Belonging to a generation of pioneering competitors, the combination of spirit and perseverance encompasses Gabriella (Gabi) Hartley’s hockey odyssey. Approaching almost a decade with stick in hand, the very talented Hartley has enjoyed multiple opportunities to represent Falkland Islands on the international stage.
Adding to Hartley’s body of work involves serving in the dual capacities of team manager and coach for an astounding four different teams. Spanning as many different skill levels, Hartley has plunged into the role with boundless enthusiasm. The teams under her leadership include the Elite league Wolverines, the Rookie league Banshees, Peewee league Bulldogs plus the Junior league Ninjas.
Hartley’s beginnings in the game can be traced back to one of the essential builders in Falkland Islands. Grant Budd, a former British competitor with the Sheffield Sabres and Peterborough Pirates recruited Hartley, introducing her to a sport that provided numerous highlights and memorable moments.
“In 2015, it was head coach Grant Budd who convinced me to try hockey and first got me interested in skating. I am very grateful to him for getting me involved at a young age in what is normally considered a male dominated sport. Hockey has become such an important part of my life and I have him to thank for that.”
Currently a fixture on the national women’s team, Hartley’s initial experience on the International stage involved playing on a mixed team. Only 11 years young when she enjoyed her first tournament, it occurred in the Chilean city of Puntas Arenas, a place which saw many teams from Falkland Islands frequently emerge victorious over the years.
“My first international tournament was the Copa Invernada in Punta Arenas in 2016, involving four teams from the Falkland Islands and two from Chile. At the end of the tournament we took part in a friendly game between the Falkland Islands Girls, and a team of Chilean Girls. This was my first time playing in our national jersey.
Stepping onto the ice to compete in a Falkland Islands shirt is an unmatched feeling for me. I am immensely proud to wear our flag, regardless of the result of the games. There are so many unforgettable moments as a hockey player, on and off the ice, and these are even more special when you are playing for your country.”
Following the experience from 2016, a monumental milestone occurred for Hartley and the national women’s team two years later. Marking an historic first, as this group of wondrous women, identified by the sobriquet Valkyries, enjoyed their international debut. Taking place in Puntas Arenas, Chile, the Mega Patagonian Tournament saw the Valkyries finish atop the podium.
Becoming part of the Falklands sporting lore, the feat took on greater meaning for Hartley as she was just a teenager. Considering that the start of Hartley’s career mirrored the launch of the women’s team, a unique parallel developed, both representing the potential to achieve even greater growth. Undoubtedly, the thrill of a golden outcome in Puntas Arenas remains a source of pride for Hartley.
“The Mega Patagonian Tournament in 2018 was the first time that a Falkland Island Ladies team had competed. I was privileged to play for this team, known as the Valkyries, as well as for our U16 mixed team.
I was the youngest player in both of these teams at the time, and we managed to come away with gold medals in each division. Representing your country is a surreal and humbling experience for a 13 year old.”
Over the course of 2022 and 2023, an empowering sense of sporting equality has enveloped hockey in Falkland Islands. With the objective of icing a women’s ice hockey team at international events with more frequency, ensuring that competitive gaps of more than two years becomes part of the past, another element of encouragement made an impression. As Hartley recounts, 2023 saw the women’s jerseys adorned with the popular Rockhopper Penguin logo, a compelling visual that represents an important evolution.
“In 2022, I competed for the Falkland Islands U16s once again, in another international tournament in Punta Arenas. However, this year, I was the only girl across all of our Falkland Island teams. Competing with a Ladies team is a very special thing to me, and it is something that the Falklands are aiming to achieve every time we participate in an international tournament from now on.
This year was the first time a Falkland Islands Ladies team had played in a tournament wearing our national team shirts. I was grateful to be a part of this team and receive the support that we did from our coaches and teammates. This year was especially memorable for me as I got to play alongside two of the youth players that I had been coaching in the domestic league all season.”
Among the hallmarks of Hartley’s unfolding journey sees a leadership role. Encompassing how the role of women have proven essential in collaboration and developing the game, a very important step sees every team in all eight domestic leagues feature at least one female player.
More impressive sees several women in the role of directors in the Falkland Islands Hockey Association. As of the March 2023 Annual General Meeting, Jo Turner holds the office of Chairperson, while Pam Budd, also a Director, is in the treasurer’s role. Hartley and her mom, Jeanette, also hold places as Directors. Describing her duties, Hartley’s dedication shines. Holding a stake in helping to bring a positive direction for the remainder of the decade, Hartley is more than a prodigious player but an esteemed builder.
“Initially, in 2019 I was appointed youth representative on the Falkland Islands Hockey Committee, until the end of the 2021 season.The club later became a Registered Charity and Company; I joined the Board of Directors in 2023 upon turning 18.
As the youngest Director, I would consider my main duty being to represent the younger players. As well as this, I have helped to organize fund raising events, I also run the official tiktok account @falklandislandshockey, alongside Jo Turner who manages the Instagram and Twitter accounts.
This role is very important to me and one that I take seriously. It involves making decisions that affect our players individually and the future of our Association. All of the Directors work really hard to ensure that everything runs smoothly.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated“
Acknowledgements: Jo Turner