WINNIPEG, MB - It started out four years ago as a bit of a challenge at a social event in St. Adolphe, Man. Seems a group of women in the small Manitoba town just outside Winnipeg were never invited into their husbands’ hockey conversations.
Mother of three and small business owner, Bahia Taylor, was 37-years-old when she and her friends decided to start playing hockey. Although she had never played before, she was determined to find a way to both understand and be respected for her opinions whenever her son Nigel, a goaltender, and her husband Jim, a coach and devoted Winnipeg Jets fan, started to discuss the proceedings during televised Jets games.
At 37, this admitted non-athlete, a woman who tried to opt out of Phys Ed classes throughout her school years, decided to become a hockey player.
“It all started at a social event with our spouses, standing in a circle having a drink and just socializing and the guys started talking about hockey and the women kind of looked at each other and said, ‘I can’t contribute to this conversation in a meaningful way,’ and we realized this happens at home at the dinner table,” Bahia said, laughing as she spoke. “There was an audible eye-roll if I tried to talk about hockey with my husband and kids and right there we all decided, ‘We should play hockey.’
“That group challenge turned into 24 women in their late 30s and early 40s, many not even able to skate, getting on the ice with some of our husbands as our coaches. That was in 2014. I had skated maybe five times in my entire life and it was almost 30 years since I’d done that.
“That first little skate evolved into meeting other women all over the city who wanted to come out and play. We went from having volunteer coaches to actually paying coaches to come out and teach us the game and we teamed up with The Rink and had their female instructors come out to coach us and then just by meeting various women, it turned into, ‘Let’s put a team into the Adult Safe Hockey League at Canlan Ice Sports.”
Bahia was 41 when she played her first game of organized hockey. However, she spent two years learning the game before she actually donned the goalie pads that she now wears with pride and started taking shots.
“After a couple of years learning the game, I went ahead and joined a team and my first season was last year,” she said with a wide smile. “It was not only my first season on a team, but my first season in net.
“I decided that since my 12-year-old son Nigel is a goalie, I’d go ahead and do it. So I started out in net with equipment I borrowed from the community club and it was fun and my son thought it was pretty cool.
“We’ve put together this great group of committed, supportive, fun women. We are not only a team but have become friends, we socialize and even do team-building exercises together. We went to the Team Canada women’s game together back in December and it’s just become a big part of what I do.”
Bahia and her husband Jim work together on Scurfield Blvd. in Winnipeg. They own Envy Paint and Design, a Benjamin Moore Paint store and design center. She has a son Nigel and two daughters, Hanna, 19 and Aubrey, 17, and they love attending mom’s games and cheering her on.
And make no mistake, this undertaking was semi-pressure packed from the start. Not only is her son a young goalie, but her nephew, Austin Lotz, plays goal for the Jets ECHL team, the Jacksonville IceMen.
“Our team is called Pucked Up,” she said with a laugh. “We’re in the bottom of the barrel – Ladies D, Group B in the AHSL. Last year we didn’t win a single game and I was having double-digit losses. This year, we’re fifth out of 10 teams and we’ve won half of our games. I went from just standing there the whole flippin’ game to, well, playing like a goalie. I’m butterflying, I’m butterfly-sliding, working on my back side slide and the best part of it all is that I can totally relate to my son and his game. Instead of turning on the Jets game and doing something else, I’m now involved in the game. I’m talking with my family and they don’t roll their eyes at my opinion anymore.”
Bahia’s private goalie coach is the former UND star Andy Kollar, at Jets Hockey Development in the Ice Lab at the Bell MTS Iceplex. They have a great relationship and Andy speaks highly of his not-so-young student.
“Andy’s mental instruction for me is just right on,” she said. “He says the right thing at the right time, 100 per cent of the time. After every game I email him and we talk about the game. I see him every two weeks for sure and sometimes every week.
“It’s amazing. I’ve gone through everything from the tears of ‘I can’t do this,’ to now I go and have a private coaching lesson with a goalie coach.
“And Nigel is now my biggest fan. He’s very supportive. I think back to when I started, I didn’t know how to put on the equipment. My husband had to dress me. For the first six or seven games I played, I would lay down on the floor like a little Timbit and my husband would strap on my equipment on the dressing room floor.
“But I’ve finally abandoned the equipment I borrowed from the community club. My last birthday, I got an adult catching glove and blocker and for my 20th Anniversary, I got a new chest protector. That was really romantic.
“This has been great. Life-changing, in fact. Not just physical and getting active, but I’ve lucked into a great group of ladies on this team. It’s social and it’s just fun. It’s so much fun.”
Scott Taylor, Manitoba Post
Photos by James Carey Lauder