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Inaugural St. John’s Women’s Hockey Tournament brings fun and inclusion to the ice

A sense of joy was palpable over the weekend at a small St. John’s rink on Saturday, where dozens of women gathered for the first major hockey tournament involving “overseas” teams in more than two years .

Volunteers organized the first Skoden Hockey Club Classic, bringing together more than 100 women’s hockey players from the St. John’s area with 21 of their long-distance counterparts from St-Pierre-Miquelon – the French archipelago off the coast of the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland.

The language barrier was not enough to prevent them from having fun.

“This year we are very lucky because we have two teams from St-Pierre here,” said Malika Plaa, captain of one of the France teams. “We missed [being here]. We would just like to have fun with all the people here.”

Although only a 90-minute ferry ride from the island of Newfoundland, residents of St. Pierre Miquelon have been isolated during the pandemic due to border restrictions that lasted until the end of last summer. The women’s hockey team traveled to St. John’s for tournaments in 2019 and 2020 but couldn’t return until this weekend.

Plaa hopes to hold a similar tournament in St-Pierre-Miquelon every two years, hosting teams from St. John’s on their small slice of Europe this side of the Atlantic.

All ages, all abilities

There was not only a mix of languages ​​on the ice over the weekend, but also a combination of ages and skill levels. The players were between 13 and 70 years old and their experience was almost as wide. The goal of the organizers was to ensure that everyone had the same chance to play and have fun.

“We’re all here to have a good time,” said Liz Duff, 64, who enjoyed skating alongside teenagers.

“Lots of camaraderie. And it’s nice to have our overseas friends here with us. We’re having a great time with them too.”

Diane Carley (left) and Liz Duff were among the oldest players on the ice this weekend, while teenagers Nora Fudge and Darrienne Harris were among the youngest. Carley said the common denominator for everyone was the love of hockey. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

During this time, the young team enjoyed meeting women they would never have been able to skate with in their minor hockey programs.

“I love being able to play with multiple people from different parts of everywhere,” said 15-year-old Darienne Harris. “I think that’s what’s so good about this tournament. … We’re getting new people, new experiences.”

Duff joked that she also liked new music in the locker room.

“Young people got the blast in there,” she laughed. “I’m like OK, calm down kids. Where’s the Neil Diamond?”

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