The town of MacGregor is becoming known for its celebrations during Louis Riel weekend. A variety of activities takes place, including a pancake breakfast, a bannock bake, and several sports: two-person curling; minor hockey and senior hockey; cross-country skiing, with equipment available; and, this year, a short demonstration by the Carberry Syncro Skating Team. One highly anticipated activity is the annual hockey game between the MacGregor Iron Maidens and the women’s hockey team from nearby Baker Hutterite Colony. This year’s game took place on Monday, February 20, and will be the fifth year that the two have met.
The on-ice rivalry began when the Hutterite women approached MacGregor players to see if they would be interested in a game. The Baker players were used to skating on their colony’s outdoor rink, and to playing hockey when the boys did, so they hoped to compete against a female team. The MacGregor players were happy to find someone from nearby to play against, instead of having to drive a long distance, and since then the game has become popular, with an ever-increasing crowd coming to watch.
Many fans are surprised to see the Hutterite team play the game while wearing their usual long skirts, instead of the hockey equipment normally worn — but that doesn’t seem to hamper them. On the contrary, the women feel the skirts may give them an advantage. They do wear shin pads and helmets, so they aren’t unprotected.
“We’re used to long skirts,” says Tirzah Maendel, one of the Baker Colony players. “We don’t feel they are a hindrance. They’re lighter weight than all the equipment, and sometimes the skirt can be used to stop a puck. But we don’t want to be considered a spectacle.”
“It doesn’t slow them down,” said an Iron Maiden player. “Sometimes the skirt actually hides the puck so we don’t see where it is.”
“Many of our players wouldn’t be considered as athletes,” says Maendel. “For us, the main reason for playing is just to have fun.”
Over the years the rivalry has grown, and the game has become quite competitive, but body contact is not part of it — although the crowd might notice the occasional shove, or a little elbowing. So far the Baker team is undefeated, although nobody seemed certain of some scores.
Last year’s game was a 6-2 victory for Baker but it was special in a different way. Because of publicity concerning the plight of Syrian refugees, fans were asked to bring clothing or a money donation for refugee families moving into the area. About 10 bags of clothing were collected, as well as $400.
This year’s winter fun day will also support a worthy cause. According to Karla Gurka, Heartland Recreation director from MacGregor, there will again be a silver collection, with proceeds going to the local Community Resource Centre and the Women’s Shelter.
But it’s the Baker/Iron Maidens game that is once again expected to take the spotlight. The MacGregor team will be hoping to provide stiffer competition this year!