Monday, 8 March 2021

International Women's Day

Today's a pretty big day across the globe when it comes to celebrating women and gender equality in all facets of life. Of course, this means hockey as well, and I feel this blog does a pretty bang-up job in covering the amazing women who participate this game from the past into the present and going forward into the future. If there's one thing that I can pride myself on when it comes to this blog's history, it's that the women have never been overlooked at any time when it comes to major hockey stories or events. Giving women the same space as the men as often as I can is something that will continue on this blog as long as there's a breath in my lungs and stories to tell about the women in hockey. That's my pledge to you, readers, and to the women that make up this incredible game.

This article isn't about me, though. Instead, I want to credit some people who might not get enough credit for allowing me to do this blog and a radio show for as long as I have. Honestly, this blog and the radio show may never have reached the heights that it has without some incredible women contributing along the way, and the push for more radio coverage of the local university team and a local hockey tournament wouldn't have happened without forging a few key relationships along the way as well.

In saying that, I want to honour these women who don't get their names in the spotlight as often as they should by local mainstream media and certainly never beyond the borders of this city I call home. A lot are players, some are coaches, others are staff or volunteers, but these women consistently make hockey better, this blog better, and the radio show and broadcasts better.

Clearly, The Hockey Show is where a lot of the interacton happens, and I've had the fortune of chatting with Olympians such as Venla Hovi, Sami Jo Small, and Cassie Campbell-Pascall. I've chatted with professional hockey players such as Delayne Brian, Kelsey Neumann, Jenelle Kohanchuk, Jetta Rackleff, Fielding Montgomery, Melissa Wronzberg, and Megan Myers. We've had our fair share of university players on the show including Jessica Stott, Annaliese Meier, Carly Jackson, Regan Wright, Natalie Bender, Kenzie Menzak, Alicia Anderson, and a pile of Manitoba Bisons from Alanna Sharman to Jordy Zacharias. There have been coaches such as Lisa McAlpine, broadcasters like Isabelle Germain, officials such as Amy Martin, and fans such as Tally Deushane that have been able to tell their stories on The Hockey Show.

Honestly, all of these women have incredible stories about their lives and careers, and I'm proud to use my platform to tell those tales. None of the players have walked the same paths or experienced the same highs and lows in their careers, and it's often the work they're doing off the ice that deserves some focus just as we've done with Dr. Karolina Urban, Regan Wright, and Mikayla Ogrodniczuk. All three of those women have used hockey to be able to achieve something greater than wins and losses with each of them doing amazing work off the ice in concussion research, medical school, and mental health initiative, respectively. While hockey was important, these women have shown that their work in the classroom and at campuses across Canada mean just as much as, if not more than, the successes they found on the ice.

Perhaps some of the better stories have been told by women who have never set foot on the ice in a university or professional setting. Lisa Ferkul, Director of Hockey Sponsorships for Scotiabank, plays a huge role in the hockey world with her work, and she'll likely be meeting with hockey executives for the years to come thanks to her job. Lisa works up and down the hockey spectrum, from NHL to grassroots efforts, in order to better hockey for all through Scotiabank's partnerships. One of those partnerships that she's extremely proud of is the Scotiabank Girls' Hockeyfest days that are run across Canada for young girls looking to play hockey!

Carla Bertsch is another person who is doing extraordinary work at the University of Calgary as a Sexual Violence Support Advocate where she works with the Calgary Dinos athletes to educate them on a number of important topics such as sexual violence, gender socialization, consent, and hazing. If you don't think this topic is prevalent in hockey, you may have been sleeping over the last decade. Carla is on the front line of that work, educating athletes at the University of Calgary to help them be better people. I am still in awe of how amazing Carla was in telling us about her work and how she found a home at the Calgary school.

You may recall the chat we had on The Hockey Show with Sally Tarabah who was putting in long hours and burning up phone lines in order to start up Lebanon's first women's national team program! Sally, if you recall, emigrated to the US from Lebanon, fell in love with the game, and began playing it long after her teenage years had passed. Just because she started as an older player didn't mean she couldn't do some amazing things, and her work led her to begin finding more players with Lebanese heritage to start a women's national team! Honestly, this was an inspiring story of the fire and passion that burns inside someone with a dream, and I am grateful for Sally wanting to speak about it!

HBIC has also been home to a number of amazing stories from women, and the one that stands out the most was my chat with Preston Rivulettes' star Ruth Dargel! To speak to a women's hockey player whose team was legitimately a powerhose back in the 1930s is a moment one doesn't forget, and I know I haven't. Miss Dargel was funny and so excited to tell her story, and I honestly ate up every word she spoke. I honestly beyond grateful that Matt reached out to me to put me in touch with his grandmother, Miss Dargel. She is a legend, and I'm still waiting for the Hockey Hall of Fame to properly recognize the women who made up the Preston Rivulettes.

There are people off the ice who do amazing work that rarely get mentioned that need some mentioning. Lisa Tinley, Associate Director of Athletics and Recreation at Bisons Sports, is one of the champions of our broadcasts for women's hockey, and she's the person who routinely rolls her eyes at the ideas we come up with on our broadcasts. I don't know if we'd have the kind of great Bisons women's hockey broadcasts as we do with her support and encouragement to go off the board with some of our ideas. I cannot thank her enough for believing in us.

Over at the Female World Sport School Challenge which UMFM broadcasts annually via the webstream and which I attend, there are a ton of women and hockey moms who work behind the scenes to make that tournament hum like the well-oiled machine it is, and they deserve some kudos for their efforts in making that event as awesome as it is. Gina Borkofski is usually the rock I lean on for information and communications while at the tournament as she seems to have all the relevant knowledge at her fingertips! This is a solid team that St. Mary's Academy has put together, and I'm always grateful for their assistance.

My radio co-host, Jenna Thompson, and my broadcast partner, Kyleigh Palmer, both make my work on the radio so much easier with their knowledge, abilities, and intelligence. Jenna has strong opinions and isn't afraid to open up discussions on any topic while Kyleigh's play-by-play ability combined with her playing experience has made her one of the top play-by-play female broadcasters on the planet. Yes, you read that correctly - ON THE PLANET.

There are also a handful of players who have stopped in to do some broadcasting - Alana Serhan, Amanda Schubert, and Jessica Horton - who have made the broadcasts so much better with their analyses as well. If there's one thing that UMFM has done well, it's to feature women in prominent roles on broadcasts only to see those women become some of the best in the business. I'm very proud of that fact, and I'm grateful to have learned from them to make me better.

At the end of the day, I want to thank the many women who agree to appear on The Hockey Show, to be interviewed on UMFM broadcasts of Bisons women's hockey, and speak to me to confirm details on stories that I'm following for HBIC. This blog was built to be representative of Canada, and that includes women, people of colour, Indigenous Peoples, and non-traditional forms of hockey in Canadian lives like field hockey. With the number of stories and interviews through here, I know I owe all of the women who appeared a major thank-you for their time, but there's also another message that I need to convey with the utmost sincerity: I couldn't have done it without you.

Michelle Obama once said, "There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish." In my mind, no truer words have been spoken, and no better words for today on International Women's Day 2021.

Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of the amazing women across the world!

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