Blazing a trail for female hockey in Slave Lake for 26 years

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

“Connie (Schultz) started the Kodiaks 26 years ago, and kept it running” says teammate Melanie Herbert. Since it started in 1993, the team hasn’t taken a season off, which is unique in both Slave Lake hockey and in the women’s league.

The Kodiaks play good hockey, but it’s hard to get community support and build up a fan base, says Schultz. “It’s hard to fundraise, play hockey, and be a mom, and work.”

Kodiaks are the only women’s adult hockey team in the area. Kodiak players come from Slave Lake, Wabasca, Smith, and High Prairie. Their nearest rival is in Sturgeon Lake, west of Valleyview, which is two hours and 20 minutes (218 kilometres) from Slave Lake.

“Women’s hockey’s come a long way in the last 30 years,” says Herbert. “It’s a great option for women to get some exercise.”

The first year, some of Kodiaks qualified for the 1994 Arctic Winter Games in Slave Lake. The women who qualified had only been playing for a few months at the time.

Kodiaks come to the ice with various skill levels. Some have never played hockey. Some like Herbert played in other leagues. Some played university hockey. Some, like Schultz, played ringette, which is similar to hockey but the puck is a ring, and it is pushed by putting the stick inside.

Kodiaks are one of nine teams in the Peace Country Female Hockey League.

Kodiaks travel for away games as far away as Fort St. John, BC over five hours away.

Back when there was provincials for women’s adult hockey, Kodiaks won twice. There haven’t been adult women’s provincials since 2016.

The Kodiak roster is around 32, but not everyone can make every game or practice. Some women just practice on Wednesdays. Others go to most games.

“Everything’s very flexible,” says Herbert.

“If we had everyone commit to every game we’d have to cut our roster,” says Schultz.

“You have to pay to play,” and cost has stopped some women from being involved, she continues. Some women can afford regular play, but not travel. The team is looking into sponsorship to offset the costs.

There’s no age limit for the league, so sometimes Slave Lake Thunder Female Midgets play with the Kodiaks.

The Kodiaks are important, because women “don’t have to give up the sport they love,” says Herbert.

Kodiaks have had members join after minor hockey, go away for college, or when their kids are young, and come back again when they have more time.

Kodiaks alumni, Midget Thunder girls, and newcomers played a fun game on January 25, for Female Hockey Day. The coordinators mixed all the players together to make teams with about equal skill level.

Going into the February 8th weekend, Slave Lake women’s hockey team the Kodiaks had a record of seven wins zero losses.

The Kodiaks traveled to Grande Prairie that weekend. They played three teams in the area. Kodiaks beat Hythe 10 to 3.

The games against Grovedale and Grande Prairie were very close. The winning goals were scored with a minute-and-a-half left in one game and seven seconds in the other. Kodiaks lost both games 5 to 4.

Women can join the team at anytime in the season. To join or sponsor the team check out the Kodiaks’ Facebook page or contact Schultz at 849-6282 or [email protected]

Kodiaks have three more home games in the season, all in February. On February 22, Kodiaks host Grimshaw at 5:15 p.m. They host Hythe February 23 at noon. The last home game is Kodiaks vs. Sturgeon Lake on February 29 starting at 5:15 p.m. All home games are in the Slave Lake MRC.

The next generation

Four Kodiaks and four Thunder Midget girls pose for a photo before Kodiak practice on February 12. The Senior team has been providing a place for girls to keep playing the game they love for 26 years now.

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