Snyder donates $2 million for development of women's hockey

7/21/2011 7:16:25 PM

CALGARY -- Joan Snyder doesn't want to see Canadian girls struggle to get involved in hockey the same way her mother did.

"It started out when my mother was five and she'd go to her father and say 'Papa can I have one of the boy's hockey sticks?' and he'd say '(Well), you gotta have it cleaned off and dry when you bring it back in before they come home from school."'

With that story in mind Snyder donated $2 million Thursday to Winsport Canada that will not only give priority rink access to female hockey players at all levels, but will also help expand the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHH) to the West with the creation of Team Alberta.

"I've been wanting to do something like this for years," said Snyder.

Snyder's generosity is nothing new to Calgarians. In 2008, she donated $9 million to a University of Calgary medical program and just last March she created the Joan Snyder Program of Excellence in Women's Hockey at the same school with a $500,000 gift. Once again, Snyder dedicated both of those donations to her mother.

The new addition to the Athletic and Ice Complex at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, the future home to Hockey Canada, features four hockey rinks, one of which will be named the Joan Snyder Rink. Team Alberta will receive free practice time, their own dressing room and make their league debut there in September this year.

Snyder's passion turned philanthropic after meeting some of the players from the women's Olympic Hockey Team and going to Vancouver to witness both the men's and women's hockey teams win the gold at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

"I want to see the development of young girls. Their interest is peaked now with the Olympics and we have to keep that going. Keep that fire lit," said Snyder.

Snyder said she hopes the values of her mother Pheobe, who began playing hockey in the 1920s, will carry on.

"She believed in playing with all your might, (having) fun and (being) fair so that, I hope, is going to be passed on to the young generation now," Snyder said.

Three-time Olympic Hockey medallist, Cassie Campbell-Pascall says Snyder's generosity will not only elevate the game both locally and internationally, but start to shift the mentality surrounding women's hockey.

"We have over 85,000 young girls that play in this country now and when you have someone like Joan step up and give a big donation it just somehow legitimizes us," said Campbell-Pascall.

"She's going to help put little girls on the ice for the first time, she going to help national team players not only from Canada but from across the world."

With the international size rink having the capability to be converted into Olympic dimensions, Campbell-Pascall says she wouldn't be surprised if this affects Canada's Olympic roster.

"I bet you a lot of players that have heard this announcement may rethink where they're training for this next four year cycle. A lot of them might move to Calgary," she said.

Samantha Holmes-Domagala, general manager of the new Team Alberta and former member of the Canadian women's hockey team, said that the addition of a provincial team will give young women from the West another platform for their career.

"The West in previous years has been struggling and really trying to drive forward. This just solidifies everything. It makes taking that next step for women's hockey a lot easier."

Winsport Canada president Dan O'Neil added that it undoubtedly instills a sense of confidence and pride for the players, "Having their home games in that arena is a huge indication that we believe in the equality of the league and future of the league."