Why Lorie used to pretend her name was Larry (6 photos)Friday, December 07, 2012 by: Connie Carello
Lorie Springall is the co-founder, co-organizer, and treasurer for the Women’s Hockey League in Sault Ste. Marie.
With a series of duties that include registration, player drafting, scheduling, refereeing, timekeeping, reporting to the media, and organizing the playoff awards and year end party, Springall in collaboration with co-organizer, Sharon Buehner, are content to be offering local women the opportunity to lace up their skates.
This year will be the league's 12th anniversary, an accomplishment Springall can be proud of considering the gender issues that surrounded the topic of hockey for her as a young child.
“I have been playing hockey since 1967. I’ve had some memorable experience throughout my career," she said. "Some involve Canadian championships, others include playing against Team USA and Japan. However, one of my most fond memories was playing on the same team as my twin brother from the age of 4 until I was 9; back in the days when girls weren’t allowed to play. I spent the first two months with a ponytail tucked under my toque and pretended my name was ‘Larry.’ Thank God those days are over!”
Although Springall had to prove herself to be an exceptional player at a very young age, she regards the experience as a learning opportunity.
“After all the years of winning and losing, I still consider the friendships I’ve made to be the most rewarding thing about playing hockey,” Springall said.
Currently, Springall and Buehner now play for Misty’s Fifties which is one out of 21 teams.
When the league started in 2002, there were 62 players in total which was enough to form four teams.
It wasn’t until later that Springall and Buehner decided that they should start up a league for women who would like to give hockey a try.
“We never imagined the kind of expansion or success that it has become!”
298 players are now in the WHL in three separate divisions - a Fun League with eight teams for beginner calibre players, a Middle League with six teams for intermediate calibre players, and a Big League with seven teams for advanced level players.
Although hockey is naturally a competitive sport, the WHL honours a series of unique rules that encourage camaraderie amongst players
“Teams are allowed to pick up players and goalies from other teams if they are short players for a game," Springall explained. "No player is allowed to score more than three goals in one game. Any player who gets three penalties in the same game will hit the showers. All of these rules and other decisions are made by the team captains at an Annual Brainstorming Session. These decisions replace the need for a Constitution and help keep the league flexible.”
The team captains play a pivotal role in the continuance of the League
“They understand the underlying philosophy of the WHL, which is to provide a fun, safe environment for women and an emphasis of course on fun. They deserve a lot of credit for the growth of the WHL,” Springall said.
By maintaining rules that promote positive interaction with other players and offering women of all skill levels the opportunity to participate, the WHL is a wonderful outlet for women who wish to participate in an all-Canadian pastime.
Women can register in the WHL each September on the League’s website womenshockeyleague.ca.
Participants partake in a scrimmage before being drafted in early October.
Games begin the weekend after Thanksgiving.
An early bird tournament is held in November, and out of town teams play in the Big League division.
Tournaments between the Fun and Middle League teams are held until the end of the season in April.
Trophies are handed out in each division and to teams who finish first overall.
With an emphasis on the availability of the League, Springall encourages all women to try it out.
“I would encourage any woman who has ever considered playing hockey to try," she said. "You can’t beat the friendly environment provided by current WHLers. They understand what it is like to be a 'newbie' and they make it easier for women to join and feel part of the team in no time. Women are learning a new sport at the age of 30, 40, 50 and yes, even 60+ years old! How inspiring is that?”
Maintaining the women’s league not only is an incentive for local women to try out something new, but has become an attraction for female players from Southern Ontario who are choosing to come to Sault Ste. Marie for their post-secondary education as Sault College and Algoma University have formed teams in the Big League.
A reasonable fee of $325 includes 24 games, plus the Early Bird Tournament entry fee, and an end of the year celebration.
Goalies however, get to play for free.