Writer: Teresa Madaleno
When I was young and growing up in the late 1970s/early ’80s, I yearned to play organized ice hockey. In my small community, there was no girl’s ice hockey league. I played floor hockey, which was great except for the beating my ankles took. My older brothers’ played ice hockey for years, my father coached hockey and in fact, he was responsible for helping get a much-needed arena built right in our neighbourhood. Still, back then the idea of girls strapping on skates, a helmet and a Jill (female version of jock strap) to hit the ice was unheard of.
Fast-forward to my daughter’s childhood and girl’s hockey was, well common. Kirsten was born in 1997 and began playing the game at the age of 4. By 2007 we had the CWHL, (Canadian Women’s Hockey League) and by 2010 there were multiple teams for girls with 85,000 female players across the country enjoying the game. Also in 2010, the gender divide really looked like it was getting squashed when the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted the first females, Angela James, and Cammi Granato. However, just recently the 12-year-old CWHL, which was founded to create a place for the highest level of Canadian female hockey players to compete, announced it was dissolving – a sad hockey story.
TSN reported that a record 175, OOO fans watched the Clarkson Cup finale in Toronto. The Clarkson Cup is the CWHL Championship. Shortly after this year’s tournament, the news that the league was folding was made public. So why fold? Economics. News reports suggest that losing their major sponsor was a factor in the league’s demise but some speculate there are other factors. We rarely hear of this type of league collapse happening in men’s hockey. Now, when I look at women’s golf it is hard not to see the similarities. Some LPGA tournaments are played on the same golf turf that the PGA (men’s league) plays on, yet the take home prizes are often a lot less for women than they are for men who perform well. Women in sports seem to have to fight for everything they get.
In an age of “Me Too” and women’s rights, it’s surprising that more people aren’t fighting for sports equality. There has been some talk of another organization taking over the Canadian Women’s Hockey League but as of April first, there were still more questions than answers about the future.
If there is no replacement for the CWHL, there will be fewer places for talented women to play hockey. We’ve come so far with this sport as it pertains to females, it would be shameful to give up the fight to keep these ladies on the ice.