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Q+A with author Lorna Schultz Nicholson

October 4th, 2011 by Carrie Gleason

Lorna Schultz Nicholson

Lorna Schultz Nicholson is the author of two non-fiction books in the Lorimer Recordbooks series: Pink Power and Winning Gold, both of which tell amazing stories of Canada's National Women's Hockey Teams. She has also written many other fiction and non-fiction titles.

We checked in with Lorna to talk about how the profile of women hockey players has changed since the 1990s and what this means for tomorrow's stars of the game.

 

pink power coverwinning gold cover

Q: Where does your interest in hockey, and specifically women’s hockey, come from?

A: Hockey was one of my favourite sports to play when I was young. I started playing in a three-team league and we wore figure skates and stuffed shin pads under our jeans. Our only other equipment was gloves, a helmet, and a stick.

After that first year, we got a sponsor who bought four sets of jerseys and socks and an arena gave us the 9:00 – 11:00 ice time on Friday nights. I was thrilled. I loved playing hockey.

From there a travelling team was created and, yes, I made that team. We were called the Jaycee Jets. I also played hockey when I was in my thirties in Russell, Ontario and again in Calgary just a few years back. So hockey is in my blood.

I guess it has to be because I married someone who devotes his life to the sport. I have been extremely grateful that I can attend the events I write about: 1990 Women’s World Championships; 2002 Olympic Games. And I am also grateful that every female athlete I talked to was more than willing to share their stories with me. They answer my questions and want to talk about the sport they love because they are passionate about hockey.

 

Q: You travelled with Team Canada to the first Women's World Hockey Championships in 1990, the subject of your book Pink Power. You were also there when the Canadian Women's Team won at the 2002 Olympic Games, the subject of Winning Gold. In what way do you think the general public's awareness of women's hockey had changed in the years between those two tournaments?

A: Women’s hockey has grown a great deal since the first Women’s World Hockey Championship — that tournament was a huge eye opener for so many people.  They realized that women’s hockey was really exciting to watch and a good game for young girls to play.

I think the biggest change has been to the growth in the sport in sheer numbers of girls playing which, in turn, has led to stiffer competition to make our National Team. The level of play has escalated and the women are now better hockey players. They shoot harder, skate better, and are bigger and stronger and that is because they have more opportunities with more ice time, better coaching, and more competition.

We have players that everyone knows, like Hayley Wickenheiser, who was good enough to play in a men’s league in Finland. We also have women now graduating from the game and moving on to roles in hockey that have been predominately been occupied by men. An example of this is Cassie Campbell. She can be seen on Hockey Night in Canada because of her play on our National Team.

All in all the sport has grown in leaps and bounds since 1990.     

 

Q: Now that we have well-known women hockey heroes, like the two you mentioned — Cassie Campbell and Hayley Wickenheiser — and more girls interested in playing youth hockey, what changes or improvements do you think this will bring about for girls and their future in hockey?

A: The growth in the sport has definitely given the sport more money which, of course, leads to more ice and better coaching and better equipment. There are more leagues, more tournaments and just an overall better structure for the girls to play under. Those women who are on Canada’s National Team are also garnering more sponsorships, as shown by Cassie Campbell and McDonalds and other athletes getting their faces on cereal boxes.

Now many of our National Team members are also making money as motivational speakers. Tessa Bonhomme has recently been added to the TV show Battle of the Blades. The increased awareness for the sport is helping women have a lifelong a career in hockey.

 

Q: What do you think will be next for women's hockey? Will we see them in the NHL?

A: We already have! Manon Rheaume (a goalie who played on Canada’s National Team) did play an exhibition game in the NHL. However, it is unlikely that we will see many women play in the NHL in the future. Girls who want a career in hockey should concentrate on playing for Canada’s National Team as that can lead them to other opportunities in the sport, such as broadcasting or speaking or even coaching. 

Perhaps, one day there will be a women’s league in North America that is equivalent to the NHL. Right now as well, the focus needs to be on other countries developing better players to they are able to play with the Canadians and the US women. We need to keep women’s hockey in the Olympics and that should be a focus for women’s hockey. 


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