Anything for hockey… because no one expected us to win… including ourselves…
The Goaldiggers are a hockey team (my team!) made up of ladies of all ages and skill levels from the Canadian prairies. Our unlikely story starts with one resilient woman. Her name is Tyla Turman.
Tyla played hockey in Winnipeg at the Highlander, now known as Canlan Ice Sports, for many years. She got her start by joining a friend’s team who gave her a chance, taught her the game, and supported her along the way. But when the team decided to part ways, Tyla was determined to keep playing. Maybe even give back to others who wanted a chance of their own.
You see, over the years, Tyla had met many ladies intrigued by the notion of playing hockey, and interested in taking up the sport – but just weren’t sure how. She encountered ladies who used to play hockey, but had given it up along the way for kids, or career, or one reason or another. And she came across ladies who were enrolled in the Women’s Hockey Fundamentals program at Canlan Ice Sport, but had yet to take that next big step. One-by-one, Tyla started pulling individual ladies together, with hopes of maybe having enough players to round out a team – a fun team, easy-going, and non-judgemental. A team who would encourage each other, and who would embrace a positive environment supportive of ALL players. Not just the good ones.
To Tyla’s surprise, the response to her call for hockey players was overwhelming! In no time, she had more than enough players, and a full roster came together for the 2013/2014 winter season in Winnipeg. The Goaldiggers came to be…
The Goaldiggers is comprised of some of Tyla’s past teammates, hockey moms, ex-ringette players, women who hadn’t played hockey for many years, and “older” women who took up hockey later in life. It also included a fitness guru who never ever played hockey before, and never even had any equipment of her own. (By the way, she is now nicknamed “the bullet” because of her wicked goal-scoring ability, and 2nd place ranking on the teams’ leaderboard!) At the core of this team are a whole bunch of passionate ladies who love the sport and who want to belong to a hockey team where the goal is to have fun, make friends, and get some exercise along the way. They never actually expected to win.
The first few months of the Goaldiggers’ existence was challenging, frustrating, and most humbling, as the team fumbled around the ice, ringing up the off-sides, and struggling to figure out how to play together. One of the husbands volunteered to coach (he happens to be a Canadian military helicopter pilot who can fly us to the top of the mountain if we win!!), and committed himself to helping the team understand the game, positioning and play. One of his favourite sayings is “take a second to take a look, ladies… the puck is not a hot potato…”
From day one, the Goaldiggers were overwhelmingly underdogs. For the first entire month, they went without a goal. For the first entire three months, they went without a win. And then, one day, something happened. Something clicked, and things slowly began to change…
Sticks were connecting with pucks. Passes were being made. Positions were being played. Breakouts were starting to happen. It was January 5, 2014, when the Goaldiggers won their first game – yes, they actually WON a GAME! And what an exciting day that was, with post-game bubbly popped and shared in the dressing room afterwards (ssshhh, don’t tell Canlan!). All it took was one little game, and one huge first win, to kick-start the confidence of the little-team-that-could. From that moment on, goals were scored more often, and wins became more frequent.
While the Goaldiggers may have been the worst team in the worst division at the start of the season, in March, they swept through the playoffs – much to everyone’s surprise (including our own!). Then, on April 6 (which also happened to be the 40-something-ish birthday of one of our players!), the Goaldiggers won their division championship – they were now officially the BEST team in the worst division at Canlan in Winnipeg! The brand new motley crew that started out more like the Mighty Ducks, with little hope of winning a game let alone a championship, ended their inaugural season hoisting the big trophy.
Needless to say, Tyla was proud. Very proud. She had brought together a team of diverse women and skills, of all ages, and from all walks of life, with one thing in common… a passion to play hockey. And together, they won the ultimate prize – division championship.
But alas, like any good storybook ending, every story needs a twist. So this story has one of those, too, and it’s completely true…
Before the first season was over, Tyla received a work assignment in Ottawa and had to move away for one year. Sadly, she missed the championship game, but was there in spirit. When the Goaldiggers won their final game and division trophy, she may have been 2ooo miles away but felt like she was right there when her teammates called on speakerphone from the change room to share the victory with her. She was incredibly touched, to the point of tears. It was special moment she’ll never forget.
Throughout the Goaldiggers’ summer season that followed (yes, we signed up for summer hockey, too!), and during the course of the teams’ second winter season (which we’re now currently in!) Tyla stalked the team from afar, constantly sending messages, making Facebook posts, tweeting, reviewing stats, and relentlessly following the team’s pursuits. There she’d be, sitting somewhere in Ottawa, beer in hand, tracking online scores on her iPad, waiting patiently (and sometimes impatiently!) for updates. All in anticipation of the time she can move back to Winnipeg to be reunited with a team she loves. A team she is so incredibly proud of, and is now happy to call friends.
When the Goaldiggers won the championship, Tyla’s happiness was indescribable. Yet, she was unbelievably sad to have missed out. For her, nothing would be sweeter than getting to relive that championship moment, on top of a mountain, along with her teammates and coach, and to finally get to hold the ASHL Division Championship trophy she never had a chance to lay her hockey gloves on…
So that’s the story of the Goaldiggers – a rag-tag team of underdogs who achieved the impossible out of sheer passion for playing the game. And now you know why they want to win the #ASHL contest to play hockey on top of a mountain. Because they will do #AnythingForHockey. Period.
Or is it…??