Hit The Ice: Women In Men's Hockey

By Leslie Dawe

Think of a Hockey player, any one. Is it a boy or a girl? Most people that I have spoken to say that the hockey player they think of is a boy. PK Suban, Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, and just about anyone else. But what about the women in hockey? Angela James, Haley Wickenheiser, Marie-Philip Poulin, Rebecca Johnston, and the other strong women are just as important to the hockey world. There are so many young girls who do not see that they can be one of the best in hockey because when they think of hockey, they always think of the NHL (National Hockey League) and the individuals who play for teams such as the Montréal Canadians, Boston Bruins, and Florida Panthers.

Plot twist: they are all men.

The Olympics introduced women’s hockey in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted in favour of women’s hockey in 1992. As stated on the Olympic site, “Having featured as a men’s Olympic sport for the previous 78 years, women’s ice hockey made its first appearance on the Olympic programme at Nagano 1998.” This was in an effort to increase the number of female competitors at the Olympic games. At the 1998 Olympics, the United States won gold.

In the NHL, the players are all men, but Manon Rheaume, a strong woman, broke the ice for women playing hockey at the NHL level. She became the first woman to play in the NHL back in 1992, playing in net for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the St. Louis Blues in an exhibition contest. She also only allowed two goals on the nine shots when she played against the Boston Bruins. According to ‘Women in the NHL: An idea on ice’ by ESPN, “Since then, no woman has played in an NHL game of any kind.” In a Sports Net article, Manon Rheaume said, “When I was younger, so many times people said no to me to play at a higher level, like AAA, because I was a girl. So, this time around if they said yes to me because I’m a girl, I’m taking this opportunity. At the end of the day I still had to prove myself and perform on the ice.”

The aforementioned ESPN article states, “Hayley Wickenheiser, the first woman to score a goal while playing for a men's professional hockey team, in Finland in 2003, doesn't think it will happen again.” Where Wickenheiser says “No, I don't think it's realistic. To play an 82-game season at the NHL level, with the size of the players and the speed, it would be very, very tough. Being on the European ice, the bigger ice surface, made it a little easier. It was less physical. It would be pretty tough to play at the NHL level.” I believe that the NHL should make it possible because women deserve to play competitively year round on the world stage.

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Women are capable of playing a good game just the same as men are. Women are fierce, and they can bring this characteristic to the ice.

These women were once little girls with their dreams lit like a wildfire, not letting it burn out until they got where they wanted to be. There are a lot of little girls, like myself who start off playing with the boys. Then, they get begin feeling that the hockey life is for boys all because of the way the world sees it. The Olympics have made the world begin to see women in hockey. The Canadian and American women’s hockey teams at the Olympics, along with many other countries, are absolutely fantastic at what they do. If I had seen these women playing hockey, perhaps I would still be playing.

Do not allow your child or even yourself to give up on your dreams. Do not let the candle blow out. You can reach your dream, and I regret giving up on hockey for it was once my dream. But now, I have a different dream. This time, I am going for it.