Women’s hockey was not widely played nor was it popular on a professional level until the 1990’s. When women’s professional hockey hit the ice two decades ago it rapidly became the rage and women worldwide laced up to competitively play in the global arena.
Pre- 1900’s Women’s Hockey
Some historical sources claim that the first organized women’s hockey game was played in Barrie, Ontario in 1892. This game took place almost thirty years prior to the formation of the National Hockey League. However, the Ottawa Citizen Newspaper reported on February 11, 1891, that a hockey game between two unnamed women’s teams took place in Ottawa.
According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lord Stanley, the man after whom the Stanley Cup is named, his 14 year old daughter played in what is regarded as the first women’s hockey game in 1889. This game took place on the Rideau Hall Rink behind the Governor General’s official residence in Ottawa.
The women’s game caught on fairly quickly and in 1894, a women’s team formed at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. This team faced the wrath of the school’s archbishop who told the women they were not allowed to play hockey. Two years later, women’s teams were formed at McGill University in Montreal and in the Ottawa Valley.
Early 1900’s Women’s Hockey
The first Ontario women’s hockey championship was played in 1914. In 1916, the United States hosted an international hockey tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, that featured Canadian and American women’s hockey teams.
Women’s hockey lost popularity during the Depression Era and throughout World War II. Even though women’s hockey declined throughout these years, there was a team that prevailed, and to this day is still considered one of the best women’s hockey teams. The Preston Rivulettes played 350 Canadian league games between 1930 and 1939 and in those nine years only lost two games.
It wasn’t until the mid-1960’s that women’s hockey made a comeback. Teams were established across the country and throughout the United States. By the 1970’s women in Europe, Japan, China and Korea started up leagues and the popularity grew.
Late 1900’s Women’s Hockey
In 1982, Canada held its first national championship for women’s ice hockey and in 1990 hosted the first-ever Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships. The Canadian women won Gold.
In 1992, shortly after the second World Championships were played in Finland, the International Olympic Committee voted to include women’s hockey in future Winter Olympic Games. In 1998, women’s hockey made a debut in Nagano, Japan; Gold went to the USA, Silver to Canada, and Bronze to Finland followed by China, Sweden and Japan.
Team Canada in the 21st Century
Team Canada’s Women’s Hockey has been a powerhouse on the world stage. They have won nine world titles, two Olympic gold medals and 12 3 Nations/4 Nations Cups. Their success has been an inspiration to young girls and teenagers in every community across Canada to play hockey.
The Canadian Women’s team’s quest for a third consecutive gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics is now on. On February 12, 2010, they broke an Olympic record by beating the Slovakians 18-0. No matter the outcome of the 2010 Olympics, the women playing on Team Canada will hold a special place in Canadian history books as the most influential positive role models for all Canadian women.
Update: They won by beating US 2-0 in the final.