“Two moms brought five girls from Nakawic, which is about an hour from Fredericton,” said organizer Shellany Brewer, who serves as a grassroots coordinator with Hockey New Brunswick’s Female Commission. “So they came out on the ice, and the girls loved it. I don’t think they’ve ever participated in an all-girls thing before. They asked if we could do the same thing up at their place sometime during the season, so we’re going to arrange that. They loved it.”
Brewer added: “Other girls have said, and I’ve had parents tell me, that if we did not have all-girls events or all-girls hockey, they probably wouldn’t be playing anymore. That makes me sad, but we do have it for them! So that’s why they continue to play. They love these events.”
In total, more than 30 girls, ranging in age from Initiation (6 and under) to peewee (11 to 12), participated in an on-ice skills session, plus 20 minutes of off-ice kinetic stretching. Bananas, granola bars, Tim Hortons doughnuts, and milk, courtesy of Northumberland Dairy and the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick, were provided.
The Canadian youngsters had lots of support. The entire UNB Reds women’s hockey team provided coaching and encouragement, along with half of the St. Thomas University Tommies team. The girls also got free tickets to watch UNB defeat St. Thomas 3-0 that night in Fredericton.
Having the Reds on hand was significant. That wouldn’t even have been possible a couple of years ago. As CBC Sports reported: “The UNB women’s hockey team lost its varsity status back in 2008, but after a lengthy legal battle, the university was ordered to reinstate the team.” The Reds finally returned to Atlantic University Sport (AUS) competition in 2018/19, and St. Thomas won the title that year.
Evidently, up-and-coming women’s hockey players in New Brunswick sometimes face challenges that go beyond scoring goals or playing good defence.
“I’m a female rep for our district, which covers nine associations,” Brewer explained. “We’re a big district, and it’s really hard for me to get a set amount of ice time. I can go buy an hour of ice somewhere, no problem, but for us to be able to have a consistent time for ice for our Central Female Hockey Association, it’s really hard. I don’t know what our ice time’s going to be this year.”
New Brunswick understandably doesn’t crank out national team talent at the rate of Ontario – its total population (770,000) is slightly smaller than that of Ottawa. But that said, there are certainly noteworthy names connected to this province.
Forward Stacy Wilson won four IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship gold medals with Team Canada (1990, 1992, 1994, 1997), and the Moncton native captained her country to silver at the inaugural 1998 Olympic women’s hockey tournament in Nagano, Japan. Her teammate, goalie Lesley Reddon, was born in North York, Ontario, but also made her mark in New Brunswick. Not only did Reddon earn a Master’s degree in sports administration at UNB, but she also played for the men’s hockey team, becoming the first female goalie to compete in AUS.
This year, another UNB goalie, Kendra Woodland (born in Kamloops, BC), was invited to Canada’s national women’s team development selection camp at age 19. And there are high hopes for Dominique Cormier. The 15-year-old blueliner, who hails from Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, suited up as Canada won two out of three games in an August U18 series against the host U.S. in Lake Placid. Cormier is the sister of 17-year-old defenceman Lukas Cormier of the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders, a 2020 NHL draft prospect.
Many of the local participants in World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend are also excited about watching Canada go for gold, live and in person. The 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship will take place in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia (31 March to 10 April). Canadians don’t want to miss an event of that calibre when it’s in a neighbouring province.
“Yeah, we’ll be doing that,” said Brewer. “I’ve talked to a few other people and they’re planning to go. It is in our backyard. Four hours is not really that long of a drive!”
Some of those kids at the Aitken University Centre may go on to wear the red Maple Leaf in IIHF play themselves. Others may enjoy happy, healthy, and productive lives in other fields. Regardless of the path they choose, they can cherish fond memories of World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend.