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Preston Rivulettes Women's Hockey Team
What began as a quest by a few young female softball players in Preston (now Cambridge), Ontario, to find a sport to play in the winter months, led to the creation of what many consider to be the most successful early women’s hockey team in Canada.
Having skated and played pickup hockey on nearby rivers and ponds since childhood, two sets of sisters formed the Preston Rivulettes hockey team in 1931. The team pushed the boundaries of women’s sport during the interwar years, when female athletes enjoyed a period of vitality. They tried new sports and enhanced the level of competition and organization in existing ones. On the international stage, women gained entry into formerly “men-only” sports at the Olympic Games. Yet, there was still disapproval of women participating in rough team sports, such as hockey. Women were also encouraged to participate in sports only for their health and the social benefits, and to refrain from serious competition, while a chaperone guarded female athletes’ reputation as “ladies.”
In a period before professional, commercial hockey dominated fan and media attention, the Rivulettes attracted large, appreciative audiences, even with the economic pressures of the Depression. Spectators were treated to fast, exciting hockey, exemplified in the play of team captain Hilda Ranscombe, a dynamic right-winger renowned for her speed and skill. Ranscombe was twice a finalist for “Canada’s Athlete of the Year,” known as the Lou Marsh Award.
During the team’s ten year history from 1931 to 1940, it held an enviable record of only two losses and three ties in approximately 350 games, winning ten Ontario titles, as well as five Eastern Canadian, and four national championships.
With the advent of the Second World War, women’s hockey declined for several years, and this, along with the added pressure placed on facilities by the armed forces, forced the team to disband. Sadly, women’s hockey and other team sports did not enjoy the post-war revival that men’s sports did. However in the 1960s, there was a resurgence of interest in women’s hockey and the sport grew with the establishment of international competition, especially when it became an Olympic sport in 1998.
The Rivulettes, an extraordinary amateur team led by Hilda Ranscombe, were hockey legends in their own right. Their example serves to link the modern women’s hockey game to its proud past.
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Source of the Image: In the public domain, Wikimedia
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