Co-ed hockey teams face off this weekend in an annual buck and doe tournament, renamed this year in memory of the ambitious hockey player who spearheaded such tournaments here.
Lillian Rutledge bridged a connection between women’s hockey and a men’s pick up hockey group, and was the driving force behind the co-ed hockey scene in Terrace.
First she forged teams to travel out of town for buck and doe tournaments (co-ed). Then, about six years ago, she launched the first Terrace buck and doe, which has run almost every year since.
Eight co-ed teams will hit the ice at this year’s tournament Jan. 13-15. Seven teams are from Terrace and one is from Hazelton. Previously teams have hailed from as far as Vanderhoof, Burns Lake and Dease Lake.
Vida Carson, one of the organizers this year, said she loves buck and doe tournaments, particularly because it gives families a chance to play together.
“There are no mixed leagues in town… so this is a great opportunity for families to play together,” she said. “We sometimes have teenagers playing on the same team with their parents, or aunts and uncles, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, cousins… There’s a lot of family teams.”
Russ Sparkes, who plays every year, said the tournament is a lot of fun and has a different dynamic than men’s events.
“I like the buck and doe tournaments, I always have,” he said. “It’s just fun to play with a different group of people. It’s more relaxed, not as competitive.”
These tournaments also have rules that foster better teamwork, encouraging passing by limiting men to score once per game, explained Angela Rabut, a player in women’s hockey.
“It’s fun. It changes the style of the hockey, slows it down… [Even the best players] have to pass the puck around and include everybody in the game,” she said.
Organized by women’s hockey, the tournament runs every year and was renamed this year to honour Lillian Rutledge who passed away last April.
“She started the buck and doe teams, so it’s only fitting that it be named after her,” said Sparkes, who was good friends with Rutledge.
“She’s missed a whole lot, as a friend and as a hockey player,” he said.
Carson agreed, adding that Rutledge has left a definite void in women’s hockey.
“We decided as a team that we wanted to honour her memory and all the contributions she made to women’s hockey and hockey in general in Terrace,” Carson said, adding that some of the proceeds will go to the Canadian Cancer Society.
Rabut said that Rutledge was a great friend, teammate, and an ambitious organizer.
“She was a really organized person, not scared to jump right in,” said Rabut. “Because of her energy, it really carried the rest of us with her as well.”
She said women’s hockey was floundering a bit in 2006 and 2007, with fewer people coming out, but Rutledge stirred everyone up and started organizing tournaments.
“She was the one who took the bull by the horns and started organizing our first tournaments,” Rabut said.
Rutledge also drew women to join the pick up hockey organized by Russ Sparkes on Saturdays, then at the Thornhill Fire Department.
“She started playing with them, and a few women started going out with her because she was having so much fun,” Rabut said. It “introduced women playing with men which is something I don’t think people really did much before,” she said, adding that from there Rutledge started forming teams to compete.