Association hopes to change perception of hockey as a ‘boys’ sport’

Vancouver Female Ice Hockey Association discusses the need for equality after the under-18 team returns from provincials


Reported by Kim Lau

The attitude towards women’s hockey in comparison to men’s has improved over the last couple of decades, says the communications coordinator of a south Vancouver female hockey association. It’s still not nearly on par with men’s hockey.

Canada’s women have won gold in four of the six winter Olympics since women’s hockey was allowed at the Games. Yet the women still fight for fair pay, television time and exposure compared to the men’s team.

“We of course would love to see women’s hockey get to the point where it is seen as equal to the men’s game,” said Liz Montroy, communications coordinator for the Vancouver Female Ice Hockey Association.

VFIHA’s under-18 team played in provincial championships in Fort St. John March 21-24 and placed fifth.

Still struggling for recognition

VFIHA president James Nedila said the girls must fight for ice and attention at the minor level.

“Hockey has always been a boys’ sport. Traditionally, there has always been more boys playing than girls. And we’re hoping to change that,” Nedila said. “The women’s hockey team is not in the slightest accepted as the men’s. But it’s gaining traction.”

Erica McNeilly, a right-winger, played in the recent provincial championship. Having played for 10 years, she has seen tremendous changes in women’s hockey.

McNeilly said she’s disappointed that bodychecking is not allowed in women’s sports. An attempt to separate the puck from an opponent by slamming the opponent against the board, bodychecking is considered a legal penalty in women’s hockey, but not in men’s hockey.

“It disappoints me that women aren’t allowed to bodycheck in a game, because it has always been such a cool part of hockey, the physicality of it. For women not allowed to do that, it is like taking away almost a limb, which may sound dramatic. I think it’s one of the reasons women’s hockey isn’t as respected, because we’re not treated the same way, or less than the men,” McNeilly said.

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