GANDER, N.L. — From an early age Debbie Bouzane has shown dedication on the ice as a hockey player. Now she’s been recognized for her efforts to encourage more girls to take to the ice.
Bouzane, chair of the Female Council for Hockey NL, is one of two recipients of Hockey NL President’s Award for 2017.
The President’s Award recognizes the time, dedication and effort of individuals who participate in the governance of Hockey in NL.
“I never thought I would be recognized at this level, I am very proud,” Bouzane said. “I am honoured because a lot of the time in volunteer positions people are not recognized for the work they put in to build programs.”
Bouzane and Charlie Kearsey (St. John’s) received the award at a ceremony held during the Hockey NL annual general meeting in Gander June 8-10.
Bouzane, who grew up in Cormack, now lives in Gander. She started playing hockey when she was 10 — one of only two girls in the minor hockey system in her community. She sees hockey as lifelong game with many benefits that extend far beyond ice time.
“We all grew up playing,” Bouzane said. “At all levels, hockey provides friendship, fun, leadership. It teaches you respect. It helps you to work together as a group and to learn to win and to learn to lose.”
Bouzane, who recently completed her first year of involvement with Hockey NL and runs the Women’s Hockey League in Gander, is honoured to be part of what she referred to as a “big weekend for female hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
In addition to receiving a President’s Award herself, Bouzane noted that Bonnie Evans, an important figure in NL Female Hockey, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“I’d like to make a note that Bonnie Evans was inducted in the Hall of Fame — she really built what we have today in female hockey,” Bouzane said. “It’s great for her to get recognition. She is a true builder, started from one team to get us where we are now.”
Bouzane says female hockey registration is “going through the roof” and is growing across Canada every year. She noted Hockey NL is making changes to reflect and support that growth.
“Up until now, we had a Female Hockey Committee, but we had only one vote at the provincial level.” Bouzane said, “We didn’t have an equal voice.”
After the changes at this year’s AGM, there will be a Female Hockey Council and all five members will have a vote when decisions are made at the provincial level.
“It’s good that Hockey NL is seeing this as an important step to take,” Bouzane said. “We need that ability to govern our game. We want to build to the next level and promote ourselves.”
She says this change will ensure information about female hockey will reach all levels of hockey programs in the province and give more girls an opportunity to play.
Change is coming
“I would like to provide every girl in NL with the chance to play hockey if she wants,” Bouzane said. “We are not there yet but we will get there.”
She thinks that there is a need to change some people’s attitudes towards women playing hockey, or participating in sport in general, but she feels that change is coming. One key aspect of that change is more women becoming involved at all levels and making change happen.
Bouzane has some advice for any women or girls who are considering getting involved in hockey.
“Go for it. Just do it.”