Tales from the Timebox: April 14th, 2020
Since it’s starting to look like we going to be doing this reminiscing thing for a while, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t include some stories about my daughter, Jena and the minor hockey girls in my tales. Let me take you back to the 1996/97season. The Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup after 42 years defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in the final. The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix where they would become the Coyotes. For the first time in five years the Oilers are back in the playoffs. Doug Weight and Ryan Smyth lead the way and stun the favoured Dallas Stars in the first round, and it is the second season for the newly formed Elk Point Storm Midget Female team.
Brian Tucker was instrumental in the forming of the first female hockey team in Elk Point. Dewberry had a team for a few years before us and his daughter Megan had played there the year before. She had spent her Atom and Peewee years on the Elk Point boys’ teams. At that time I have to admit, most of coaches and parents of the boys teams didn’t really want any girls playing with them and did their best to discourage it. A lot of girls play boys hockey now. It’s normal. Back then it was a whole different era as you all know.
Brian was a persistent as they get. He could be annoying, but looking back now I know he was a terrific manager. He recruited female players from everywhere. Penny Quinney was one of our goalies, but she could play out as well. He recruited another goalie from Elizabeth Métis Settlement. She had a couple of sisters and friends who also joined the team. He recruited girls from figure skating. Some of them had quit the sport for various reason. In case you didn’t know figure skating can become very expensive paying for a coach and mileage. You practice for hours and hours for a competition to find out you didn’t past at test day.
They needed a team sport to relax and joke around with other girls. Most of them were good skaters but needed to learn how to shoot and stick handling. Also learn the rules of hockey, like off sides and icing. Our daughter Jena ‘the Princess’ was one of them. She figure skated from the time she was five until about 15. She skated three times a week, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. I would take her to skating every Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. Getting up at that time was no problem for me since I’ve always been a morning person. But in the dead of winter at 25 or 30 below it was a real test, for sure. Especially since the A.G. Ross Arena was always about 20 degrees colder inside than the weather outside. But she would do it and knew that daddy would be there to buy her a hot chocolate and some kind of treat. I felt a little guilty since the majority of time I spent with our son Jordan and his hockey team.
Brian convinced her to join the team. She tried to do both for a while skating and hockey but finally gave up on the skating. Her heart wasn’t in it anymore. I didn’t miss the Sunday morning wake up. Especially if we had a party the Saturday night before.
Back then the female hockey league was mostly south of here. In fact, I believe we may have been the furthest northern team at the time. We had Dewberry and Vermilion that were close. Then Sedgewick and Irma that were fairly close. But also Castor, Big Valley and Hanna that were major road trips.
In 1997, Dave Cousins was our head coach. His daughter Kali was on the team. Kevin Bjornstad, Darrel Kinneberg and I were assistant coaches. My wife Donna and Gillian Cousins were assistant coaches as well. Needed to have at least one of the moms at the games to make sure the girls were getting ready in the dressing room and not just goofing around. The team struggled for sure in the early days. But the girls were having fun and never got pouty when we lost by double digits and we often did. Kandice Bjornstad was our captain and she could carry the puck end to end. Kendra Stasyk was on the point and had a big slap shot. Both of them were very big and intimating. Teams didn’t mess with us if they were on the ice. Lots of games the girls would be chirping with a player on the other team. I was kind of shocked at first. Believe it or not midget girls know how to swear and I heard it all!
One of the best road trip we ever had was to play the teams down south. We traveled to Castor for a Friday night game, stayed over and then to Big Valley the next day for a late Saturday afternoon game, then headed to Hanna to sleep over. On Sunday we had a game in Hanna but not until at four o’clock. Back then the girls didn’t exactly get prime ice time. In fact, most associations would give them the crappy ice times and say ‘it’s only a girls game anyway.’
Brian Tucker, Kevin Bjornstad and I shared a room that night and we also shared a few pops and shots watching Hockey night in Canada. A couple of the other dads like Glen Stasyk and Darrel Kinneberg popped over to visit as well. As the night wore on Kevin warned us that we should probably go to sleep before he does because he snores. But Brian started entertaining us with his Vietnam stories. He was a veteran. My Blue Jays buddy Darrel Kinneberg and I still laugh about it even now. Of course Kevin passed out before any of us. The room was rumbling for the rest of the night. Needless to say we didn’t get any sleep that night at all. Neither did anyone else on that floor or the rooms above or below us! It was a good thing the game wasn’t until later that day so we could grab a few cat naps.
Did I mention how crazy the teen aged girls are about boys? One time I was taking a few of the girls in my truck to Sedgewick. Herbert DeMossiac was riding shot gun in the front seat, his daughter Joanne was our goalie at the time. Joanne, Kandice Bjornstad and my daughter ‘the Princess’ were all in the back seat. We were on the road for about an hour when I looked in the mirror and saw Kandice with a huge tool box full of make up. The girls were getting all dolled up putting on eye shadow and lipstick. I said what the heck are you girls doing? We are going to a hockey game don’t you know. Kandice replied, ‘Have you seen how cute the referees are in Sedgewick?!’
Princess seemed to spend a lot of time in the sin bin. For some reason she lead the team in penalties. I think it was because she had watched her brother Jordan play for many years and thought it was okay to crunch the girls into the boards or give them a little elbow or a stick across the back of the legs. After all, she had watched Jordan do it and get away with it. Unless she had another motive? One time in Irma the Princess headed to the penalty box where there was two teen aged boys running the clock. When they asked her for her number. Meaning on her sweater number, she replied with her phone number. Didn’t have social media back then and hardly anyone even had a cell phone.
We hosted the Midget B Provincial final that year. We were all excited to get it. Turns out no one else applied to host it, so we were the automatic choice. Hayley Wickenheiser’s mother, Marilyn, was the Hockey Alberta tournament representative. Irma won the gold medal. The next year we hosted it again. That year we applied for the midget boys and midget girls hoping to get one of them. We got them both. Once again we were the only ones to apply for the girls. Good thing we have the best volunteers in Elk Point.
At that time it was a ten team tournament. Seven zones plus Calgary, Edmonton and the Host. The games at the time were only three 15 minute periods. With a ice flood after the second period only. Irma didn’t have very many skaters but won the provincials least twice at our arena. They are still winning at the provincials twenty years later. Brian Tucker did go to the Hockey Alberta AGM and made a motion to have the girls hockey changed to be just like the boys with 20 minutes periods and it was passed. You’ve come a long ways girl!!
K. A. Campbell quote of the week. ‘Girls playing sports is not about winning gold medals. It’s about self esteem, learning to compete and learning how hard you have to work in order to achieve your goals. ‘ Jackie Joyner Kersee