In the 2018 B.C. 55+ Games, taking place in Cranbrook and Kimberley from September 11 to 15, women’s hockey will be included as an event for the first time.
According to Melanie McFarlane, co-director of sport for the Games’ board and longtime player and proponent of women’s hockey, they had tried in previous years to get women’s hockey included, but found that there wasn’t enough interest out there.
Last year, she went with her husband and co-director of sport Rick McFarlane to the Vernon games. The women she played hockey with here in Cranbrook were talking about the event and were getting excited to put a team together for the 2018 games. However, when McFarlane got to Vernon she was dismayed to discover that women’s hockey was not included.
“I had to come home and tell them the bad news but then we pretty quickly turned around and said well let’s make this happen,” she said. “If we can put a team from Cranbrook in there’s gotta be enough teams from elsewhere so that’s how that part started.”
McFarlane is no stranger to to promoting women’s hockey. She used to live in Ontario and worked for the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association for nearly 17 years, taking part in provincial and world championships, administration and grass roots efforts.
“I’m no stranger to that part of it and obviously have a passion for seeing women play the game of hockey and enjoy the game of hockey.”
She recalls saying to her husband that she felt like there weren’t any more remaining hurdles for women to play hockey, so when she discovered that it was lacking from the 55+ games she immediately set about rectifying the situation.
“It was a pretty easy sell though. Like I say we just had to prove there was the numbers out there to make it a division in the games.”
With some help from the Adult Safe Hockey League, Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Association and Hockey B.C., statistics were gathered to show how many women over the age of 50 played hockey across the province.
“The really cool part is it’s opened a communication channel,” she says. “We started a Facebook page so there’s going to be a network now of women so maybe more opportunities are going to come forward. But hopefully each year, certainly for the 55+ games this will be the start of it happening every year, because we know every year there’ll be more women entering that age group that have played hockey.”
There are 12 zones that teams are drawn from for the games and if one particular zone struggles to get the numbers for a team, they are able to combine with players from another zone. They hope to get at least four, but more likely six teams to compete and the flexibility of the organization will help for that to happen.
“Obviously participation is the most important thing in these games and keeping seniors active and so to be that restrictive would be kind of counter productive, so it’s pretty neat that they allow that to happen.”
McFarlane herself will be competing as a goalie in the games and said that she’s allowed to have her role on the board and compete as well.
“The only restriction is you can only play one sport and unfortunately I dragonboat as well so I have to pick between the two but obviously my first passion is women’s hockey, so yeah I’ll be playing.”
She speculates that there may be some athletes that have previously played in world championships, explaining that as the first Worlds took place in 1990, many of those players are now in the right age group to compete in these games.
“It’s kind of neat that Cranbrook led the way in this, it’s been really fun to be a part of making it happen,” she says, adding:
“Instead of the parents watching their kids play hockey, it’ll be the kids watching the parents play hockey and their moms play hockey. It will be a reverse role. Or grandkids, because in my case it will be my grandkids watching me play hockey. It’ll be fun.”