With the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Word Championship returning to Ottawa, it is fitting to celebrate the way the game has grown since the first-ever event in 1990.
Since that inaugural world championship, fourteen others have been hosted around the globe, women’s hockey has joined the Olympic Winter Games, and the female game has taken great strides, both on and off the ice.
That includes Canadian women’s hockey stars Geraldine Heaney and Angela James being among the first women inducted into the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame back in 2008.
“I was pretty shocked when I got the call,” Heaney said. “Just to be recognized at the international level is an honour.”
When James answered her phone, she was not even convinced of the sincerity of the call.
“That was kind of a funny situation. [IIHF president] Rene Fasel called me with regards to the induction and he kind of caught me off guard. I thought someone was playing a joke,” James said with a laugh.
In careers that were full of firsts for women’s hockey, both Heaney and James were members of Canada’s National Women’s Team for that inaugural 1990 IIHF Women’s World Championship.
“They always say we’re the pioneers and that makes you sound old,” Heaney said. “But being one of the pioneers of the women’s game is obviously quite an honour.”
Heaney won seven gold medals at world championships and was twice named a tournament all-star. She also won a silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and a gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“For me it was perfect timing,” Heaney said. “I was there in ’90, I got to play in seven world championships and I got to play in the very first Olympics in ’98.”
“I was pretty fortunate with the timing of how the sport grew. I kind of grew along with it,” she said.
James called her former teammate “a great athlete” to play alongside.
“She had a great skillset. As a defenceman, you don’t often see offensive talent as a defenceman,” James said. “She was strong, a good skater (and) she could shoot. She brought a lot to the game.”
In 2010, James, was one of the first two women inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame, along with American Cammi Granato,
She was sitting at home when she received a phone call from the entire selection committee welcoming her to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I was flabbergasted,” James said of her induction. “I never thought it would’ve happened but it did and it was very emotional.”
James played a ten-year career for Canada’s National Women’s Team, winning seven gold medals as well.
“It was a great experience,” James said. “I played for ten years internationally and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
She went on to become a hockey referee and served as Referee-In-Chief for the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association.
“She was a great player, a great teammate and a great person as well,” Heaney said of her former teammate. “She loved the game. The dedication she put in once there was a national team and world championship, and obviously she was a hard worker and just continued to get better all the time.”
When asked about her experience playing for Team Canada, James said “we could be here for hours.”
“It was a great experience,” she said. “Now I get to watch the next generation of players.”