The Rossland Women’s Hockey Team received the Pioneer Award at the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner on Friday, July 25. Marilyn Buchannon accepted the award in Penticton on behalf of her mother, Grace Lougheed, who was a member of the team that formed on February 2, 1900. The award represents provincial and national acknowledgment of the team’s hard work and success in the Kootenay region.
Kootenay teams, including Rossland’s, were founded to participate in the Rossland Winter Carnival, which began in 1898. All women were eligible to join the club for a fee of 50 cents as a novelty sport. Women were so enthusiastic about the club that there were enough participants to divide them into two teams, the Crescents and the Stars.
The Kootenay region bore strong teams, but Rossland is noted for being the best and longest withstanding. According to Wayne Norton, author of “Women on Ice”, the Rossland Women’s Hockey Team is recognized as being one of the longest surviving women’s hockey teams in Canadian sports history.
Rossland’s athleticism and competitive spirit had early beginnings. In 1901, the ladies team was practicing six days a week in preparation to play its opponents. The ladies won their first game against Nelson with a score of 4-0. The team was rarely defeated until 1917, when Grand Forks won the West Kootenay championship.
Not only did the women’s hockey team train to be the best on the ice, they also strived to look the best. The Rossland’s women’s hockey team was remembered for its impeccable fashion. The team wore full-length dresses trimmed in red or gold with matching scarves.
Wayne Norton explained, “They may have been the most fashion-conscious team in the history of the game.”
For the first time, girls had a strong group of athletically competitive women to look up to, and champions at that. Grace Lougheed was one of these girls. She joined the team as a rookie when she was 17 years old.
The arrival of women’s hockey signifies a shift in history. At this time the ideology surrounding women and their place in society was drastically different than it is today. At the time, women did not have the right to vote and were rarely seen out the domestic realm. Playing hockey gave women the chance to show their wide range of abilities and talents. It took a few championship wins to convince male-dominated society that their sport was not a mere novelty but something to be taken seriously and celebrated.
The Pioneer Award commemorates the courage, commitment and talent of the members of the Rossland Women’s Hockey team. Their success is an inspiration, and 100 years later the women of the team and the town of Rossland is getting some well-deserved recognition.