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Female Hockey - More Than Just a Pastime
By Nikki Ryan, Roncalli Central High, Port Saunders, NL

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When Canadians first invented hockey, a familiar phrase heard in every arena was, "He shoots, he scores!" Little did the commentators know that in just a few short decades their phrase would be altered as "she" was substituted for "he" and that the players identifying name would become barely visible as it was concealed by a ponytail flailing down each back.

Female hockey is a sport that has been rapidly growing every year all across our country. Randy Short, Female Rep. for Hockey NL, commented, "There has been a steady increase in the number of girls enrolled over the past number of years. With the high profile athletes such as the National team and the Olympic team Gold medals as of lately it has sparked interest in females playing the game."

As increasing numbers of females are enrolled in ice hockey every year, the opportunities for these female players are also on the incline. Mr. Short stated, "Every year the opportunity for female players being able to get scholarships in Canadian Universities is increasing. Many U.S. states are looking for players to play for them in Prep schools and college. There are many opportunities available now, but there are still many more to come." Marina Zenk, Development Co-ordinator for female officials for Hockey Canada, also believes that the opportunities for individuals who desire to get involved with female hockey are endless. "Anybody, young or old, can play this game," she states. " There are so many areas where one can get involved. Whether an individual participates as a player, official, trainer, coach, or instructor, they are contributing to the exponential growth that is now present in female hockey."

The opportunities available to skilled female players have broadened from local minor hockey associations to national and even international competitions. Ms. Zenk, who has been involved with female hockey for the past nineteen years, recognizes the numerous options open to the elite players and officials who wish to expand their hockey career. "Nationally, female players can compete with the Under 21 team or the National Women's Senior Team. Younger players can also become involved with the Under 18 championships or the Canada Winter Games," she commented.

Despite the numerous options available to female players, it appears that the prospect for females in rural areas to become selected for these elite teams is inferior to those players who reside in the urban regions of our country. Melanie Gould, who lives in Port au Choix, Newfoundland, and has been selected for several distinguished teams, including the Newfoundland & Labrador Canada Winter Games women's hockey team, and the Atlantic Selects declares, "Females in smaller areas are at a disadvantage. For example, larger centres start minor hockey in September, whereas we begin in November. They also have the ice available to them all year round."

However, like many other devoted players, she realizes that location doesn't have to prevent you from pursuing a dream. Ms. Gould declared, "It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication both on and off the ice to compete with these teams. I take advantage of all the ice time I can get and I also follow a work-out program during the hockey season." Mr. Short also believes that opportunities are available to females if they are willing to take advantage of them. "In 2003 we have a Newfoundland player, Joanne Eustice, that has made the Under-22 National team, and we also have players that were invited to the try-outs," Mr. Short stated. "I am sure that we will have female players from Newfoundland & Labrador that will be playing on the Senior National team and will be playing in the Olympics in the near future." Melanie, who is currently completing her final year of high school is aiming to take advantage of these opportunities and play university hockey when she graduates. "I received a letter from St. Lawrence University in New York," she said. "They said they are interested in me playing on their team so I plan to apply there."

To many, female hockey is a sport that has become beneficial to the young women of our country in several ways. Mr. Short stated, "Being on a hockey team has many rewards. Friendships are so important to the growth of a person, and in this game many girls make friends across the province that they can have for a lifetime. Also, the team concept in hockey leads to creating better all around individuals as it teaches them cooperation on the ice that they use in life." Ms. Gould also values the experiences she has had as a female player as both rewarding and memorable. "My greatest accomplishment has been competing in the Canada Games with the Under 18 Newfoundland & Labrador team," she said. "This was an experience I will never forget."


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