1990 paved way for Canadian women's hockey

Sue Scherer, who captained Canada at the 1990 women's world hockey championship, says increased...

Sue Scherer, who captained Canada at the 1990 women's world hockey championship, says increased exposure of the game will be a big boost for girls hockey. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency)

AEDAN HELMER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:42 PM ET

OTTAWA - When the world comes to Ottawa for the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship, there could be something of a “rebirth” — similar to what the women’s game experienced the last time the tournament was held here in 1990.

Sue Scherer captained Team Canada to a gold medal that inaugural year, but to her, the victory on the ice resonated far beyond the confines of the Civic Centre.

“Hockey was already such a part of the culture and fabric of this country, but in 1990 we played the game really in isolation,” Scherer said from her Blackburn Hamlet home, where she now coaches daughters Kaitlyn, 12, and Lauren, 10, in the Gloucester minor hockey system.

“1990 really opened the door for many of us, but for the generation that’s playing now, it changed the game. So now, while the base is broadening and the game has reached new international levels, it hasn’t stopped growing domestically. After that tournament, girls’ hockey became the fastest-growing sport in Canada. Our history goes back to the late 1800s, but in that tournament, we really had a rebirth. It really was a turning point.”

Carleton Ravens coach Shelley Coolidge was one of the 35 athletes invited to try out for that 1990 squad.

She said the “incredible experience” of lining up alongside the best players in the country was matched only by the way the team captivated crowds across Canada.

“I remember being in a little local pub in Saskatoon, and the number of people who were there watching the games was just unbelievable,” said Coolidge. “That was the starting point for our game. It caught the attention of key players and it caught the attention of some key sponsors.”

“Prior to that, (women’s hockey) only got about 10 minutes of exposure on Saturdays on CBC, and it was usually sandwiched in between darts and bowling. After that tournament, more and more girls wanted to play, and registration in the country spiked.”

Long before she became a household name, Hayley Wickenheiser was one of those young players who caught Coolidge’s eye when she played in one of those initial girls’ hockey camps that opened in Shaunavon, Sask.

In 2013, the next Hayley Wickenheiser could be sitting in the stands of Scotiabank Place.

“This type of event will not only increase the profile of the game, it will draw more and more girls to hockey,” said Heather Mallette, executive director of the Ottawa District Women’s Hockey Association.

“Ottawa will fill the rinks,” said Scherer, “and these kids are going to get a chance to start dreaming themselves.”

aedan.helmer@sunmedia.ca


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