As all Hockey Parents know, having a ‘rink free’ weekend in October is rare and almost unheard of as most League Play is firing up and already into full practice swing. Yet here we were facing a Saturday and Sunday without loading up equipment or arena blankets to watch my Daughter’s team of AA ten year olds. But guess where we found ourselves?
Coincidence would have it that our local PWHL (Provincial Women’s Hockey League) Kitchener-Waterloo Lady Rangers were playing back to back home games at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. This city as a whole is well known for its Hockey Passion especially surrounding the Home Town favorite OHL Kitchener Rangers Jr A Boys team, yet at this point there is little focus or exposure for the Intermediate AA Girls of the same age group.
Dressed in her own Lady Ranger gear (making sure to dress in only Blue, White and Red) and staying close to her best friend and current team goaltender, this was the most attentive at a Hockey Game I have ever seen my daughter. So there we were, two days off and we still managed to find ourselves in the rink both days and I could not be happier we did.
As both young girls sat eagerly behind the penalty boxes (7000 seats, they could have picked anywhere), they watched and learned, they cheered and booed but they were fully invested in the Game. By the time the final buzzer went on a KW Lady Ranger 3-1 victory over the Brampton Canadettes the young fans had already made their way down to the dressing rooms to congratulate their new heroes on a thrilling win.
The elder Lady Rangers responded to their two new fans with grace, humility, smiles and poise. Here was a moment when the older girls looked down and saw themselves remembering when they began the Game, and the two giant smiles looking back up towards their own possibly bright Hockey future. When Head Coach Cindy Eadie came out of the change room to personally thank both girls for their loud cheers and endless support I knew by the grins of admiration that we were going to be permanent fixtures at these games whenever possible.
Sunday came, and I was told from the very onset of the day that we would be returning to the rink to watch KW take on the cross town rival Rivulettes of Cambridge. Another spirited affair would follow, and thanks again to our ‘chosen’ seating the girls had a terrific view of the revolving door penalty box, that at one point had 7 players crammed into the two tight benches. KW winning again 3-0, goaltender Shea Tiley earning a tough shut out, and a four point weekend for the Lady Rangers.
With currently 20 teams in the PWHL stretching throughout Southern and Eastern Ontario, it is certain that experiences like this are happening in rinks everywhere. Not only is the Hockey itself of the highest calibre for the age group, it is very passionate and played with desire. OHL games are played with at least one player in the penalty box on average about 3.5% of the game; the PWHL on the other hand is spending 5% of their games on the naughty list (based on total League game minutes divided by penalty minutes). So much for the ‘weaker sex.’
Having spent some time watching this exceptional Hockey, there is no doubt that we will be going back time and time again, the washroom lines are shorter (but most are locked), the beer lines are shorter (they don’t sell any), the food vendor lines are shorter (the are closed) and the cost of fan apparel is negligible (already had our own). But what was most incredible was the sparkle left in my own child’s eyes, a light that was further brightened by some of the most talented and humble role models that she has ever come across. Thanks to the Players and Staff of the KW Lady Rangers and to all the young women playing this highly competitive brand of Hockey in the PWHL, when your effort and success inspires more and more young girls to pick up The Game you all make the world (and not just the Hockey world) a much more better place.