We first laced up our skates five years ago. We met in a dressing room, as strangers, with other women who were putting their hockey equipment on for the very first time in many years, and in some cases, the first time ever. We didn’t know then that many of us would become good friends and play hockey for eight more seasons together… and counting.
THE LIFT HER UP HOCKEY STORY
Lift Her Up Hockey started from a conversation after a few team players became less supportive of others and winning became more important than having fun. We wanted to create a league that focused on the hockey experience, while remaining “friendly competitive” with refs and timed games but allowing women to support each other on the ice. We have music on the bench, mixed skill sets, and still enjoy a great workout that hockey can provide when you create the “right” culture. Our first marketing strategy was to target women to try the game. Then, we wanted to have more women who had hockey experience and wanted to skate in a supportive league, mentoring others informally during games. It works!
We fully embraced the movement of “Grow the Game”. Whether you are starting to play at 30, 40 or 50 years old, the game of hockey is open to you. Lift Her Up Hockey is about community and women who are lifting others up.
We support youth refs in our league by hiring females to officiate our games; they too need a supportive community to gain experience and grow. Most recently our community supported the Grindstone Award Foundation in their quest to support young girls in hockey. Our teams used their refundable jersey deposit, which resulted in our league gifting a girl from Grindstone a season of hockey. We’ve also “paid it forward” to a local cinema needing help to stay afloat during Covid by purchasing a plaque for one of their seats. When we first started, this cinema helped us promote Lift Her Up Hockey on the big screen in the way of a commercial, for no cost. Seasonal initiatives have also been a part of our giving back to our community in the way of supporting the Halton Women’s Foundation.
We share our experiences through social media, and we were thrilled when “4 Love of Puck” approached us, asking us to be a part of their documentary about the culture of hockey and why we choose to play. When they reached out with two days notice asking if we could play a game on a Friday night, we jumped on it. We felt a connection to the story they were on a journey to tell. Our league was their first all-female hockey league that they skated with. When we met Cas and Adam, we knew these guys were genuinely curious about the league that made Wednesday nights our favourite night of the week. They wanted to experience the smaller 3 on 3 ice rink and although they could have out skated us, they opted for the assists. Although one of their team members didn’t score on our goalie that night, and near the end he was trying pretty hard.
We knew after that evening talking with them on camera that it didn’t matter where or how we started to play; it was our shared experiences and the love for the game that would be the common thread among the leagues they interviewed from across Canada and the US. Level of play set aside, it was the culture of hockey that connects us.
Some of our players had an opportunity to contribute their own personal stories about starting hockey and staying with it. It was humbling for us to listen to them express their experience with Lift Her Up Hockey – it was validation for us that we were on the right path.
Their film will illustrate that regardless of who you are or where you come from, there is a common bond shared by all who have laced up their skates and experienced this amazing life-long sport. We are extremely grateful to have contributed to their story… from a little community start up league in Oakville, Ontario to sharing the same experiences as many they interviewed about the love of hockey. We continue to stay in touch on social and from time to time, exchange updates on our leagues. We also talk about a reunion skate.
STARTING OR RETURNING TO YOUR HOCKEY JOURNEY
Our advice to women considering taking up hockey for the first time later in life is to find a league that is welcoming to new players and is not overly competitive. Of course, we love to win on a given week, and the “losers” will likely hear about it in the dressing room, but our league has a mix of skill and our better skaters understand that mentoring new players is an expectation. We have seen first-hand that skating with players who are better, who consistently pass the puck and encourage you on the ice will dramatically improve a new player’s skill over a season or two.
Although winning feels good momentarily, when you are playing with others who are supportive, you will still feel good after a loss. It will help you stay physically fit, challenge your balance, core, and improve your coordination later in life. Socially, hockey has been an important activity for us. The connections and relationships you develop before, during, and after the game really can contribute positively to your overall mental health. We often have said that the best parts of the hockey game happen in the dressing room, before and after the game (before Covid, of course).
As we continue this journey of a welcoming and social atmosphere, we focus on creating a positive culture; our lives are busy, we want women to look forward to skating with us. Our league started with an idea to bring women together first, then let’s play the game we all love, and it’s working – we have women who play outside of the Oakville area, from Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga and as far as Hamilton, Guelph, and Grimsby. When your culture wraps hockey up as a fun place to be during a busy week, players will show up. We are grateful for this small but mighty hockey league.
Talk to other women who are playing – they all have a story about their first skate. Our regret is that we didn’t start to play sooner…. and now, we count the days of the week until our next game!
Our hope for our future is to double our league registration from our current roster of four teams, yet remain small enough to continue to offer more than just a game, but a hockey experience. We hope to continue grow our network of like-minded organizations, small and large, whose focus is to elevate others and support growing the game. We would like to be known for our community focus with more sponsors of small-business owners and partnerships that are promoting more kindness in hockey. We want Lift Her Up Hockey to become a brand that is associated with inclusivity and a supportive, safe place to play. Whether you are a goalie or a player, you will receive more than just a game for your league fees.
In the short term, our community of players have been asking for branded Lift Her Up Hockey merchandise, we hope to take something to print very soon.
You can find our stories on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and watch us dabble in the occasional Tik Tok (oh yes!).