Canada’s women’s para-hockey players hope World Challenge will help promote inclusion – National


Regardless of the final score, Canada’s women’s para hockey players scored a win before even stepping onto the ice this weekend in Green Bay, Wisc.

The women know they’re making history in the inaugural Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge.

“It’s amazing to see the number of players here and to have four separate teams like this is amazing to see the growth of the sport already. I can’t wait to see her continue to grow,” said Canadian goaltender Tracey Arnold, who played hockey regularly as a child before her father died in a car accident and left her partially paralyzed by the age of 12.

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Canada plays the United States for gold in Sunday’s four-team World Challenge, which also includes Great Britain and a team world made up of athletes from different countries.

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The women hope the tournament, hosted by World Para Ice Hockey, will be a stepping stone to participation in the Paralympics, where men’s para hockey has been part of the program since 1994. Women made up only 24 percent of the approximately 560 athletes at the Paralympics in Beijing last winter. The lack of para women’s hockey was the main reason for the gender gap.

Canadian men‘s para-hockey star Billy Bridges said the inclusion of women was long overdue.

“It’s time, holy cow,” he said during the Paralympics. “I know hundreds or thousands of women play around the world. I know teams will show up when they host a women’s tournament at the Paralympic Games. I know that countries like China will not turn down an opportunity to win the medal. And don’t form a team. There are so many chicken-and-egg arguments and I’m sick of it.”

Arnold, a 44-year-old mother and former world-class arm wrestler, started para-hockey in Saskatoon about seven years ago but has often been the only woman to play on “mixed” club teams.

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While Canada’s men’s para team operates under the Hockey Canada umbrella, the women’s program is self-funded. The players headed to a training camp in Calgary last month to prepare for the World Challenge tournament.

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Bridges said being included in the Hockey Canada group made a big difference for the men who had to buy their own Canada jerseys off the shelf at sporting goods stores and sometimes packed six players into a hotel room when traveling because the team was self-funded when he joined in 1998.

Arnold, who works for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said the future success of women’s soccer depends on funding, awareness and the provision of equal opportunities.

“And it’s also about having allies that help support the women’s programs,” she added, noting that countries with men’s teams should also support a women’s program.

After losing a 5-0 decision to the USA in the tournament’s opener on Friday, the Canadians beat Great Britain and Team World with lopsided 12-0 results on Saturday.

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Edmonton’s Alanna Mah said she simply appreciated the rare chance to face teams other than the United States

“We’ve come a long way from where we started,” said Mah, who lost partial use of her legs at the age of six months due to spinal cord cancer. “But it’s still just about getting the game out there in different countries and actually introducing women to the sport that’s out there. A lot of women just don’t know, or a country doesn’t have enough to make a team.

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“And the support and awareness and funding hasn’t been great either, but it’s definitely being picked up on? Because of that, we’re able to host events like this, take the game internationally, and show women that the game exists for them.”

The tournament also features an all-women’s team for the first time at a World Para Ice Hockey event.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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