Female hockey players in Red Deer now have a dedicated space to call their own.
SportChek has renovated a dressing room at the Kinsmen Community Arena and it was unveiled to eleven select Red Deer Minor Hockey players Tuesday.
The room has been painted and includes a mural representing inclusivity, as well as inspirational quotes from one of Canada’s all-time great female hockey players, Hayley Wickenheiser. It also has stickers for the girls to post inspirational messages to the door before they head out onto the ice.
“It’s absolutely great for them. I think it’s just important for them to have a space dedicated solely to them. For a community-based initiative like this, that’s one of a kind so far, it just means the world to them,” said Tracy Burghardt, a Red Deer Minor Hockey female hockey coordinator and member of the board of directors.
“They’re excited and I think you can really feel the sense of a team mentality and a sense of belonging.”
Burghardt added that her daughter played hockey for seven years and recently hung up her skates.
“It would have meant the world to her to have a room like this,” Burghardt said.
Raya Hastings, 14, who plays on Red Deer’s Bantam elite female team, was one of the 11 players who got an exclusive look at the new room Tuesday. As recently as this past week, Hastings said she was designated to the referee’s room while getting ready for a hockey camp.
“It made me feel good that they’re more welcoming to girls now,” she said.
It was these types of experiences that first prompted Wickenheiser to bring awareness to the subject. In March, she tweeted about having to change in hallways or washrooms as she was coming up playing hockey — something she felt has to change to keep young girls involved in hockey.
This is in a rink in Cranbrook, BC, but could be in many rinks in 🇨🇦still. I changed in that ladies washroom 25 years ago, they are still in the hallways and washroom to this day. Come on folks- just do better. pic.twitter.com/8cTkrX8gbF
— Hayley Wickenheiser (@wick_22) March 25, 2021
That’s where SportChek stepped in to create the unique experience in Red Deer, that they hope will help girls stay committed to sport over the long haul.
“We had a really great opportunity to give back to the community. Team sport is really important to us. But also creating an inclusive, comfortable environment that encourages girls to stay engaged in team sport was really important,” said Theresa Morales-Noade, regional manager for SportChek.
“One in four girls who were participating in sport, prior to COVID, they’re actually not going to be committed to returning. That didn’t fly for us… We wanted to put in the work to transform the space and make sure it’s an enticing space and it’s not just females going into a space for men, it’s a space for us and for the girls to feel comfortable.”
It did just that for 12-year-old Taylor Sorenson, who has played hockey for the past five years.
“It was really interesting, I liked it a lot,” she said.