I come from a hockey family. We lived in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut for part of my childhood, where one of the only organized activities for kids was the local hockey program. Women’s hockey hadn’t taken off yet, but that didn’t stop my parents. They signed my sister and me up to play as soon as we were old enough.
Our family lived on one edge of town and the hockey arena was on the other. I remember walking across the frozen lake to hockey games and practices several times a week during those years, our hockey bags piled up on the sled.
As a kid, I don’t really remember saying I wanted to play hockey or having much of a choice. It was just what kids in our family did. When I got older, and we’d moved back to Thunder Bay, I got interested in other activities and sports. I liked going to hockey, but I didn’t love it the way my sister or three brothers did.
At twelve, I was too old for our friendly neighbourhood hockey league (called the NHL for Northwood Hockey League) where I had been playing on the same team as my two younger brothers. So my parents signed me up for the house league team that many of my fellow 12-year-old NHL teammates were graduating to. Not only were we moving to changing on the fly but we were also now eligible for body contact.
Like most 12-year-old girls, I was starting to feel a little awkward and out of place in most situations, let alone being the only girl in the hockey dressing room. I finished out that year, but decided to try my luck with downhill ski racing the next winter instead of playing hockey.
I sat out of hockey for a couple of seasons and joined my first women’s hockey team a few years later. That first game back felt like going home.
Today, hockey is an important outlet for me. After moving to Winnipeg about five years ago, I joined the women’s hockey team my sister had been playing on in the Adult Safe Hockey League. It’s been a great way to get exercise, blow off some steam, and get to know some great women.
As we head into playoff season, I’m thankful to my parents for signing me up and getting me to the rink for so many years, even if it didn’t always seem like I loved the game. Today, there is no doubt I do.
When I think about the wellness wheel, hockey swirls through quite a few of the spokes. The game and my teammates are a great way to take care of my physical, social, and mental health. For me, there’s nothing like a good sweat to put things in perspective. When I’m on the ice, other stresses melt away and my biggest problem is trying to get that puck in the net.
What sports or activities help you stay well, without feeling like work? Let us know in the comments.