In an effort to be more inclusive and to encourage kids to think more about what that means, Woolwich Minor Hockey held a challenge inviting teams of the association to make submissions discussing the nature of the phrase “Hockey for All.”
Three team’s submitted responses, with the U13 BB and U12AA submitting videos of their players explaining what ‘hockey for all’ means to them, while the U11 LL #2 team chose to write a fictional story featuring a diverse range of characters all gathering at a magical rink to play a game of pick-up hockey.
For Laura Rintoul, a parent of two boys on the U12 team, it’s an important conversation to have, even with kids.
“Even though they might be difficult conversations to have, if we don’t talk about it, then we’re basically saying it doesn’t exist. And these issues do exist for a lot of people,” Rintoul said.
The kids were eager to share what inclusion means to them, providing more responses than expected, Rintoul added.
“I think that we could have had a much longer conversation with them. A lot of their ideas were very thoughtful. For sure, it could be a difficult topic to discuss with 11- and 12-year-olds, but we felt that in order to make a difference and lead by example, [we should be] talking about being part of a solution and not being part of the problem,” she said.
The team’s video also had the kids give suggestions on what they can do to be more inclusive. Responses included inviting others to their games, recognizing that people in hockey can come from different backgrounds and volunteering with programs such as the Woolwich Thrashers sledge hockey team or the Sun Rays.
For the U11 team’s submission, each player created a different character to include in the story. Characters included a girl who was born blind, several para-hockey players, a boy going through cancer treatment, and Maksym, a recent immigrant from Ukraine.
“They went into pretty good depth of what they wanted to portray their story to be,” said coach Lisa Backman.
While Backman said there is a fair bit of visible inclusion in Woolwich’s hockey community, the team needed to add their voice to the conversation.
“They wanted to make sure that their voices were heard and they want to make sure that hockey is positive for everybody and no one’s excluded regardless of what’s happening,” she said.
Having these conversations now can lead to even deeper discussions in the future, Backman added.
“We do that now, we open up the conversation, we open up their minds, and it’s just going to get better from there,” she said.
For its winning submission, the U13 team received $250 for a team party and $100 to the charity of their choice (Friends of Hockey).
The U12 and U11 teams each received $100 towards a community initiative that promotes inclusivity and diversity in hockey.
“Diversity in Hockey has a long way to go and we especially recognize that in our small but growing community. Our Hockey for All Challenge was designed to have our players think about what hockey for all means to them and then advocate and promote that theme through a video, story, poster etc. Diversity in hockey starts with our youth and we will continue to do that,” WMHA president Nadia Elmasry Weiss said in an email.