Senior Women’s Hockey Team Forming For Ontario Senior Games

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

Londoner Deb Van Brenk has been through the hockey wars, playing since age 10 and blocking shots between the pipes since age 11. Over the years, she has faced some of the hardest-shooting members of the Canadian national women’s team – including Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Geraldine Heaney, who once broke Van Brenk’s goalie mask with a slapshot.

But like many female hockey players – especially those of her generation – Van Brenk, 54, has faced more shots off the ice from those doubting the legitimacy of women’s hockey.

“I think all of us who have played, whether at an early age or at a high level, have had stories of subtle and overt discrimination,” Van Brenk said. “I once had a pair of pads provided by an association. And after I worked them in for a year, I was told I had to hand them back because the guys wanted them.”

In fact, women’s hockey is not new, but since its genesis during times of much ridicule in the 1890s, the game has grown to be one of the fastest growing sports in North America.

Canada’s Geraldine Heaney. Photo: Hockey Canada.

Here in London, a new senior women’s team for players 55 and older is forming within District 30 of the Ontario Senior Games Association. The squad, which will gather for the first time on March 21 at Nichols Arena, will give a growing number of local senior women hockey players, like Van Brenk, an opportunity to compete as part of the London Senior Games, and to skate for a championship at the March 5-7, 2019 Ontario Senior Games in Huntsville.

The women will gather again in November 2018 to prepare for provincials, but some of them will skate at a recreational and competitive level in local women’s hockey leagues playing at Budweiser Gardens, Western Fair Sports Centre and London Sports Park.

Londoner Kim Benke, an all-around senior athlete who is spearheading the formation of the new squad, said she expects the current roster of 16 players to grow exponentially as the 2019 Games approach. Benke said she hopes that eventually there will be a London-based mini tournament determining who will represent London at the provincial games. But for now, it’s all about jumpstarting the squad and enjoying the company of other women who have a passion for the game.

“I’ve played hockey since Grade 9, gave it up but played in my 30s, dropped it again but then starting playing in the Huff N’ Puff (Seniors Fitness Association). I missed it when I wasn’t playing,” Benke said.

Van Brenk, who will tend net next Wednesday during the inaugural game, shares a story familiar to many female hockey players. She first started skating with equipment borrowed from her brother. A skilled athlete who started playing fastball at age 9, Van Brenk can’t contain herself when expressing how exciting it is to see how far women’s hockey has come in recent years.

“We’ve come a long, long way,” Van Brenk said, “and it is such fun to watch women’s hockey at the highest level, and to watch girls play at all levels.”

Today, Van Brenk coaches with her daughter Grace’s Midget Intermediate team with the London Devilettes program.

“It’s such a rush watching the girls play a sport they love,” Van Brenk said.

“But as for me, I’ll play at least until somebody hollers, ‘Go, grandma, go!’ And I’ll play beyond that, I hope.”

For information about the new women’s senior hockey team, contact Kim Benke at 519-432-0199.

Update: Twenty players turned out for the London Seniors’ Game scrimmage on March 21. Here’s a photo of the participants.

Photo: Submitted.

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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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