Nova Scotia

Female hockey players in Cape Breton looking for equal ice time

Women and girls in Cape Breton are often fighting men's teams for ice time and say the lack of regular access to ice is impeding growth in the sport.

Players on the Cape Breton Blizzard and Capers hockey teams want the old CBU arena opened to women and girls

The Canada Games Complex at CBU has been dormant for the past two years. A local group hopes to make it home ice for women and girls. (Josefa Cameron/CBC)

A Cape Breton hockey group is trying to make it easier for women and girls to get on the ice.

Women's hockey has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years, and there isn't enough ice time to accommodate the burgeoning interest.

Christina Lamey, president of the Cape Breton Blizzard Female Hockey Association, says female teams on the island are often fighting their male counterparts for ice time.

"We get literally what is left over after the other organizations take what they want first," said Lamey. "We can't live on leftovers."

The association is working to raise the funds needed to convert the Canada Games Complex, located at Cape Breton University, to a rink exclusively for female players.

Christina Lamey says women and girls are often given poor ice times to practice, or no time at all. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

The arena hasn't been used for hockey for more than two years, but Lamey said the number of girls playing hockey in the CBRM has doubled in the same time frame.

Since 2015, the number of teams in the area has increased from three to 20. She said a rink devoted to women and girls would go a long way toward resolving the issues around equity.

New female players say they've had limited practices and games because boys teams get access to ice times more frequently. With no home ice to call their own, women and girls are often left with bad time slots to play, or no availability at all.

"We had team ice times being taken over by boys teams. And so we lost a lot of ice times," said Madelyn Williams, who plays U-18 with the Blizzard.

Maggie Williams and Kaylee Primmer also play for the Blizzard and said they want just as much ice time as other teams.

Maggie Williams, Madelyn Williams and Kaylee Primmer play for the Cape Breton Blizzard Hockey Association. They hope the rink at CBU can become home ice for women and girls in the CBRM. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

CBU student and Capers women hockey team member Alyssa Burke said most of her practices were held in Membertou at times that weren't always convenient. 

"We had practice Monday night at 8:30 and I had a lab that went 5:30 to 8:30. So I'd always be late and driving as fast as I could to get there," she said. "It would be great if it was on campus."

The Canada Games Complex was built in 1986 and needs new ice-making equipment and a Zamboni. Over the past two years, no ice has been made and the facility has served primarily as a COVID-19 vaccine clinic and a convocation space for CBU. 

Alyssa Burke plays for the CBU Capers. She says she often drives past the empty rink at CBU to go to practices. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

So far, the hockey association has been given a $50,000 grant from paper giant Kruger. The company runs a program to help promote inclusion in hockey. That money will be used to get more girls and women into hockey. 

The hockey association plans to do an assessment to get an estimate of what the project would cost.

The team has also applied to a national championship which could bring in $250,000 for arena upgrades. Lamey said the association will also make a formal ask to multiple levels of government for financial support.