Thursday Thought: Canadian Women’s Hockey History

by | October 7, 2010
filed under Can-Con, Feminism

In honour of Women’s History Month and the start of hockey season, we’re kicking it old school with an excerpt from “Women’s Hockey: A Proud Past, A Bright Future” (if the IOC doesn’t screw around with it):

Until recently, many Canadians were not aware of Canada’s proud tradition in women’s hockey — a tradition that stretches back over 100 years. Many Canadians are surprised to learn that Lord Stanley’s daughter, Lady Isobel Stanley, was a pioneer in the women’s game. One of the first females to be photographed using puck and stick (around 1890) Lady Isobel wore a long white dress when she played “shinny” with other ladies on the natural ice rink beside Government House in Ottawa…

The long skirts worn by the women led to a clever defensive strategy. The ladies crouched in front of their goaltender, allowing the hem of their long skirts to spread out and thus foil any attempt by an opposing player to shoot the puck beyond them and into the net…

In 1916, Cornwall, Ontario, introduced local sensation Albertine Lapensee, who was billed as “the premier female player in the world.” Thousands of fans turned out to see Lapensee play. But not for long; Lapensee went to New York for a visit and returned several weeks later — as a man. Her new name was Albert Smith.

In 1927, Elizabeth Graham, a young woman from Queen’s University, contributed to hockey history by wearing the first goal mask in the game. Miss Graham wore a fencing mask during collegiate games…

Perhaps a young girl named Abby Hoffman was a catalyst for the revival of interest [in the 1960s]. Playing as “Ab” Hoffman in an all-boys league, she excelled in the sport and her gender was not discovered until she was forced to hand in a birth certificate. Soon, other young women began trying out for boy’s teams, only to be rebuffed.

By 1982, a national championship for women was re-introduced and a female hockey council was established. In 1987, the first Women’s World Hockey Tournament was held in North York, Ontario, a tournament that spawned other major championships in Europe and Asia.


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