It is ironic that while the women’s world championships for ice hockey are coming to Kamloops at the end of March, the Kamloops women’s recreational ice hockey league is struggling.
Women’s recreational ice hockey in Kamloops has grown rapidly over the last decade or so. In 1978, one Kamloops team played at a tournament in Ashcroft, spawning two teams in an Interior league. A recreational league of four teams played in 2000. The league grew to eight or more teams over the last few years.
Up until last summer, the Kamloops women’s recreational league skated out of the Ice Box on Tk'emlups Indian Band. When the Ice Box closed last July, the women’s league scrambled to find ice time on City of Kamloops rinks. While some ice time on city rinks was found, all of the ice times for the women are late slots, either 9:30 or 10:15 pm.
From its heyday of eight or more teams, the league is down to five teams. Late ice times is one of the contributing factors to shrinking numbers of teams.
With the change of venue, less desirable and reduced ice time, the women’s league in Kamloops has shrunk this year to five teams. With loss of the Ice Box, the league is having a harder time attracting players.
Before 1978, there was no women’s hockey in Kamloops. The growth in women’s hockey in the last decade is from both women who had the opportunity to play as girls, and equally, from women who never had the chance. For example, I wanted to play hockey when I was a girl, but back then there were no girls’ or women’s ice hockey teams. There wasn’t an opportunity to play on a mixed youth team either. It wasn’t until I got to university that I had a chance to play recreational hockey.
Women and girls are a recent arrival to ice hockey, and they have had to fight to have the chance to play. It is not uncommon for towns around Kamloops to have only one or two women’s recreational teams, who have to drive long distances to other towns for games. To have a league of six or ten teams in Kamloops is a luxury, meaning that the teams can play each other, rather than drive 100 km away for a game.
Because women’s hockey is a late arrival, it has to, or so it seems, take whatever is left. There are numerous men’s recreational leagues which have ice time on City of Kamloops rinks. But to find space for women’s hockey, someone else has to give their time slot up. The trick is who that should be. When the women’s league moved over from the Ice Box, the city gave them time slots at 9:30 and 10:15 p.m. The existing men’s recreational leagues get late slots too, but they also get times starting as early as 6:15 pm.
One question is why both men and women’s recreational leagues don't have equal access to the earlier time slots. Both men and women work. Both are parents. Both have reasons to play earlier, rather than later.
Up until July of last year, women were playing hockey over at the Ice Box instead of City of Kamloops rinks because they couldn’t find sufficient ice time on City of Kamloops rinks. It was too difficult for the women to get their share of the ice time pie on city rinks. The men’s and youth leagues had all the ice time taken.
Women’s hockey started from almost no players just a short time ago. It has grown because there is a pent up demand by women to play the game. Now is the time for the City of Kamloops to give both men’s and women’s recreational hockey leagues equitable access to ice time.
— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.