Preston Rivulettes women's hockey team awarded national historic honour

Cambridge's renowned hockey team, the Preston Rivulettes — which set an amazing women's hockey record for over a decade — has been recognized by the federal government for its contributions to sport.

Rivulettes were unstoppable between 1931 and 1940, winning 95 per cent of their games

Two Preston Rivulette players preparing for a game. The women on the team were softball players, looking for something to do during the off season. (Public Domain)

A Cambridge hockey team that holds the record as being one of the most successful in women's ice hockey is being recognized by the federal government. 

Before the Preston Rivulettes take to the ice Friday night, a plaque from Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada will be unveiled in the team's honour.

Between 1931 and 1940, when the team was in its infancy, the Rivulettes were unstoppable — winning 95 per cent of their games.

That record is still unmatched in women's hockey, according to current coach Geoff Haddaway. 

"You know, there were some stories that there were some objections — the old 'girls can't play hockey' kind-of-thing," he told CBC News. "I can imagine a bunch of strong-willed young girls saying, 'Yeah we can.' So I think every time they went on the ice, they probably had a little bit of that fire in their bellies."
A photo of the Preston Rivulettes during their winning decade. At the time, they won 95 per cent of the games they played. (Public Domain)

Started as softball team

That fire helped them win 10 Ontario titles, six eastern Canada titles and six Dominion titles. They were even invited to compete in Europe, although the outbreak of the Second World War forced them to cancel their tour. 

The success came as a surprise to some. After all, the women were not hockey players to start with: they were softball players looking for something to do during the off season.

They managed to convince the manager of Preston arena to not only give them ice time, but also to be their coach. The rest, as they say, is history.
Rivulettes's coach Geoff Haddaway speaks to host Craig Norris about the team's history. Between 1931 and 1940 they won 95 per cent of their games — a number that's still unmatched in women's hockey. 4:01

In the end, Haddaway said the team has lived up to its name, which he thinks evolved from the word "rivulet" — a small stream of water.

"I've heard different sorts of enhancements on that definition," he said, but the one he likes best is "a small stream of water that can make its way through, you know, what seems like huge obstacles."

Their contribution to Canadian sport history will be recognized Friday night at 6:00 p.m. at the Preston Memorial Auditorium, before the Rivulettes play the Oakville Hornets at 7:40 p.m.

Preston Rivulettes in 1998

In 1998, CBC News prepared this report on women's hockey in the lead-up to the winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. That was the first time women's hockey was played as an official medal sport at the games.

Reporter Carol Off interviews two former members of the Preston Rivulettes. Hear what these feisty women have to say about their sport:
Women's hockey is about to come of age at the Olympics. 5:03