COLUMN: Growth of women’s hockey in Barrie ‘inspiring’
I won’t lie. I’m not a huge sports fan.
Sure, I used to enjoy attending an NHL game when a ticket would come my way and I have cheered on the Barrie Colts a few times while enjoying the odd date night, but overall, honestly, I could care less.
That’s why, when I got my list of weekend assignments, I actually laughed out loud to see that it contained covering not one but two sporting events!
That being said, it’s often hard to not get caught up in the excitement when you walk into an arena and hear the roaring crowd as they cheer on their favourite players on the ice or on the field.
And that level of excitement was certainly palpable on Saturday at Sadlon Arena, where more than 2,000 hockey fans came to watch some of the best players in the world hit the ice during the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) Secret Dream Gap Tour.
And yes, I said best players — not just female players.
The two teams boasted a number of the top players in the game, including Canadian Olympians Meaghan Mikkelson, Sarah Nurse and Marie-Philip Poulin.
Getting to watch these women play this past weekend was inspiring, as was seeing the number of people who came out to cheer them on. To be completely honest, it was some of the best hockey I have seen in a while. They were fast, they were agile and they weren’t afraid to go after the puck.
Looking around, I saw fans of all ages and genders donning Team Canada jerseys, Barrie Colts sweaters and a slew of blue and yellow Barrie Sharks jerseys — including a row of teammates who came out to cheer on a few of their hockey idols.
Sure, the arena was not full, but the cheering when the goalies on either team would contort themselves into unimaginable positions to block an amazing shot, or when one of the players would take off on a breakaway, could have rivalled any other league.
While neither of my girls have shown a particular interest in playing hockey, I do have several close friends who have daughters that gear up several times each week to play. It’s amazing to see that there could one day be an option for them should they choose to pursue the sport.
Like someone said to me this weekend, until recently, these amazing players — who train just as diligently and play just as hard as their male counterparts in the sport — would really only be seen every four years when they would “pop up” to represent their country at the Olympics.
But beyond that, there really has not been an avenue for them to pursue a career on the ice.
Now, they just might, because this generation of players is fighting to make it happen.
All I know is that when push comes to shove, as is often the case in a hockey game, if that’s what it means to “play like a girl” then you can count me in as a fan.
Nikki Cole is a staff reporter at BarrieToday.