First-ever girl on an all-boys hockey team: Nunavut girl in pink beats the norm
‘It felt like it was life,’ says Ruby Ningeocheak about her first hockey game. She turns 9 years old today.
Nine-year-old Ruby has baby-pink hockey skates and a matching pink helmet.
Her Habs jersey — her favourite team — is tucked inside her hockey gloves, also lined in pink.
Ruby is the first girl to play on the hockey team in Coral Harbour, Nunavut.
"One person said, 'cool a girl plays hockey!'" said Ruby.
Ruby said she always loved to skate, visiting the public arena roughly four times a week. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago that she held a hockey stick and pushed a puck for the first time.
"It felt like it was life," said Ruby about her first game.
"Like real hockey."
'Never really planned to be a hockey mom'
Joanna Ningeocheak never thought she'd be a hockey mom.
But ever since her only daughter Ruby approached her and her husband, she found herself in the middle of a tri-weekly hockey routine.
"[Her father and I] didn't want her to play... I told her that she would be the only girl and she would be picked on," said Joanna. "I was kind of hesitant about the older boys pushing her around."
But Ruby was insistent. "She already planned it," said Joanna.
"I've been at the arena ever since," she said. "I never really planned to be a hockey mom."
At Ruby's first game, Joanna said she cheered and yelled for her daughter to "stick with her man."
Afterwards, Ruby had something to say to her mother.
"She told me to be quiet at the arena," said Joanna, laughing.
Scoring goals and new friends
"I have two nice, hard coaches," said Ruby. "They let us do hard stuff... [like] lots of drills and skating backwards."
Ross Eetuk is Ruby's coach. He said it's "pretty nice" to have Ruby on the team.
"Women's hockey was big, but it kinda died off. We're slowly starting to see some girls on the ice now," he said, adding there was another young girl who joined the team, weeks after Ruby.
"We'd like to see more young girl hockey players," he said.
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Ruby said there are times when it's tough being around all the boys.
"One tripped my leg… And then I went inside the net, and then the net moved more back," she said. "[I was] a little bit sad. But it didn't hurt."
But she's made some friends already. "Just two.... We mostly talk about hockey."
Joanna said she feels "a bit of pressure," having her daughter on the team.
"I don't want her to be hit, and I want her to be a good hockey player at the same time," she said.
"So I have to sometimes, most times, step back and just watch her play."