Hockey sur glace féminin sa la peine au Canada

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Toronto (Canada) (AFP) In Canada, ice hockey is king, but there are few queens. In many regions, women’s teams do not exist and there is no women’s professional championship. But they are too many to beat themselves up for that to change.

“The next five years will catch up with the last five. I think that’s the moment,” believes Danièle Sauvageau, former coach of the Canadian national team and now director of the high performance center.

“We’re going to see changes and more visibility, probably more women’s sports on TV than we’ve seen,” she added.

It’s all a paradox, despite a new Olympic gold medal in Beijing, last February, Canadian hockey players are still less visible in their country and hockey remains mainly a men’s sport. Women still represent less than 20% of practitioners in Canada (less than 10% in Quebec).

Introduction, in 2017, a form of salary in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (LCHF) could mark a turning point. But just over two years later, the announcement of its bankruptcy put an end to the professionalization movement that seemed to be falling in love.

Young Canadian players in training at the Toronto Hockey Association Hall, March 24, 2022 Cole BURSTON AFP/Archives

“We’re back on stage with the Olympic Games. But everything has to be done every four years”, lamented Marie-Philip Poulin, captain of the Canadian team and triple Olympic champion.

“Patience is needed”

She founded, in May 2019, the Association of Professional Hockey Players (PWHPA) with other Canadian and American players. Their goal: to create a North American league where players would be paid as professionals without having to work on the side.

“We believe. We are fighting to create a league not only for ourselves, but for future generations of players. We need patience,” she added.

In women’s clubs, young girls know little about these champions.

“People’s perception remains that hockey is more for boys, but it changes softly”, said Kim McCullough, at a Toronto women’s club.

According to a recent survey, more than 92% of Canadians estimate that girls should be encouraged as much as boys to do sports but more than 33% still consider that certain sports do not belong to women.

Relaxation sequence for young Canadians in their uniforms before a hockey practice in Toronto, March 24, 2022
Relaxation sequence for young Canadians in their uniforms before a hockey practice in Toronto, March 24, 2022 Cole BURSTON AFP/Archives

But in recent years, “we have seen an increase in players at all levels and it’s great, because we have more players the better it’s for our sport”, adds this coach, red helmet of the national team on the head.

Clubs reserve aux filles

On the ice, beginners 7 to 14 years old, green or pink jerseys on the back, sliding all the way from one end to the other, in front and behind, under the attentive gaze of their parents, who immortalize the moment with their phone, sitting behind a window.

Jamie Bliss, 43, was accompanied by 12 -year -old girl Kira at the entrance: “It’s great to have all the girls on the ice but also to have trainers who are women. I think that’s it. it’s great for them to see other women train them, encourage them. It gives them confidence “.

Having a model is also what motivated Hallae, 10 years old. “I was inspired by my dad’s girlfriend, she did a lot of hockey,” she tells him, adding that she loves the game and the competition.

In this Toronto club reserved for girls, they are numerous to explain that it allows them to feel more comfortable.

Some young Canadians training at a hockey tournament in Toronto, March 24, 2022
Some young Canadians training at a hockey tournament in Toronto, March 24, 2022 Cole BURSTON AFP/Archives

“It’s easier because some boys can sometimes be mean when they rate something,” Riley confesses, he said.

But unlike this club, not all provinces offer girls the opportunity to play on women’s teams to discover hockey. In Quebec, most of the time the girls are integrated into the boys teams.

A recent report, commissioned by the Quebec government on hockey in the Francophone province, focused in particular on the promotion of women’s hockey and advocated better coaching for players. And for the addition of women to strategic positions within Hockey Québec.

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