Two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion, Canadian hockey player Cassie Campbell-Pascall is a trailblazer for women in sport. On or off the ice, her mission toward advancing gender equality in Canada’s sports industries has remained a priority.
When did your passion for hockey begin?
My passion for hockey began at an early age. I remember seeing pictures of myself at the age of three out with my family on a pond skating for the first time. My older brother Jeff played the game and I wanted to be just like him. I always participated in the street hockey games, and my brother always made sure to not leave me out even though it may have been hard at times to have his little sister around. I knew I always wanted to play, but when I started there wasn’t much around.
I started playing boy’s hockey at 7 years old, after a year of figure skating, and just never looked back. So many of my friends quit at the ages of 15-16 and for the love of the game, I kept playing even though I didn’t know we could play for Team Canada at the time. I loved everything about it. The competitiveness, the pace of it and being around so many great friends and teammates.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a woman in hockey and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge I faced was that many girls didn’t play when I first started. It wasn’t a common thing, and playing with boys was something that made my parents nervous. I often heard the words “Girls shouldn’t play hockey” not from family, but from people in the arenas as I walked in with my bag. I think the biggest challenge was loving the game and how great it was for me yet people believed it wasn’t the best thing for young girls. Lack of ice time or a future in the game for women could have easily made me quit, but for the love of the game, I just kept playing.
I knew hockey was a great sport for me to play and so I often used negative words as motivation. Just always trying to push my game and the women’s game as a whole to the next level to prove people wrong.
As a trailblazer for women in sport, what advice would you give to young women seeking a career in sports?
I think for all women who are seeking a career in sport just “Believe You Belong”. There is absolutely no good reason for women to not be allowed to participate in all levels of sport and in a variety of roles. There are so many opportunities out there for women and we deserve them. We’ve earned them and we are capable of doing them.
What was it like being one of the first women to compete in the Olympics for ice hockey?
The first Olympics for women’s hockey was a tremendous experience. I was grateful for the opportunity to represent my country at the sport I truly loved the most. I never thought growing up that it was possible to go to the Olympics as a hockey player. It was such a new experience for all of us and I learned a ton about myself as a leader and as a hockey player. That group of women from all the countries are true groundbreakers of the women’s game. Growing up in a generation that didn’t accept the female game yet pushing through to help start the Olympic movement in women’s hockey.
Canada has made some amazing improvements in gender equality in sports, but work still needs to be done. How can we continue to improve?
I think the biggest focus for creating equality in women’s sports starts with agendas. Groups need to not add women’s hockey to an agenda but include them in the agenda. Every decision made for hockey, for example, should consider both the men’s and women’s games not separate from one another, but in conjunction with one another. We need to start thinking of sport in a manner that is an opportunity for business growth not just in the men’s game, but also in the women’s game.
If we don’t invest in female sport in similar ways as we do in men’s sports then we will never know what growth can truly be. Much like women’s sports can learn from men’s sports so too can men’s sports learn from women’s sports.