Women’s hockey has been on an uphill climb ever since it was added to the Olympics in 1998. Having women’s hockey in the Olympics really sparked interest in young girls to play the game they once thought was only for boys. This meant that associations had to start making room for girls to play in what ended up being their own teams in girl’s only leagues. However, before those all-girl teams were formed, girls had to take the ice with boys if they wanted to play hockey.
Some of Canada’s best female hockey players played with the boys growing up. Shannon Szabados for example played with the boys her whole life. She even played professional men’s hockey in the Southern Pacific Hockey League for four seasons. The competition was essentially better for girls to play hockey with the boys. When these female players were growing up there were not many females signed up quite yet compared to 2018, where women get paid to play professionally and there are countless leagues and teams around the country that offer female hockey.
Now, being the only girl on an all-boys team comes with its pros and cons. It is definitely good for their development. Being a girl playing boy’s hockey when you’re younger, you’re still the same height and strength so you can fit right in without worry of getting injured. Boys love to compete against a girl but hate to lose. You could imagine that every boy that girl goes up against will give her his best. This makes it the more challenging and will end up making her a better player.
One may also argue that being the only girl on a boys’ team unfortunately keeps you out of the social aspect of the game. At a certain age, girls must get a separate dressing room from their male teammates. This means they are all alone in a broom closet getting geared up. There will also come a time that the boys will become bigger and stronger. This could put girls playing boys hockey at risk of getting injured, especially if there is hitting allowed. As the boys start approaching puberty, girls typically make the switch to a team full of females.
There is also the fear of running into an old school coach who may be sexist. This could jeopardize girls’ spots on boy’s teams or playing time even if they are good enough. Not all parents are supportive of having a girl play boy’s hockey. They do not want to see a girl taking up a spot on a team that their son could have had if she had just played girls hockey. It really isn’t easy being a girl on a boys’ team. You can always count on heckling from the other team. The classic comments like, “How’s your hair” or “Why aren’t you figure skating”. Having a tough skin is essential throughout.
With all that being said, for the most part the boys couldn’t be happier having a girl on their team. Other than fighting over her with the other boys because they all have crushes on her, they love having her around. If a player on the other team takes a run at her or gives her a cheap shot, the entire bench has her back. They are right there to get the guy who did the damage back. At the end of the day they do see her as “one of the boys” which is best case for both parties and keep things light. Coaches may slip up and say “let’s go boys... and girl”, but they always do correct themselves being sensitive to pronouns. Being a girl on a boys’ team has its perks and definitely has its pitfalls, however, it is different for everyone.