You might recognize the name and the face as CBRM’s Communications pro, but Christina Lamey is one of Nova Scotia’s longest and hardest working advocates for female hockey. And she’s winning. Last year she called for equal access to ice time for female and male players on the island and she co-launched a successful campaign that won $250,000 from Kraft Hockeyville Canada to renovate the Canada Games Complex and make it a home for female hockey.
Lamey is also the president of the Cape Breton Blizzard Female Hockey Association and a former president of the Nova Scotia Women’s Hockey Association.
So, with the first ever female pro games being held this week, The Third wanted Lamey’s take on the league.
left to right at Hockeyville in Sydney. Hockey Nova Scotia female council chair Leijsa Wilton, Marin Hickox, director of Girls and Women’s hockey with Hockey Canada, Mary Kay Messier of Bauer, Amy Walsh, with the Future of Hockey Lab and me on the right.
How did it feel to watch the game?
A mixture. Certainly, appreciation for the hard work and years of dedication by many to get to this day and age. I probably have a better appreciation than many about the obstacles they faced and how alone they were at times. But also, some disappointment to see no real engagement from the NHL. They struggle with being authentic in a diverse space and haven’t done the work on self-reflection that they need to do.
Did you think you would ever see the day that you would be watching female pro hockey with a full house on your TV screen?
I did actually. This goes back to the 120-year history of the sport. When hockey was first invented (here in Nova Scotia, many would say), everyone played it. Indigenous people, women, African Canadians. It started out as a sport for everyone. It was deliberate actions of racism and sexism that pushed these groups out of the sport. Over the past decades they have pushed their way back in, but a lot of the damage done will take much longer to overcome.
It’s kind of mind-blowing when you consider women’s hockey games drew crowds of thousands in the 1930s and there were plans to debut as a demonstration sport in the 1940 Winter Olympics. The war cancelled that Olympics and societal pressures sidelined women’s hockey for almost 60 years, finally appearing in the Olympics in 1998.Ringette was invented in the 1950’s so girls could have some kind of winter sport. Why couldn’t they just play hockey? It’s absurd. I hope what we see today in the growth of women’s hockey, and women’s sport overall, is a long overdue unravelling of that legacy of racist and sexist attitudes, laws and policies.
Where did you watch it and with whom?
I was out of town visiting family so I just watched it on my laptop.
Did you hear from any young players about how they felt watching the game?
They are fans. Our players and their families were watching. The games were accessible on CBC and YouTube and the broadcast quality was high. It’s engaging to watch and entertaining and the players are active on social media interacting with fans and that’s what it takes to build momentum.
What did you think of the physicality during the game?
What are your thoughts on the rules about physicality in the league? What do you think it might mean for the future of the sport for female players? How will it impact younger leagues and players?
There is tons of contact in women’s hockey. Ask any long-time player to list their injuries. There are just no after-the-puck hits allowed. The men’s leagues are taking a lot of the gratuitous hitting out of the game too. I was just updated in a refereeing course about a new call for “blindsiding” on top of charging and boarding, head contact and hitting from behind. The definition of a clean hit is getting more and more narrow. In women’s hockey you can contact the other player when you are battling and positioning for the puck, it’s pretty straightforward.
What doors does it open for local females who want to play hockey?
What does it mean for females who can now advance beyond university?
The PWHL fills in that major gap that exists in women’s hockey, that doesn’t exist in other women’s team sports like basketball and soccer. It creates the opportunity to play professionally after years of training and sacrifice. Roster spots will become more and more competitive as the skill required to make this level will increase.
Do you expect an increase in enrolment because of this new league?
Not sure. Getting young girls to imagine themselves as athletes, and commit to the training, is a challenge that will persist for a while. Where I see the gap in girls is that a lot of girls join hockey several years older than boys. Parents put their 4- and 5-year-old sons in hockey, but don’t put their daughter in hockey until she asks. That can be anywhere between eight and eighteen. Our biggest growth is at 9–12-year-olds, but we have a program for 4–5-year-olds.
Are there girls in your association that you would expect to see one day playing pro hockey?
I can’t get over how good the 10-year-olds are. We have 6 teams at that age and the skill is way beyond what was here even 5 years ago. We are looking forward to our new facility at CBU and working with the great leadership team at CBU to take the training to a higher level. I’d love nothing more than to create PWHL players here in Cape Breton. I hope we are laying the foundation for that now.
Are there any Cape Breton connections to the PWHL?
Al MacInnis daughter Lauren is playing for Ottawa. She played in the NCAA and then a bit of pro in Europe before making the Ottawa team.
What is your favourite team in the new league? Player? Why?
That’s a tough one. Big fan of Jill Saulnier in New York, Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Emerance Maschmeyer in Ottawa, all the Nova Scotians in Toronto: Blayre Turnbull, Allie Munroe, Carly Jackson and coach Troy Ryan. Also, Victoria Bach in Toronto. Kori Cheverie is coaching in Montreal.
What players do you think we should be watching?
Aside from the stars like Marie-Philip Poulin and Nat Spooner and Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne, et cetera…. some not so familiar names Mikyla Grant-Mentis (whose grandfather from Truro played in the Colored league) and Ann-Sophie Bettez are crafty goal scorers. The first-round pick with Minnesota, Taylor Heise, is a new player to watch.
What should we be expecting from this first session?
Looking forward to them establishing some storylines and rivalries. Some memorable moments and connections with their growing fanbase. Sports is drama.