As Hockey Fans, Hockey Moms, and as women, we have a lot to celebrate this week. It was a long time coming, but on Monday, Angela James and Cammi Granato became the first women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Hard to believe, isn’t it, that there was not one single woman represented in the Hockey Hall of Fame, in any category, until Monday. Hard to believe that it wasn’t until 2009 that amendments to the by-laws of the Hockey Hall of Fame took place, opening the door to women inductees. Hard to believe that even though girls and women’s hockey is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, it has taken this long for the pioneers to be recognized.
But, instead of asking “why so long”, let’s just take some time to celebrate.
The majority of Hockey Moms in the current generation didn’t play hockey when they were kids, because there was none to play. Some of you did play, often with the boys, and more picked it up later with the booming growth in the sport for girls and women. Even if you didn’t play when you were younger, you will remember Angela James, and Cammi Granato, names synonymous with women’s hockey for the last 30 years.
Angela James, born in Toronto, was Canada’s most dominant player for decades, and was often called the “Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey”. Angela was one of those girls who learned to play on boys teams, and later played in the Ontario Women’s Hockey association. After being selected to join Canada’s team at the inaugural Women’s Championship in 1990 in Ottawa, she led the Women’s Team to gold with eleven goals in just five games. Then, James helped Canada capture three more World Championships.
Cammi Granato was born into a hockey family in Illinois, and played on all boys teams until the age of sixteen. Cammi chose not to play hockey in her last two years of high school because she felt she had become a target for the larger, body checking boys. A scholarship offer to Providence College got her back in the game, and she was a founding member of the United States Women’s National team that lead her team to a silver medal at the inaugural Women’s World Championships in 1990. She later captained the USA team to a gold medal in the 1998 Olympics.
Both players had illustrious hockey careers and were pioneers in women’s hockey, paving the way, fighting the good fight to make girl’s and women’s hockey the growing phenomena that it is today.
Yet, the fight is not over. Though hockey for girls and women has grown in popularity, girls across Canada still face issues not encountered by boys. As Hockey Moms, you’ve written to me about the challenge of navigating the sensitive subject of when your daughters should stop changing in the the “boys'” dressing room, even though the play on the team. Or, you have talked about having to find somewhere for your daughters to get dressed when there is not a separate room available to house the girls. And, you’ve mentioned the difficulty of finding a decent girls league, or how far you have to travel so your daughters can play against other girls’ teams in their age/level. And, of course, some of you are still trying to figure out where your daughters will play once body contact begins.
These challenges persist even in Canada, the most hockey obsessed country in the world. Imagine being a girl living outside of Canada (or even the United States) and trying to follow you hockey passion in a country where women’s hockey has not been made a priority. Is it really any wonder that North American Women’s teams are so dominant?
But, thanks to powerhouses like James and Granato, and the inspiration they have given to girls and women across their countries, hockey for women has changed in North America. These hockey-warriors paved the way for our daughters to have the same dreams of playing hockey at elite levels that boys have had for decades.
So, congratulations to both women on their amazing accomplishments, and on being the first women inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. I hope that Hockey Moms share this news with every daughter with a hockey dream. As the great Angela James said at the induction ceremony last night,
“The time is right, we are here, and who is next.”