SYDNEY - The honorary chair of the 2006 Esso women's national hockey tournament can be considered a trailblazer in the sport of women's hockey in the area. Ninety-six-year-old Christina MacIntyre, originally of Glace Bay, played hockey from 1923-28 for the Glace Bay Aquatic Club in a local women's hockey league. Her team played against teams from Sydney and New Waterford.
"We didn't have any gear, nothing," she said, adding a hockey stick at the time cost a mere 50 cents. Gear consisted of something stiff like a magazine. "We just had six players, that's all that was on the team and we played for three, 20-minute periods."
MacIntyre said women playing hockey at the time weren't welcome to do so, saying many people were very bitter toward the idea. "We were very unladylike and they used to call us 'toughies'," she said. "We were looked down on." Her mother, Effie Anne, wasn't a supporter of her daughter playing hockey either, but didn't sternly object. "She didn't go to one game," said MacIntyre. "But my father [Don E.] and four brothers were for me. My father used to walk from Glace Bay to New Waterford to see us playing. We used to play on Saturday and we used to go in a box sleigh."
MacIntyre says it's hard to believe there is still some bias against women's hockey in Canada, despite the sport's grown. According to Hockey Canada, the sport has grown by 400 per cent over the past 10 years. "There's 60,000 women hockey players in Canada, I can't believe some people are still against it," she said.
Despite that fact, she is happy with the strides the sport has made.
"I can't believe they've come that far in hockey," said MacIntyre. "I think it's just wonderful because you're seeing progress every year. You see them starting younger."
Talking to some of the players at the tournament, MacIntyre said many of them have been asking about what it was like playing back then. "Some of them were here in 2000 and remember from then," she said.
MacIntyre served as honorary chair at the tournament the last time it was in Sydney in 2000.