by Molly Mitchell-Knight
I have a new love for another ice sport since making the move to ice hockey a year ago after sixteen years of figure skating. The opportunity to play with a team for the first time was presented to me by the Glasgow Stags- a newly founded ice hockey club for the universities in the Greater Glasgow area.
After being built from the ground up in 2019, the club has been amazed and delighted with the growing popularity for the sport, especially with female players.
The Glasgow Stags, like the other teams which make up the British University Ice Hockey Association (BUIHA), provide an inclusive environment to allow men and women to play ice hockey together. However, being based in Glasgow, the Stags struggle to find ice time to allow the team to train and continue to evolve.
The next objective for the Stags is to establish a women’s team to accompany our current mixed teams to nationals. This would make us the second female university team to exist in Scotland after the Caledonia Steel Queens, but this will not be possible without support in the Glasgow area for female players and the sport as a whole.
Friend and teammate Aisling Rafter is an alternative captain for the Great Britain Universities Women’s Ice Hockey team, and gave me some insight into what this support is like for girls growing up in ice hockey.
Aisling started playing ice hockey at the age of fourteen, and by sixteen had reached the potential to play for a team. Being too old to play for the under sixteen’s team meant her only option was to play full contact with the mixed, yet male dominated, under twenty’s team.
Despite keeping up and continuing to enjoy the sport, Aisling remembers the times she would receive a punch followed by “I’m so sorry I didn’t realise you were a girl”. Some girls continue to play with these teams, but it remains that there is no other option for those who don’t wish to play in this environment.
This wasn’t due to a lack of trying. A few years ago Aisling became involved in the Women’s programme run by Scottish Ice Hockey. This was later shut down, one reason being the lack of facilities in Scotland to host the program.
Many players now believe that a new Glasgow Ice Centre would be the perfect solution to this, especially due to accessibility for players coming from all over the country with good transport links in and out of the city.
“Currently, there is no women’s ice hockey league in Scotland to support female players. The highest level of play for women in Scotland is the Solway Sharks based in Dumfries, with players travelling all over the country to train with the team, who then compete in the English women’s league”
Currently, there is no women’s ice hockey league in Scotland to support female players. The highest level of play for women in Scotland is the Solway Sharks based in Dumfries, with players travelling all over the country to train with the team, who then compete in the English women’s league. If there’s to be any chance of encouraging our players by establishing a women’s league in Scotland, it would require a facility in a central location like Glasgow to promote the sport from a younger age, and allow full potential to grow over the years.
Further to this, inline hockey is increasingly popular with women in Scotland and there is a women’s inline hockey league which teams all over the country are involved in. This proves that the shortage of women in ice hockey is not due to a lack of interest for the sport, but an absence of facilities and support.
Taking these factors into consideration I believe that preventing access to proper ice facilities in Scotland eliminates the chance for growth at a national level, and affects the hopes for Great Britain as a whole. The dedication for ice hockey is there from the girls and women in Scotland and the momentum is increasing. The Glasgow Ice Centre is what we need to give our athletes the chance to be successful.