Emma 'Future women's hockey Olympian' Major-Mcnicol , my one-year-old daughter Photo credit: Tyler Major-Mcnicol

It is mind-boggling to think that in 2022, women’s hockey is still being ridiculed and viewed as inferior to men’s hockey.

Can you imagine? After the likes of Manon Rheaume, who was the first woman to compete in an NHL exhibition game, strapping on her goaltending gear for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Kendall Coyne-Schofield had a taste of the NHL when she competed in the fastest skater competition during the NHL’s annual all-star weekend festivities hosted in San Jose, California during the 2019-20 season.

And, last but not least, Hockey Canada women’s Olympic team three time gold medalist Marie-Philip Poulin, who captained her squad to their latest gold medal during the 2022 winter Olympic Games, in Beijing.

If that isn’t impressive enough, which it certainly is, listen to this: Poulin scored the three gold medal clinching goals, respectively, and is reported to have been sought out by a team representative of the East Coast Hockey League’s Trois Rivieres Lions, affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, which she ultimately turned down.

So, why are they still subjected to such treatment?

Envisioning an inclusive sport for all genders and ethnicities is something we should all do. I can’t imagine ever telling my daughter she shouldn’t or can’t play because she is a girl.

The thought of anybody being discouraged from playing hockey is unfathomable. I hope one day all the women’s hockey knowledge I pass down to my one-year-old daughter Emma is passed down to another generation of women’s hockey players.

Hockey is more than just a game and encourages many great qualities. My daughter will acquire many life skills through playing and every girl who wishes to play will gain those as well.

Having grown-up around hockey, I can attest firsthand to how men’s hockey has always been viewed as superior to women’s, because of physicality, brutality and strength.

However, long before I had a daughter, I had to sit back and have an embarrassed chuckle. These women who work their tails off, for a decreased pay in comparison to professional male hockey players, still give their all and attend full-time jobs during the week. If that isn’t dedication, I can’t tell you what is.

I’ve always tuned in to women’s hockey when it was televised, because to me hockey is hockey and that is the way it was meant to be.

Hayley Wickenheiser, Meghan Agosta and Shannon Szabados are the players who stood out to me and helped fuel the idea I would one day put my daughter – if I had one – into hockey, and I would show her some incredible women who have advanced the sport in such a huge way.

Many former women’s hockey Olympians, and one current, have found their way into broadcasting and hosting roles through TSN and SportsNet; Cheryl Pounder, Tessa Bonhomme, Cassie Campbell-Pascall to name a few.

This has been an integral breakthrough for women’s hockey, as these incredible women have been given a national platform in which they can express themselves and encourage girls to pursue hockey. My daughter isn’t currently old enough to lace up a pair of skates, but as soon as she is, she will.

I can wholeheartedly say with confidence I am excited to see how far the game will go, not only because of my daughter, but because hockey is meant to be inclusive and a Canadian staple.

It’s not as though women hockey players needed to prove themselves, however, bringing the gold medal home for the Women’s Olympic hockey tournament was exciting; especially considering the men failed to advance to the medal round.

My daughter is set to strap on her first pair of skates once she can walk, and while that hasn’t happened yet, the plan is to get her familiarized with skates through wearing them around the house with the guards on if the ice is melted away. I am not ignorant to the fact she may face crude comments, and hear unwarranted opinions, however I will educate her on how wanted and respected women’s hockey is.

The only boundaries that should be in her way are those in her mind, as her ability and skill are not lesser than those of any male hockey players.

If I can offer up a piece of advice for any future women’s hockey players and their parents it would be: Your only limitations are those you set for yourself. The outside noise and comments are just a hurdle along your journey. A strong supporting cast is crucial. Encouragement and reassurance for future women’s hockey Olympians will provide them with the necessary foundation to thrive and reach their goals in sport and life.