Renneboog High School Hockey Pioneer

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by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

With female hockey continuing to grow exponentially, Londoner Casey Renneboog has a lot to smile about these days.

In 1992, Renneboog (then Casey Vandepeer) was the first female to play on a London high school boys’ hockey team with the Oakridge Oaks. Jennifer Dewar also played that season with the Laurier Rams. Both were goaltenders, and both played with the fledgling London Devilettes girls’ hockey program.

Today, Renneboog, 41, is married to her former Oaks teammate and high school sweetheart, Ryan Renneboog. They have two children, son Tyler, 12, who plays with the London Junior Knights, and daughter Hailey, 10.

Hailey is a special needs child, so Casey has put hockey on the shelf for the time being. But engage in some hockey banter with Renneboog, and you quickly realize hockey will always be a big part of her life.

Casey Vandepeer with London Devilettes 1992. Photo: Jeffrey Reed.

Casey Vandepeer with London Devilettes 1992. Photo: Jeffrey Reed.

About the same time as Renneboog made the Oaks team, female hockey saw its biggest participation increase – 39 per cent more girls and women played hockey in 1991-92 than the year before, thanks in part to the first-ever World Women’s Championship in 1990.

Today, the Devilettes program is a template for Canadian girls hockey from coast to coast, and girls’ high school hockey provides athletes an opportunity girls did not have during Renneboog’s high school career.

“When I played for the Oaks, I was a novelty,” said Renneboog. “But today, it seems like all of the girls are playing hockey. I think it’s fabulous, especially with how the Devilettes have grown. It’s not a novelty anymore.”

Renneboog graduated from Western University with a degree in Social Work. She said it wasn’t until she played in a men’s intramural league that she first faced discrimination.

“It was a guys’ league. I was in net, and I got hit once really, really badly. They said I was the ‘toughest guy’ on the team, and I weighed all of 105 pounds. I suffered a concussion, and the player who hit me was kicked out of the league,” said Renneboog.

While some off-ice discriminatory comments were hurled at Renneboog in the early-1990s, she said on the ice her teammates fought hard to make her feel comfortable. In fact, she almost didn’t try out for the Oaks, thanks to cold feet.

Duo of Jennifer Dewar and Casey Vandepeer in 1992. Photo: Jeffrey Reed.

Duo of Jennifer Dewar and Casey Vandepeer in 1992. Photo: Jeffrey Reed.

“I was playing with the Devilettes, and my friends convinced me to try out,” Renneboog said. “I said, no, I’m not doing it. I did go to the arena, but then I started to walk away – walk out with my equipment. My friends said, ‘No you don’t, you’re coming back in.’ And the rest is history.

“My teammates were very protective of me,” Renneboog said. “My defencemen used to say, ‘We win more games when you’re in net. We want to protect you more.’”

Growing up, Renneboog watched the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night In Canada, and cheered for Leafs goalie Allan Bester. She attended goalie school operated by London netminders Craig Billington and Jeff Hackett, both of whom played 15 years in the NHL. Billington is the Colorado Avalanche assistant general manager, and Hackett was the club’s goaltending coach from 2006-09.

Today, Renneboog’s niece, Nikki, plays for the Oaks girls’ hockey team. She still can’t believe her aunt Casey when she tells her there was no girls’ team at Oakridge 24 years ago. “It’s so foreign to her,” said Renneboog.

In 1999, just a few years removed from high school hockey and playing for the AA London Rebels, Renneboog again found herself in the spotlight as a goalie with the Labatt Blue Shoot-Out, which aired between periods during Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts. Fans were randomly selected to compete in a skills competition for $5,000. CBC flew Renneboog across the country to stop pucks and help promote the program.

Photo: CBC/Hockey Night in Canada.

Photo: CBC/Hockey Night in Canada.

“It was an amazing experience. I met lots of people, stayed in the same hotels as the NHL players and got to play a game I love,” Renneboog said.

Renneboog wants to someday return to mentoring young goalies, but for now calls herself “the biggest cheerleader” at local rinks.

“There weren’t a lot of female hockey players as role models when I was growing up,” she said. “But I tried out for the boys’ team at Oakridge because I just wanted to have fun, and challenge myself.

“It wasn’t about making a statement,” Renneboog said. “I just wanted to play with my friends, and play at the best level I could. The cool part is I inspired a lot of younger girls. And my son thinks that’s cool. That’s the greatest part of it.”

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

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