Hockey life: Olympian Natalie Spooner in the Okanagan to help young women in sports - InfoNews

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Hockey life: Olympian Natalie Spooner in the Okanagan to help young women in sports

Natalie Spooner
Image Credit: Chris Tanouye
July 20, 2019 - 8:48 AM

KELOWNA - Growing up, future Olympian Natalie Spooner was always told by her parents to not let anything hold her back, and dream big. For Spooner, that dream was to play hockey.

She had three older brothers in hockey and had plenty of hand-me-down sticks and skates waiting for her. She began skating at four-years-old, beginning a journey that would lead her to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Toronto Furies in 2012, winning Gold at the Olympics in 2014, competing in season 2 of the Amazing Race Canada and winning silver at the 2018 Olympics.

Not all girls have the same opportunities to chase their hockey dreams and now Spooner wants to turn her focus to changing that. 

"I think there's so much that sport really teaches you that you use later on in life,” said Spooner in an interview with InfoNews Friday. "That's why I think all girls should really have the opportunity that I had.”

Spooner came to Kelowna this weekend with the Grindstone Award Foundation, a Canadian charity that gives young female hockey players the financial support they need to keep them playing the sport they love. This weekend is their third annual Charity Tournament, which kicked off with a presentation from Spooner at the Laurel Packinghouse Friday night.

On July 20 and 21 female youth hockey players are invited to train with Spooner and other elite female hockey players and coaches at the Capital News Centre.

An all-star game featuring Spooner, guest coaches and select tournament players will take place Saturday night from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. at the Capital News Centre.

Natalie Spooner
Natalie Spooner
Image Credit: Chris Tanouye

This will be followed by the charity banquet, which features guest speakers Spooner as well as Isabelle Fortin from Vancouver, a Grindstone grant recipient (2017) and youngest winner of the Premier’s Award for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sports (2018) at 11 years old. Fortin started playing hockey when she was seven-years-old, and receiving the grant allowed her to purchase the gear she needed to stay on the ice.

The expenses of youth hockey are a real obstacle for young players. Father of player Elizabeth Wulf wrote an article for ESPN in 2013, calculating the costs incurred over the course of his daughter's ten years in hockey. The total was $48,850.  

“When I played it was cheaper than it is now,” said Spooner, "but there was still a huge expense. Thank goodness for my parents for keeping me in it and finding ways to make it work.”

Now that she is in a position to advocate for change, Spooner is using her platform to not only get girls into hockey, but to make sure they stay in hockey.

“We're finding that girls drop out almost six times the amount as boys by the time they hit puberty,” Spooner said. "If we can stop those numbers from dropping you're going to see women's hockey an women's sports take off because so many more girls are going to be staying in sports.”

Even in light of the recent folding of the CWHL, Spooner is optimistic about the future of women’s sports.

"I think that we can really make an impact on women’s hockey here in the future and in the next few years have a sustainable league,” she said, "a league that has the support it needs, and then one that can eventually grow into something where girls can [have] a career.”

However, Spooner knows there’s still work to be done to create equal opportunity for women.

"I think it is time to make a stand,” said Spooner, “Men are making millions of dollars playing hockey and last year in the CWHL I was paid $7000 for the year.”

To young girls wanting to play hockey but facing adversity in what has historically been a men's sport, Spooner has some advice.

"Go for it. If you love it and you want to play it, then put your whole heart into it,” she says. “If you have those dreams just keep fighting for them and don't give up."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 801-9235 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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