Girls team wins all-boys hockey tourney
Dolphins' girls score one for Hayley
SPORTS REPORTER TORONTO STAR
Hayley Wickenheiser would be proud of the mostly 10-year-old girls on the Etobicoke Dolphins.
The minor hockey team battled to gain entry into an all-boys tournament — then kicked butt.
The Dolphins won their first game 12-2, and followed that with 5-0, 5-1 and 5-1 wins before beating the Parkdale Flames 4-2 in yesterday's final.
"It was fun kicking their butt," said Thea Imbrogno, standing amid a cluster of excited teammates, silver trophies in their hands. She scored her team's fourth, tournament-clinching goal.
"Actually, our goal is to kick everybody's butt."
The Dolphins have been doing a lot of that.
They've lost only once this year. They're the top team in the North Metro Girls League, and the girls have won four tournaments.
But no one knew how the team would fare in the Humber Valley Hockey Association's 20th annual atom select tournament at Central Arena in Etobicoke. The Dolphins had never played an all-boys team.
"We did a lot of soul searching. Initially we turned them down," said tournament chair Barb Hryniewicz, concerned that the team might not be good enough — or too good — for the other 15 teams.
The Dolphins persisted. Ultimately, the Ontario Women's Hockey Association and the Greater Toronto Hockey League both approved the team's entry.
``We weren't sure if they'd get slaughtered," said Ellen Saunders, whose twin daughters Michelle and Alexandra are on the team. "Most boys, of course, thought they'd clobber them. But no one really knew. This was new territory for everybody."
"For us, this was an experiment," Hryniewicz said. "But it's been positive. Especially with what's happening with Hayley."
Yesterday, Wickenheiser, a star on Canada's national women's team, played her third game with a men's professional team in Finland. She was much on the minds of the young Dolphins players yesterday.
"We're proud of her. She's our role model," said Sally Butler, a high-octane forward who scored Etobicoke's first three goals in yesterday's final victory and is one of a half-dozen teammates who play regularly on boys' teams.
"She's making history for women's hockey."
Not everyone was crazy about the Dolphins making history as the first girls' team in the Humber Valley tournament, which doesn't feature bodychecking.
The Wilmette Braves made the 850-kilometre trip from Chicago and were "upset to find out that after travelling all that way they were playing girls" in Etobicoke's first game, said Dolphins coach Michael Bateman.
Imagine how they felt after losing 12-2. ()
"As the games went on, a lot of parents came up and said we were changing their perception about girls' hockey," said Bateman, whose daughter Alanna is on the team.
Etobicoke's victory wasn't unprecedented.
Fran Rider, executive director of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association, says a number of girls' teams have won tournaments against boys. But it is rare.
Count Parkdale coach Frank Simas among those impressed with the Dolphins.
"Their skating is exceptional," he said. "They (his players) know these girls are on a higher level ... our boys hung in tough."
Did his players feel bad about losing to a girls' team?
"For some, it was a little tougher to swallow.... (But) the girls were really good sports about winning. The boys liked that."
Dakota Vine, a defenceman with the Parkdale Flames, wasn't surprised at the play of the Dolphins. Girls sometimes play in his league games.
"Usually boys skate slower and aren't as good passers," he said while munching a post-game cookie.
His mother was thrilled at the inclusion of the Dolphins in the tournament.
"Hockey is one of the last bastions of sexism," said Deirdre Norman.
"For me, as a woman who loves hockey, this is great."