During a storied hockey career, Amanda Shaw not only brought a fundamentally sound game to the blueline, she established herself as a leader and a valued teammate. Such skills have enabled Shaw to make a remarkable impact in her second career.
Proudly serving as a firefighter in the city of Hamilton, Ontario, she is part of a pioneering group of women that have shattered barriers in a traditionally male dominated field. Women in Canada still account for less than five percent of all firefighters, but individuals like Shaw are helping to change that stigma,
“Traditionally it is a male dominated career, however more and more females are gravitating towards this career path – which I think is great.”
In the last few decades, the challenges that women have overcome in firefighting is an example of the hard road to glory. From facilities (lack of sleeping quarters and bathing areas), protective gear that was ill-fitting for some women (traditionally designed for men) and accusations of not being strong enough for the job, women have worked exceptionally hard (as in hockey) to gain equality.
Having grown up in St. Thomas, Ontario, Shaw was part of the inaugural season with the Boston University Terriers, appearing in over 100 games, as the program grew into a postseason contender. During her time at BU, she would also don the Canadian jersey with the Under-22 program, capturing the gold medal at the MLP Cup.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of her hockey career involved her service with Hockey Helps the Homeless. Responsible for Events Management with the volunteer service, it was an example of Shaw’s contributions as a remarkable hockey humanitarian. Her heart of gold, complemented by compassion and great team spirit continue to serve her well in firefighting.
“My dream of becoming a firefighter began at a young age. The idea of being a firefighter was always something that I wanted to do. My entire family is involved in the emergency services field so it has always been something I have been surrounded by.
There are many factors of firefighting that correlate directly to the skills and mentality of an athlete. I love the idea of working in a team environment, challenging myself mentally and physically, being a reliable and contributing teammate, giving back to the community and refining my skills each day so that I can serve my community to the best of my ability.
In hockey, you are a team off the ice, in the locker room and on the ice. The only difference in firefighting is that your locker room now becomes your fire hall and the ice is now the fire scene. Just like hockey, you’re always a team. That’s what I love about this job.”
Of note, other women in hockey have also engaged in firefighting and other essential emergency services. Having competed in the 2010 Clarkson Cup finals, Ashley Pendelton graduated from the Ontario Firefighter College. Amy Turek, a former member of Canada’s national women’s team, plus Cherie Hendrickson, a Clarkson Cup champion in 2013 both work as paramedics. Jenny Lavigne, a multiple Clarkson Cup champion is a police officer, while Meghan Agosta-Marciano recently accepted a position with the Vancouver police department.
Of all the women that have achieved these remarkable accomplishments, one had a significant influence on Shaw. Amber Bowman, a world champion in competitive fire fighting events was Shaw’s teammate with the Burlington Barracudas (2011-12) and the Toronto Furies (2012-13); she proudly serves with the Central York Fire Services (located north of Toronto). Among the first four women to be hired by Central York, Bowman provided Shaw with valuable mentoring,
“Amber just got hired while I was going through the Pre-Service Firefighting Course. She was familiar with the course so she was able to help me out and give me some insight. When I made it to the interview stage of the hiring process, Bowman gave me advice and we bounced ideas off each other. Firefighting is a tough career to get into, and watching Bowman’s success was always inspirational and encouraging for me.”
While some aspects of popular culture have transformed the image of the firefighter into the beefcake calendar models, women have long been involved with firefighting. During World War II, there were all-female firefighting crews in Illinois and California.
Female firefighters today, such as Shaw, follow in that ground breaking legacy. Today, firefighting involves more than just extinguishing fires. From emergency medical services, rescuing injured people from collapsed buildings and crashed vehicles and responding to HAZMAT incidents; the amount of preparation is exceptional.
Playing with the Burlington Barracudas in 2011-12, which would be their final season; it marked the beginning of Shaw’s preparation towards her second career. While Shaw earned an assist on a goal scored by Mallory Johnston in the Barracudas final game in franchise history, her teammates were well aware of her off-ice efforts,
”I was playing in Burlington while I was going through the Firefighting school so my teammates saw first hand the time and commitment that was involved in the program. Everyone was very excited and happy when they found out that I had been hired.
They knew that this is what I was passionate about and they have been supporting me since Day 1, so they got to witness this process from start to end. There are a few of my old teammates who have been asking questions about firefighting and have decided to pursue it as a career.”
From the hockey rink to the fire truck, Shaw is more than just a role model for young women. She has transformed into a real-life superhero, providing an inspiring message, encouraging all to pursue their dreams.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”