This Week in History
She Shoots, She Scores!
For the week of Monday, April 13, 2015
On April 16, 1935, the Preston Rivulettes celebrated their first national championship with a victory banquet. This women’s ice hockey team was the pride of their hometown, Preston, Ontario (today part of Cambridge). Despite financial barriers and sexism, they won 10 Ontario titles, five Eastern Canadian tournaments, and four national championships.
The team had humble beginnings. In 1931, the teenage girls of the Preston Rivulettes softball team wanted a sport to play during winter. Two pairs of sisters, Hilda and Nellie Ranscombe, and Marm and Helen Schmuck, created a hockey team with the same name. Nine girls attended the first practice, which was held at the Lowther Street Arena.
As a newly formed team, they missed the Ladies’ Ontario Hockey Association’s regular season schedule. They were, however, granted one qualifying match. They won the match and proceeded to take the intermediate title! Within two years, they were promoted to the senior league. Opponents were intimidated by their aggressive and swift playing style.
The Preston Rivulettes attracted a loyal fan base in their hometown. Their games boosted morale during the Great Depression and fostered a sense of community. Like other female athletes during the interwar years in Canada, they were part of the “golden age of women’s sports.” Women established their own sports associations, branched into new sports, and gained greater confidence in their athletic abilities.
Yet the Preston Rivulettes still faced challenges. Lack of travelling funds sometimes forced them to forfeit championship games. They also faced discrimination based on gender. Regardless of their national achievements, men’s hockey games always benefited from the best ice times, while women’s teams were allowed the leftover slots. However, the Preston Rivulettes persevered, playing approximately 350 games and maintaining a remarkable 98 per cent winning rate. They played and won their final game in 1940 against the Toronto Pals. The Second World War forced the team to disband in 1941.
The Preston Rivulettes are part of Canada's proud history of women in sport. Other exceptional female athletic accomplishments, including the crossing of Lake Ontario by Marilyn Bell and the Edmonton Grads basketball club, are recognised as National Historic Events.
2015 is the Year of Sports! To discover other Canadian female athletes of the 20th century, read Fanny “Bobbie” Rosenfeld-Outstanding Female Athlete, Pioneers in Canadian and Women’s Sport, and Canada's Own Lady of the Lake in the This Week in History archives.
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