OFFSIDE Challenges Faced by Women in Hockey
OFFSIDE is the autobiographical memoir of Rhonda Leeman Taylor, one of the founding members of women’s hockey in Canada, as it was reborn after the initial surge in the early 1900s and subsequent decline after the 1930s.
Rhonda Leeman Taylor helped to bring back organized hockey for women in Canada in the early 1980s. Not only was she a founding member of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA), but Leeman Taylor was also the first female to sit on Hockey Canada’s Board of Directors and fought for the right to hold a vote on the council.
Moreover, Leeman Taylor was the founder and first director of the Female Council, now a subset of Hockey Canada. In 1983 Rhonda is credited to having persuaded nine of the ten members of the Female Council to agree to eliminate body contact from the women’s game in Canada, a policy which would eventually spread to women’s leagues across the globe.
Furthermore, in 1982, Leeman Taylor was tasked with the job of Chair Organizer of the first Women’s Canadian National Hockey Tournament. Thanks to her labour in that respect, women’s hockey obtained an official sponsor (Shoppers Drug Mart), and received extensive coverage in multiple newspapers across the country (The Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, New Optimist Saskatchewan, Evening Patriot Charlottetown, Red Deer Advocate, and more) and for the first time, women’s hockey was broadcast on National television by the CBC.
This tournament was a turning point for women’s hockey, as it changed the stigma against female hockey players, empowered young girls to partake openly in the sport they loved, and gave elite women a chance to vie for a national title like the men.
The memoir of Rhonda Leeman Taylor is an essential and relatively unknown aspect of Canada’s hockey history, which has the potential to further the development of the women’s game on its path to equality with men. The memoir focuses mainly on the discrimination faced by women like Rhonda, as they struggled to make hockey a socially acceptable pastime for girls in Canada.
“Rhonda Leeman Taylor’s “OFFSIDE” story offers honest and needed perspectives from a pivotal time in the development of women’s hockey. While it may be difficult for today’s young players to truly grasp the challenges faced by Rhonda (and countless other pioneers of the women’s game), it is important to share these solemn accounts and celebratory victories in order to really appreciate the progress that has been realized and the efforts that are still needed for all players to enjoy equitable opportunities and lifelong enjoyment of the great game of hockey. Thank you Rhonda for sharing your memoir and for skillfully stickhandling your way through so many hurdles!”
-Dr. Denyse Lafrance Horning
Women’s Hockey Researcher
OFFSIDE is co-authored by Rhonda's great niece Denbeigh Whitmarsh, another hockey player passionate about women in sports. Denbeigh is currently enrolled in the French Literature Department at McGill University, where she exercises her rights as a proud female athlete by competing in varsity Track and Cross-Country.