Women’s hockey has travelled a long, and often sexist road since its inception.
Back in the 1890s it was played primarily at the university level and, until 1914, most women participating were expected to wear long skirts. The referees were men, and if a female player fell to the ice, play was stopped while the referee helped them back to their feet.
But for Joanne Maclaren, there has never been any question that girls belong on the ice.
She is the co-manager of the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies Midget female hockey team and the 17 players, aged 15 to 17, on her team are a hardworking, competitive group of young athletes.
“Our group has what is probably one of the longest standing associations with female hockey anywhere and we’re very proud of our girls. They play a very tough game and they love the sport,” Maclaren said.
“And they take it seriously. They practice hard and do their dry land training, just like any boys team. More than some boys teams, in fact.”
Although the female midget league has suffered some setbacks this year with registration – with both Victoria and Peninsula teams dropping out – she explained that her team’s dedication to the game has not wavered.
“We travel the Island to get our games, going to Nanaimo, Campbell River, Port McNeill. We go wherever we have to go. This year we’ll also be hosting a tournament and hope to attract teams from as far away as Calgary.”
But, after 20 years of involvement in the game, it’s a tournament at the end of December that now has Maclaren excited.
“We’re traveling to Kalispell, Montana from Dec. 27 to 31 to take part in the Montana Winter Ice Classic. It’s taken a long time to get all the approvals we needed to travel outside the country to play, but we have everything in place and the girls are very excited.”
One of the features of the tournament that has most intrigued the team is the fact that the venue is outdoors.
“We’re West Coast girls, and most of our team has never played an outdoor game. But they just built a big outdoor venue there and we’re just thrilled to be one of the first teams to play a tournament there,” Maclaren said.
One difficulty of the ambitious trip is the cost and, in an effort to defray some of the expenses, the team will be at a variety of retail locations this Saturday, Dec. 16, selling Krispy Kreme donuts and accepting donations.
The girls will be in Langford outside Quality Foods, Canadian Tire, Western Foods and the Market on Millstream, and Colwood’s Thrifty Foods.
“These girls are like a family. Many of them have been playing together since they were three or four years old and have grown up together. We’ve been past league champions and the girls have really earned the right to go to this tournament. We hope the community supports us so that we can make this trip happen.”