on the other team.

Everybody was doing the absolute best they could, and none of them had ever really played hockey before. But they were giving it all they had and that’s all anyone could ever ask from a good Canadian hockey player.

Most of the girls out there couldn’t even raise the puck off the ice when they took a shot, and the first two goals of the game were shots that were scored along the ice. But with the score tied 1-1 one of our Township girls got the puck in the slot in the Town team’s zone and actually raised the puck off the ice with her shot. She beat the Town goalie over her glove hand and a cheer went up from the small but enthusiastic crowd!

That turned out to be the winning goal as our Township School beat the Town School by a final score of 2-1. Our girls were the heroines of the school for a week after that!

As a boy of that generation, I realized that day I had witnessed something unique: It was girls playing hockey, something I had never seen before and at the time thought I would never see again. 

And while it was just one little game in one little town, you had to give our girls credit back then for having the courage to do something totally unconventional for women at the time: playing hockey, an entirely male-dominated sport throughout the ages until now. 

And all the girls who play hockey today are standing on the shoulders of the girls from generations before them who had the courage to say they wanted to play hockey, regardless of how the rest of the world might view them for doing so at the time.

And all girls and women around the world who love playing hockey today are much the better for it.  

(Best of luck to Team Canada at the 2023 Women’s World Hockey Championships being played in Brampton, Ontario, April 5th-16th. Bring home the Gold!)    

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