This year’s world championship will look different for Geraldine Heaney.
In 1990, she was playing defence on Canada’s National Women’s Team, and just starting her international career, which later landed the Irish Canadian into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame.
During the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, Heaney will once again be a part of a team competing in Ottawa.
However, this time, she will not be competing for Team Canada. Heaney is the head coach of the Ancaster Avalanche Novice B hockey team, which will compete in the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association provincial championship.
After her playing career, Heaney spent six years coaching the University of Waterloo Raven’s women’s hockey team, before moving to coach her daughter Shannon’s minor hockey team this season.
Heaney said she has really enjoyed the switch to coaching the younger girls, because they play simply for the love of the game.
“I have a lot of fun with them,” Heaney said of her team comprised of eight- and nine-year-old girls. “They want to learn the game, but at the same time they don’t really know what the score is.”
Heaney, originally from Belfast, Ireland, but a proud Weston, Ont., native, said coaching has also made the transition into her retirement from playing much easier.
“I don’t think I miss playing the game as much as I thought I might’ve because I’m still involved,” she said. “Now, it’s just a different role trying to teach the kids everything I know about the game.”
The Avalanche will be one of 16 teams competing for a provincial championship in the Novice B division. They had to first beat Stoney Creek in the playoffs to secure their provincial berth.
“I think they’re really excited,” Heaney said her players. “You would’ve thought they had already won the championship. They were pretty excited when they found out they are going to Ottawa.”
In addition to playing their own games, the Avalanche will also get to watch a world championship game.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for these girls,” Heaney said. “I mean, the world championships, how often are they so close to home? And a chance for them to go to a game, it’s not very often you get that chance.”
Heaney was a part of Canada’s National Women’s Team when they took part in similar events that invited minor hockey players to come out watch their games, and hopefully get inspired.
“For the players, I think it’s pretty exciting that they know the rink will probably be packed,” she said. “ I’ve been a part of the national team when the’ve done things like this, and it’s nice to see.”
Heaney also really likes how much women’s hockey has grown since she played as a kid. She had to play with girls four or five years older than her because there was only one girls’ team in her area.
Heaney points out all the increased opportunities for girls playing hockey now, including university scholarships, and Hockey Canada programs that are used as stepping stones on the road to Canada’s National Women’s Program.
“There is a lot more opportunity for these young girls, just for them to be exposed to it and educated on it is very important,” she said. “It’s something they can work towards.”
For now, Heaney just enjoys watching her team playing for the enjoyment of the sport.
“As the girls get older it becomes more about the individuals and what they’re going to get out of the game and that’s why I love coaching this age,” Heaney said. “These kids just have fun together. That’s what it’s all about, they’re playing hockey, but they’re having fun doing it.”