There’s purpose behind the name of Amy Doerksen’s hockey camp.
The inaugural event, held in early June in Brandon, Man., was a smashing
success and included over 130 young girls, being taught on-ice skills by 12
coaches with an array of experience, those from the grassroots level of the
game right up to elite AAA club hockey.
The title of the camp?
The Fierce Female Hockey Camp.
Doerksen, the national winner of the 2022 BFL Female Coach of the Year
Award in the Community category, believes in being fierce. She
says that’s how women’s hockey is going to break down barriers, overcome
hurdles and progress to the status that it deserves.
“It blew me away, the comments that I have received from parents of players
who attended, from coaches who participated,” says Doerksen, a lifelong
hockey player, longtime coach and extreme advocate for the women’s game. “A
quote I got from an under-18 player, who perfectly summarizes exactly the
reason why I created this camp … she won a provincial championship this
season, she’s playing at the highest level that a girl can play at in minor
hockey in Manitoba, and she still had people saying ‘It doesn’t count, you
play girls’ hockey.’
“That’s not OK. They need to feel fierce; they need to feel amazing.”
Doerksen speaks from experience. Like many women in the game, she has faced
challenges to be heard and seen, challenges that many men simply don’t have
to deal with. As a kid, she played ringette – “Girls didn’t play hockey and
we were directed into the sport of ringette” – but fell in love with hockey
during her junior high school years. Those days in Manitoba, there were few
women’s hockey players and Doerksen remembers at age 12 getting dressed for
practices next to 16- and 17-year-olds.
Doerksen would continue to excel in hockey over the years and ended up
playing for the University of Manitoba. After her days with the Bisons,
Doerksen headed to Ryerson University in Toronto (where the talented
multi-sport athlete played soccer for the Rams) and, post graduation, lived
in Kenora, Ont. It is there when she first entered the coaching ranks with
a local high school team.
Doerksen, who is a mom to three and stepmom to one, is a published author
of children’s books. On her blog, which can be found at AmyDoerksen.com, she lists five
loves: family, feminism, hockey, Canada’s north and books.
She lived in Yellowknife, N.W.T., for just under five years and that time
made a lasting impression on Doerksen.
“I’m appreciative of how much the north invested in developing female
coaches,” says Doerksen. “I think the rest of Canada can learn a lot from
the progressive views of the north. They’re ahead of the game.”
Doerksen has held various coaching and leadership positions in hockey,
starting as an assistant coach with the Beaver Brae Broncos high school
team in Kenora from 2001-03. She was president of the Yellowknife Women’s
Hockey League from 2007-11 and, during her time up north, was also
assistant coach of the Northwest Territories girls’ team for the Arctic
This season, Doerksen could be seen on the ice at the grassroots level with
an under-7 team and also with high-performance athletes on the Brandon
Wheat Kings female U15 club.
Off the ice, Doerksen has also been part of hockey boards and was the U7
division director with Hockey Brandon from 2020-22. Her full list of teams,
accomplishments and honours is extremely impressive and too long to list.
But there’s more work to be done. Too many times, Doerksen has been the
lone woman on the ice, the lone woman in the hockey boardroom that is still
dominated by men. While she has seen progress over the past 20 years of her
involvement as a coach and leader, Doerksen says that progress should be
happening at a much quicker rate.
“I started crying on the call,” she says when asked about her reaction to
being named a BFL Female Coach of the Year. “It was the day after my hockey
camp and I was really a hot mess from the experience. I was completely
overwhelmed with what an amazing weekend it was. I’m grateful. I’m getting
emotional right now because it’s incredible. As women, we need to seek …
it’s good to stand up and say ‘Hey, I am good at this, this is something
that I’m proud of’. There is that validation piece.
“The reason I get emotional is because I have faced a lot of struggles
where I don’t feel that people really have always got the value that I can
add. When you’re always coming up against that wall, it feels wonderful to
have an organization like Hockey Canada say, ‘Hey we see you and we see
what you’re doing.’”