SIX NATIONS – Having found support, an initiative was taken for girls on Six Nations to possibly partake in being a part of Six Nations Girls Minor Hockey, kicking off with a meeting at the Sour Springs Longhouse on Sunday, March 27.
Popular women’s sports like field and box lacrosse, volleyball and basketball typically run in the summertime, so the prospect of having girls hockey teams is hoped to take flight as a winter sport. Kristen Smith, a hockey referee, has played hockey on the reserve by playing with the boys teams for more than 10 years — this means that she played contact rather than no contact hockey.
“I played with the guys because I didn’t want to go off reserve,” said Smith. “Playing up to Midget in a guys league was very challenging. Young men can get pretty physical and the games get intense, but I loved playing. I loved going to the Gaylord Powless Arena and having everyone there watching and cheering us on,” she said.
“It’d be an awesome opportunity for girls to be able to take part in hockey just as guys do on the reserve,” she said. “Hockey is a big deal here on Six Nations and a lot of people go and support the young athletes, but girls don’t get to have that ‘home town experience,’” she said.
In regards to just how much interest she thinks there is in girls hockey, Smith is hopeful.
“I personally referee on and off the reserve and I see a lot of young native girls playing, in all divisions,” she said. “There hasn’t been a girls team yet in Brantford, that didn’t have Native girls that I seen or know. So yeah, I definitely think there is enough interest to get divisions from Tyke to Midget or even Intermediate. I also believe that if we did get a girls division, there would definitely be more interest in hockey for girls!”
Cleveland Thomas, one of the front runners in co-ordinating the initiative, said “the more the merrier” as the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association Application needs numbers.
“We’re in the process of finding who is interested, if we’re able to offer a program and what girls are already playing hockey or girls hockey,” said Thomas. “The main thing that we need right now are the numbers, we just need to know what the interest is, how many people we need because [the application] goes by population. But we also need to show how many we would have in each division that would be able to make a team,” he said.
In regards to why now is the time to start the effort to bring girls hockey to Six Nations, Thomas explained that it was both he and his cousin Mark McNaughton that wanted to start the initiative for girls like Thomas’ daughter, Kalani Thomas.
“One of the reasons we’re doing it is because, to me, we pay a lot of money to play rep hockey off of the reserve and it’s a lot of effort from the parents and the kids,” said Thomas. “Especially with [Kalani] getting older we’re realizing with the homework and everything that they have to do, just how hard it is,” he said. “Travelling an extra half hour [or] 45 minutes is a lot of time that could be used for their homework.”
Thomas explained that many girls will turn to Brantford or Haldimand to play outside of a boys team, which is something his daughter did as well.
“But also, all of those funds are going into another program. Where we’re looking at it as if we could get something started here, at least all of that money is staying here with Six Nations players and building our program.”
Thomas further explained that the divisions could range from novice to intermediate and the leagues could range from house to rep, all it will take is interest.
“Right now we’re in the process of doing the [OWHA] application, so anybody can get a hold of me through the email or the cell number,” he said.
Thomas’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and his cell phone is 519-770-8777.
The initiative will also have a table set at the girls box lacrosse practise on Wednesday, March 30, as well as the girls field lacrosse practise on the weekend.
Kalani: Cleveland Thomas’ daughter, Kalani Thomas poses with two photos, one of her time at ‘Lil NHL, and another during a game.
Kristen: (bottom left) Kristen is pictured as the only girl on one of the boys teams she played for in her 14 year hockey career situated on Six Nations.