"Today I want to acknowledge the fact that every human on this earth has the right to love, play and know about hockey. Your gender, age, nationality, and skill level DO NOT matter. Love the game, love it for the sense of belonging it gives you, love it for its ability to make you feel brave, strong and free. Love the game for the peace it brings you and simply love the game because you love it.
It has now been 8 years since I first joined organized hockey. It took time for me to really feel like I belonged and that I was a hockey player. This wasn’t because people were telling me I wasn’t. I, myself had created a notion that you couldn’t be a ‘true’ hockey player if you only played hockey once a week, with girls half your age. I thought I wasn’t entitled to be called a hockey player. Three years after I first laced up my skates as a member of a minor hockey association I found myself on a Midget Girls Rep team—a team that attended the provincial championships, yet I still couldn’t utter the sentence “I play hockey” without feeling as if it wasn’t entirely true. I cannot quite pinpoint why this was, but I can now confidently and happily tell anyone “I am a hockey player”. I love being a hockey player. The only question you should ever have to ask yourself before declaring that you are a hockey player is: “Do I play hockey?” If the answer is yes, you are a hockey player. Your gender and skill level do not matter. You are a hockey player because you PLAY HOCKEY… it is that simple.
My journey as a female athlete, and more specifically a female who loves hockey, hasn’t always been easy. I’ve been accused of compiling my wealth of hockey knowledge simply to impress boys. I’ve been told that men will find me intimidating. But honestly I do it for me, I do it because I enjoy it, and because I love hockey. This is why you can find me shooting pucks in my garage, with no motive of making a team or trying to work my way on to the top line (I play recreational women’s hockey, we all get to play the same amount). I do it because I love it, and it has taken me a long time to accept that I’m allowed to.
I share this with you today because one of my biggest regrets has been that I didn’t join hockey as a young athlete, not because I could have been an exceptional hockey player or that maybe I could have played at a high level. I regret it because I kept myself from doing something I loved for 9 years—9 years of letting other people's opinions dictate my life.
If you have ever felt that you cannot play hockey because you are female, or because you have never skated or maybe you think it’s too late, or for any other reason your self-doubt has offered you: I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN. And if no one else will support you, I will. If you are a shy kid, or adult, like I was be brave you’ll thank yourself for it later. Hockey is for everyone.
As Hayley Wickenheiser would say “Buck it”: Buck the sexism, the what ifs, the stereotypes and do what you love." - Ella Maskiewich | Hockey Player | Smithers Prowlers | British Columbia | #WHLPeople