Mississauga’s Hazel McCallion was one of Canada’s first professional female hockey players


Published January 29, 2023 at 12:18 pm

After her passing on the morning of January 29th at the age of 101, former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion will be remembered most for her long career in politics and a decades-long run as the mayor of a growing major city.

However, what some people may not remember was her passion for hockey — and her efforts to elevate women’s hockey to the same status as its male counterpart.

Her love for the sport began in 1926, when five-year-old McCallion (née Hazel Journeaux) received a pair of skates from her brother. Growing up in Port-Daniel, Quebec, she often played pond hockey with her brother and two sisters.

She continued playing and in the 1930s became a star in the Gaspé Coast League in Quebec, made up of girls from Chandler, Port-Daniel and New Carlisle.

After moving to Montreal in the 40s, she played centre for the Kik Cola team in the three-team Montreal women’s league for two seasons (1940-41 and 1941-42).

Kik Cola paid her $5 per game — which would be roughly $93 in 2022 — making her one of the first-ever female hockey players to play the game professionally.

Two things happened in the late 1970s: McCallion was elected Mayor of Mississauga, and she joined the board of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA), where she fought to ensure girls could get coaching to develop their ice hockey skills.

Over the next two decades, McCallion and OWHA President Fran Rider lobbied for a women’s world hockey championship and to have women’s hockey added to the Olympic Games.

In 1987, with McCallion serving as the honorary chairperson, the OWHA hosted the first Women’s World Hockey Tournament in North York, Ontario — a tournament that was not sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) at the time.

However, with the event being a major success, the IIHF was forced to take notice of women’s hockey. Three years later in 1990, the IIHF held the first ever World Women’s Hockey Championships in Ottawa.

“I remember Fran and me being told by some high-placed international hockey officials that there would not be a women’s world championship in our lifetimes and there would never be women’s hockey in the Olympics,” McCallion said.

Women’s hockey was added to the Olympic Games in 1998.

Rider said McCallion gave women’s hockey “credibility.”

“Without her, we wouldn’t have gotten here. She not only put her name to [women’s hockey], she… would attend any women’s hockey event and ask, ‘What else can I do to help?’” said Rider.

“The women’s hockey community calls her our mayor.”

McCallion continued to be active in hockey during the last few years of her life, visiting her office at the OWHA two or three times a week.

On the day of her passing, the OWHA issued a statement commemorating McCallion’s life and accomplishments.

“The OWHA is tremendously saddened by the passing of Hazel McCallion, a treasured leader and friend who made the world a better place,” said the association on Jan. 29.

“She gave tirelessly with a big picture vision and also a commitment to caring and giving to individual people.”

RELATED: Tributes pour in for former mayor of Mississauga Hazel McCallion after her death

Photos courtesy of @HazelHallofFame on Twitter

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