Women's rights to play hockey

Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Christina Khoury (Grade 8)

This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labour in which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.

- Gloria Steinem, part founder of the National Women's Political Caucus and Women's Action Alliance.

After winning the right to vote in 1920, many women returned to their normal lives, believing that the battle for women's rights was over. By 1960, social and economic conditions helped to expand women's roles out of the home to the factory, office and gradually, the world of sports. Equality, however, proved to be a hard dream to achieve.

Women met with discrimination in all these areas, especially hockey. Women have been unsuccessfully trying to play on men's teams for many years. The pioneer who lead the way was Manon Rhéaume "The First Lady of Hockey." Her personal triumph was in getting into an NHL exhibition game, while representing the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Rhéaume has proved that it can be done. Why, then, is the world of men's hockey still debating, slowly, whether it should be done?

In hockey, as in many other fields, women are not getting a fair deal. Mabel Boyd, age 69, and Canada's oldest female hockey player, says girls did not have too many opportunities to play organized hockey when she was young. In her day, girls couldn't even play on school teams.

Years later, things still had not improved. In 1986, 14-year old Justine Blainey was barred from playing on an all male hockey team. Justine won a position on the Etobicoke's Canucks, an all-boys "A" level hockey team, but the team president wouldn't let her play because of the Ontario Hockey Association's ban against girls over 12 playing on boys' teams.

Why has Justine been refused the right to play? The Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled in her favour and said that she had the right to try out for a place on the team. Her human rights were honoured in this court ruling. Why does the Ontario Hockey Association deny them? Men and women are equal in front of the law, why are they not equal in hockey?

Men's hockey, obviously, is a rough and tough sport. Women who aspire to be on a men's team need to be in top physical and mental shape. This is not to say that there are hundreds of women knocking at the door of men's hockey. But even if there was only one, and she qualified equally in the tryouts, she should be allowed -- and even welcomed -- as a team member who can bring her expertise to the team.

It is up to the woman herself to decide whether she is bothered by the contact in the sport. It is up to the woman to compete and put her skating and talent on the line against any other person, be it man or woman. If she does make it against all these odds, then it is against humanity that she has competed and only on that basis can her chance be taken from her.

It is clear that women have the power, strength and determination to break through this ice wall of discrimination. Time, effort and talent will help them along the way. There is no mistaking the fact that men want to go out there and steal the show. For years, people have told women that they were too small or incapable. But, throughout the years, women have fought back. What can women do to make people realize the strength and capability that we have? What can women do so that they can be remembered after all the spectators have left the arena?

Men should get out of their ivory towers and should start giving women more opportunities to prove themselves. Rather than being sexist and assuming that women can't play hockey, men need to provide more opportunities. The problem is with men, not a lack of ability or effort by women.

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