Hockey Is For Girls

Working on Hockey Is My Boyfriend, Part Three, I have been thinking a lot about women’s hockey. Our heroine, Kelly Tanaka, is dealing with the end of her competitive hockey career and what lies for her beyond hockey.

But in the real world, women’s hockey is alive and well. I was able to watch the All Star Game of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League on national television. The game itself wasn’t that great, but what was awe-inspiring was the camaraderie between the women playing on both teams. Although their expenses are covered, they play for no money—only for the chance to play at a high level and build the future of women’s hockey.

And speaking of the future, the crowd at All Star Game was made up mainly of young girls who love hockey. Girls don’t play hockey for the same reason as boys. There may be college opportunities but there is no money. There is no NHL paycheque at the end of the rainbow, or even work in the AHL, ECHL, or Europe. For the very best, there is only the tiny chance to play for the national team. Most girls play just because they love the game.

In today’s Globe and Mail, I read an article about backyard rinks, by the wonderful hockey writer Roy MacGregor. It’s filled with heart-warming reader photos and stories. One in particular moved me. It shows a photo of two young hockey players lit up on a small rink in the darkness, like an Edward Hopper painting. Here is Jan Krahenbil’s story:

“The rink was built this year by my husband for our two children. Our 11-year-old daughter asked for it in particular so she could practise her shooting. She has been out there for hours every day. We live on a busy street in Winnipeg and, since the rink is in the front yard, many cars drive by and honk as they see her skating by herself. One of the pictures was taken at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. On her own, she will wake up and bug her older brother to go out with her. He usually obliges, but when he doesn’t, she’ll be out there on her own that early in the morning. My husband and I argued the day he came home from Canadian Tire with a $400 bill for floodlights and extension cords, but given the amount of time our daughter spends out there, I now agree it was money well spent.”

Playing for the love of the game. It doesn't get any sweeter than that.