Liz Knox, former CWHL goaltender for the Markham Thunder and current board member for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), will be featured as a special guest at a Jan. 25 reception for the exhibition “She Shoots… She Scores!” at the Orillia Museum of Art and History. We caught up with her to talk about the reception and the current state of professional women’s hockey in North America.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is it like for you to be a special guest at an event created to support women’s hockey and its history?
It’s incredible. After the CWHL folded back in March, I had my eyes opened to a different world of history and definitely of women’s sports. I remember seeing fans outrage that our trophies were being auctioned off and there was a real concern that there would be a piece of women’s hockey history missing if we didn’t protect some of the artifacts that these fans had had grown up with. It’s really cool that I get to be a part and speak to the history that I lived through and the history that I know of women’s hockey because, in the end, it’s really worth knowing where you come from. The way the game is headed right now, we’re headed in a good direction and strong trajectory, but it’s important that we remember where we come from.
Why do you think it’s an important time to highlight the value and legacy of women’s hockey?
It’s really easy when you look back on history to think that things happened overnight, and we’re really living in a very historic moment right now… Billie Jean King is one of our advisors in our mentor roles at the PWHPA. I remember her saying, “When you look back at history, it seems like it happens overnight, but when you’re living it, it feels like it takes forever.” Being able to be a part of the last 10 years in women’s hockey history and seeing such slow growth, I certainly hope that one day when I’m older and look back, I can kind of feel like, “Yeah, it happened quickly,” but it really didn’t when you’re living it.
On the same night as the reception, the NHL is hosting a three-on-three event for women’s hockey at the All-Star Game and the players are members of the PWHPA. Considering that along with the difficult year it’s been since the league ceased operations, how do you feel about the state of women’s hockey in North America?
In some ways, the PWHPA has been successful in highlighting the fact that there is a gap in professional women’s hockey and certainly the NHL putting on a three-on-three showcase at their All-Star Game is hopeful. I think it shows that they have an interest in the market and hopefully this is their way at least of testing it out and seeing if there’s more they can do.
What would you have to say to Canadian girls and young women that aspire to be hockey players?
Hockey has taught me so many life lessons and really shaped who I became as a person, not just as an athlete, but who I am in relationships with my family and on teams that I work with that are non-hockey related. I wish for every young girl that they find the thing that makes them feel the way that I feel about hockey because young girls deserve that opportunity. We owe it to them to create the space for them to excel and find their passion and make a difference in the world, wherever that passion leads them.
The PWHPA has been doing a variety of events to promote women’s hockey, but when it comes to community events like the reception, have you seen a rise in community support of women’s hockey, or is that something you’re hoping to see more of?
Women’s hockey players have always been very conscious of our involvement in the community because, by and large, without virtually any marketing or advertising, the connections that we make and the fans that we have are through our communities. I don’t necessarily think it’s a rise in community involvement, but certainly an emphasis on it now more than ever to educate our fans and hopefully soon-to-be fans on where we are in history. It’s a real different world for me to be going to a museum and talking about women’s hockey history, but it’s an exciting challenge and who better to give an account than somebody who has lived it firsthand.
Being a board member with the PWHPA, what is it like to attend an event about the history of women’s hockey while working with a group that’s actively trying to make a better future for it?
First of all, I’m super grateful for the women that came before us. Obviously we know some names like Jayna Hefford, Lori Dupuis, Cassie Campbell, Hayley Wickenheiser. But there’s also a whole population of women who we don’t have names for that played in a time when it was extremely frowned upon. A lot of our players talk about growing up and playing boy’s hockey or feeling that that was the only place to play. For some of them, it was the only place to play. But there’s a tremendous amount of respect and understanding for the population of women who played when it was not acceptable, whether that’s Indigenous women or women in small communities, and we don’t have names those people. As we are so excited about the future of women’s hockey, it’s also an important time to reflect on the privilege that we have, and be conscious of that moving forward and creating space for more young female athletes to compete and excel and find their true passion.
Hear Liz Knox talk more about women’s hockey at the reception at the Orillia Museum of Art and History on Jan. 25. The exhibition “She Shoots… She Scores,” which looks at over 100 years of women breaking barriers in hockey, will run at the Orillia Museum of Art and History from Jan. 25 to April 11. Learn more about the reception and exhibition in the article below.