Inaugural St. John’s women’s hockey tournament brings fun, inclusion to the ice

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A sense of joy was palpable this weekend at a small rink in St. John’s on Saturday, where dozens of women came together for the first big hockey tournament to involve teams from “overseas” in more than two years.

Volunteers pulled together the inaugural Skoden Hockey Club Classic, bringing together more than 100 women’s hockey players from the St. John’s region with 21 of their long-distance counterparts from St-Pierre-Miquelon — the French archipelago off Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula.

A language barrier wasn’t enough to keep them from having fun.

“This year we are very lucky because we have two teams from St-Pierre here,” said Malika Plaa, captain of one of the French teams. “We missed [being here]. We would just like to have fun with all the people here.”

Despite being only a 90-minute ferry ride from the island of Newfoundland, residents of St-Pierre-Miquelon were cut off during the pandemic due to border restrictions that lasted until late last summer. The women’s hockey team made trips to St. John’s for tournaments in 2019 and 2020, but were unable to visit again until this weekend.

Plaa hopes to run a similar tournament in St-Pierre-Miquelon every two years, hosting teams from St. John’s on their little slice of Europe on this side of the Atlantic.

All ages, all abilities

There wasn’t just a mixture of languages on the ice over the weekend, but also a combination of ages and skill levels. Players ranged from 13 to 70 years old, and their range in experience was nearly as wide. The organizers’ goal was to ensure everyone had equal opportunity to play and enjoy themselves.

“We’re all just here for a good time,” said Liz Duff, 64, who was enjoying skating alongside teenagers. 

“Lots of camaraderie. And it’s nice to have our friends from overseas here with us. We’re having a good time with them, too.”

Diane Carley (left) and Liz Duff were among the older players on the ice this weekend, while teenagers Nora Fudge and Darrienne Harris were among the youngest. Carley said the common denominator for everyone was a love of hockey. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

The younger crew, meanwhile, were enjoying meeting women they would never get to skate with in their minor hockey programs.

“I like being able to play with multiple people from different parts of everywhere,” said 15-year-old Darienne Harris. “I think that’s what’s so good about this tournament.… We get new people, new experiences.”

Duff joked she’s also enjoying new music in the locker room.

“The young ones got it blasting in there,” she laughed. “I’m like OK, calm it down kids. Where’s the Neil Diamond?”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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