The Doc Project

These girls will stop at nothing to get their own hockey team

For the young players of Eabametoong First Nation's first-ever girls' hockey team, hockey is about a lot more than hockey.
Outdoor practice in Eabametoong First Nation, Ontario. (Leslie Campbell)

By Julia Pagel

It's the winter of 2016 and Rez Girls 64, the girls' hockey team of Eabametoong First Nation, are at hockey practice. They're skating on a patch of ice cleared from the lake next to their reserve. It's one of their first practices. Not just of the season, but ever. 
Outdoor practice in Fort Hope

Eabametoong, also known as Fort Hope, is a small fly-in First Nation reserve in Northern Ontario, about a one-hour plane ride north of Thunder Bay. Home to about 1,300 people, the community had a hockey team for the boys, and rink time for adults in the community, but nothing for the girls. Until this year when, with help from teacher Leslie Campbell, these girls got a team all their own.   

And they have big goals. Get into good enough shape, and find enough funding so they can make it to their first-ever tournament in Thunder Bay.
Teammates Khaila, Teyaundra and Madison hanging out

There is a lot they have to overcome to make this happen. The reserve's rink doesn't have bathrooms and changerooms for the girls (they have to get changed in the Zamboni room). But toughest of all, they have no gear. And hockey equipment isn't cheap.

Back on the ice, the girls are passing pucks and skating hard when a man from the community walks down to the lake and says to the team's coach, "Coach Leslie, can you come quickly? There's a trailer with hockey equipment in it for you." Leslie shouts grinning wide, "Okay girls, practice is over! Take off your skates!"

The team leaves Eabametoong First Nation

A donation of gear has just arrived in the community for the team. The equipment had been gathered and sent up by Emma Tworzyanski, a high school student in Southern Ontario. She'd heard about the team's plight thorough her dad, who came up to the reserve for work. Tworzyanski initiated a school project to get gear for the Rez Girls 64, and it worked. "It was a really magical time," says Leslie. "Just the dignity that follows with knowing that, 'I have my own personal equipment and I am practicing and getting ready to compete in a tournament' has meant so much for the girls this year." 

But this was just the beginning of what these girls would overcome to make it to Thunder Bay. And the experience would leave them with a lot more to think about than just hockey.

Leslie Campbell, team coach (left), with a few of the Rez Girls 64 players.
The Rez Girls 64 getting some ice cream at McDonald's in Thunder Bay
Ready to play in Thunder Bay. (Leslie Campbell)

All photos provided by coach Leslie Campbell.

About the producer 

Julia Pagel is the producer of The Doc Project. While working on the show, she has had the chance to make documentaries spanning from the Women's March in in Washington D.C., to restaurateurs in Whitehorse, Yukon. She has previously worked at other CBC network programs including q and As It Happens.