Women’s hockey in Manitoba had an excellent year in 2015, and it ended on a particularly high note.
In December, the Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League (MWJHL) travelled to Sweden and Finland to represent our province in exhibition games against local club teams.
Thirty four players hailing from all over Manitoba, along with coaches and family, travelled from Stockholm to Helsinki by cruise ship to watch the World Juniors. Arriving in Helsinki on New Year’s Eve, they watched Team Canada play its final round robin against Sweden. Thankfully, their excitement and cheerful spirits weren’t affected by Canada’s loss. At the World Juniors, the Manitobans spotted legendary Winnipeg Jet Teemu Selänne, and joined him in cheering for Finland all the way to the finals.
MWJHL were excellent ambassadors for our province on the rink. Team "Manitoba" and team "True North" played hard and won four games in Helsinki and Stockholm. I am always so impressed by the teams’ incredible chemistry on the ice. The players work seamlessly together, and it is this camaraderie and teamwork that makes them such a force to be reckoned with.
As world leaders in women’s hockey, Sweden and Finland made for an excellent destination. The Manitobans were warmly welcomed and invited to learn more about the two countries’ language, food, cultures and political systems. At night, the players explored the cities with other European guests. They even played a few friendly games of street hockey in front of Helsinki’s beautiful Scandic Grand Marina Hotel.
This trip was the brainchild of MWJHL president Kirk Kuppers, who was looking for a unique way to celebrate the league’s 10-year anniversary. He hoped that the trip would promote women’s hockey in Manitoba and he plans to continue to build relationships with other leagues around the world. We are all grateful for his commitment to growing the league and creating more opportunities for women hockey players in Manitoba.
There is no denying that female athletes face unique challenges in sport. A lack of funding, media coverage, and commitment from top-level coaches and executive leaders all limit the opportunities available to women athletes. I believe that this is slowly changing, and with major events like the Women’s World Cup here in Manitoba, we are opening doors for young women in sport.
Well done, MWJHL, for your hard work and determination. Congratulations on a fantastic year of teamwork, dedication and friendship, and good luck in 2016!