2021 iwd laura bennion

A life in love with hockey

As a young girl who wasn’t allowed to play, a trailblazing university athlete and a successful physician, Dr. Laura Bennion has always had a deep connection to Canada’s game

Chris Jurewicz
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March 24, 2021
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It was the late 1970s in Vancouver and a young Laura Bennion wanted to play minor hockey.

Her mom Glenda took her to the local arena to sign up, waiting in line for their turn to fill out the paperwork. When it was their turn, the Bennions were told seven-year-old Laura wouldn’t be allowed to play the game she loved.

“I was quite a little tomboy so I didn’t really look out of place there,” recalls Laura. “I got to the front of the line and my mom started to give my name and everything. The person at the desk looked at me and then looked at my mom and said, ‘No girls allowed. There’s no girls allowed in this league.’ And then she said, ‘Girls don’t play hockey.’”

That experience may have driven little Laura away from the game. But the story didn’t end there. As Laura and her mom stepped aside to figure out what to do next, a local minor hockey coach, Keith Morrison, tapped Glenda on the shoulder and offered young Laura a spot on his team.

Morrison was a longtime supporter of minor hockey in the community and a player himself, helping grow a group of UBC friends into the Vancouver Flames Oldtimers. Morrison, who passed away in January, was inducted into the Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Association Hall of Fame in 1998. Bennion has been thinking about Morrison a lot these days, as the first person to give her a chance in hockey, something that led her to a lifetime love of the game.

“(Morrison) said, ‘We’ll figure something out; we’ll put Larry on her helmet and she can play on my team,’” says Bennion. “His kid was the same age as me and we had gone to hockey school together so he had seen me play, not that that really matters when you’re seven. He did that and I played hockey as Larry for the whole first year and it sort of started to leak out at the end that I wasn’t actually Larry. That’s how I got my start.”

As a young child, Bennion was seemingly one of those kids just destined to be in and around hockey for her whole life. Her mother Glenda, who continues to live in the Vancouver area, says young Laura would spend hours on their concrete deck in the backyard screaming ‘She shoots, she scores.’

“She had a love of hockey from the time she was a toddler. It did not come from me,” laughs Glenda. “Her father died when she was five months old of a brain tumour but he a was a rabid hockey fan. His team was the Toronto Maple Leafs. He never got a chance to teach her that, but I’ve always presumed it’s genetic, honestly. When they say nature versus nurture, I think it was just in her genes. She loved hockey.”

Today, Bennion is 50 and is a well-known and reputable doctor in Calgary, splitting her time between her family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, and sports medicine. Her husband, Ian Auld, is the team doctor for the Calgary Flames and the couple have two children – 15-year-old Evan, who plays hockey at Edge School for Athletes, and 11-year-old Carys, who is an avid volleyball and softball player.

Bennion has never lost her love for hockey and it continues to be a major part of her life. After that first year of playing minor hockey as Larry, she joined a girls’ league in the Lower Mainland, where she spent the rest of her minor hockey career. As a teenager, Bennion developed a keen interest in basketball (seeing more opportunities in that sport than hockey) and played varsity basketball in high school. She went on to play two years for the women’s basketball team at the University of British Columbia, thinking then her hockey career may be over.

Soon, though…

“I started to run into problems with my shoulder dislocating and it became clear that basketball – where obviously your arms are over your head a lot – was vulnerable for me and not a great sport for me and hockey was actually better,” says Bennion. “I heard there were some varsity teams in the eastern U.S., so I reached out to the coach of the Northeastern team in Boston and I went there for my third, fourth and fifth years of my undergrad (journalism). I quite fortunately found myself in a really good hockey program.”

Bennion would return to British Columbia after those three years to study medicine at UBC. She was instrumental in starting the women’s hockey team at the university in 1994, gathering players from across the campus and eventually helping it grow to a post-secondary power. Bennion coached the UBC team initially and then, due to the fact she still had university eligibility to play, spent three seasons (1996-99) with the team on the ice.

Bennion, who played forward and defence during her college/university career, also tried out for Canada’s National Women’s Team on two occasions, including in the mid-90s in the lead-up to the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

Her work in starting the UBC women’s team was so critical that Bennion was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

She continues to be active. She and Ian are avid cyclists, spending much of the spring and summer months on their road and mountain bikes. Hockey is still at the forefront of Bennion’s life, as well; she is a doctor for Canada’s National Women’s Team and worked with the Calgary Inferno during its Canadian Women’s Hockey League lifespan, dating back to its start as Team Alberta.

She shares a family practice with a partner in Calgary, practices sports medicine with Group 23, and continues to deliver babies. Bennion loves the diversity in the work she does.

“I think I’m a pretty even-keeled type of person. I don’t get flustered by much. That helps,” she says when asked how she succeeds. “Probably being involved in all of those realms has helped with that. I’m interested in a bunch of different things. I’m not an all-eggs-in-one-basket kind of person. I really thrive on the diversity.


“I never used to see many parallels between sports medicine and pregnancy but, actually, there are tons. Sports medicine people are trying to use their bodies in a way that challenges them and sometimes it doesn’t always go right and pregnancy, obviously, is one of the biggest challenges, physically, that a woman will go through in her life. I feel like those two things there are some natural comparisons.”

For more information:

Dominick Saillant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
514-895-9706
[email protected]

 

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
[email protected]

 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
[email protected]

 

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