North

First-ever girl on an all-boys hockey team: Nunavut girl in pink beats the norm

Ruby Ningeocheak is the first-ever girl to be on an all-boys hockey team in Coral Harbour, Nunavut.

‘It felt like it was life,’ says Ruby Ningeocheak about her first hockey game. She turns 9 years old today.

Ruby Ningeocheak is the first and only girl on the all-boys hockey team in Coral Harbour, Nunavut. She says her favourite team is the Montreal Canadiens. (submitted by Joanna Ningeocheak)

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 before she played the first hockey game of her life earlier in December. (submitted by Joanna Ningeocheak)

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.

Ruby and her mom Joanna Ningeocheak. (submitted by Joanna Ningeocheak)

"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.

Coral Harbour's Ruby Ningeocheak takes the ice.

North

4 years ago
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Ruby Ningeocheak is the first-ever girl to play on an all-boys atom hockey team in Coral Harbour, Nunavut. Here she is, showing her stuff on the ice (submitted by Joanna Ningeocheak). 0:24

"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. 

Ruby said there are times when it's tough being around all the boys.

"Sometimes they skip the line when they're supposed to be at the back," she said.
Ruby (center) plays hockey with her teammates. (submitted by Joanna Ningeocheak)

"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."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priscilla Hwang

Reporter/Editor

Priscilla Hwang is a reporter with CBC News based in Ottawa. She's worked with the investigative unit, CBC Toronto, and CBC North in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. Before joining the CBC in 2016, she travelled across the Middle East and North Africa to share people's stories. She has a Master of Journalism from Carleton University and speaks Korean, Tunisian Arabic, and dabbles at classical Arabic and French. Want to contact her? Email priscilla.hwang@cbc.ca or @prisksh on Twitter.

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