Brianne Jenner, an Olympic gold and silver medalist and a member of Canada’s national women’s hockey team, 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, women’s hockey in North America and reaching her dream of becoming an Olympian.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is it like to be welcomed as a special guest for an event aimed at supporting women’s hockey and its history?
It’s amazing. It’s obviously a really unique year for women’s hockey and we’re hoping that 20 years down the line, this is a really momentous year. It’s a great opportunity to draw attention to what we’re doing with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and what we’re trying to accomplish but also pay tribute to the pioneers that came before us. A lot of the opportunities that I had my career were because of the women that that paved the way for me, so it’s an exciting thing to pay tribute to them but also to draw attention to where the game needs to continue to grow.
What is it like for you to attend the reception alongside Liz Knox and Nathalie Rivard?
It’s really exciting. Liz and I serve on the board of the PWHPA together. She’s an amazing person and an amazing hockey player, so it’s always fun to be able to work alongside her. Obviously I grew up watching Nathalie Rivard. Actually, her daughter went to my hockey camp this past summer, so it’ll be great to see her. She was a Team Canada player that I grew up watching, so it’s always exciting to be able to go to an event with someone that you grew up watching on TV.
Considering the fact that the Canadian Women’s Hockey League ceased operations last year, why do you think it’s such an important time to highlight the value and legacy of women’s hockey?
There’s so much momentum behind female sports right now. Finally, I think people are realizing what great products of hockey are out there and especially women’s pro hockey. It’s exciting to highlight our history, as I said, but also to draw attention to where the game needs to go and where it is currently right now. Obviously, this year is a difficult year but also an exciting one and I think all of us that are involved in the movement think about it as maybe a small step backwards in that we don’t have a pro league right now, but hopefully a giant leap forwards in the coming years.
As a board member for the PWHPA, what is it like for you to attend this event about the history of women’s hockey while also working with a group that’s trying to actively create a better future for it?
You look at the men’s side of the game, you look at the NHL and how long that took to establish and just the level of hockey and where that where that league has come to– Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have a lot of work to do on the women’s side, but it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. We’ve been the fastest growing sport in North America for many, many years and there’s so many girls playing hockey now and and picking up the game because of the women that that paved the way. I think we’re going to continue to see that growth and to be a part of it and be a part of that story is something I don’t take for granted.
There is going to be a three-on-three event for women’s hockey at the NHL All-Star Game and all the players are from the PWHPA. Given that it’s been a difficult year, what is it like to see that sort of event being featured?
It’s a great step. The NHL has a lot of female fans and, in the past, I don’t think the female fans were given enough attention. As I said, there’s so many girls playing hockey now, and so to highlight some of the best players in the game and to have a women’s hockey event in the All-Star Game, I think is a great step, for sure. But our goal is to establish a league so that we don’t just have to look forward to events here and there to showcase our game, but girls can dream of playing in a professional league and being treated like professionals and aspire to play the game they love.
Your group has done a lot in terms of promoting women’s hockey and really making people aware of the issues surrounding it, but do you think the larger community in Canada is aware of the issues surrounding women’s hockey?
The short answer is no. What we’re trying to do is not only showcase our product, but just kind of get the word out there about what our goals are. We don’t want to be paid million dollar contracts like the men, that’s not what we’re after. Of course, you wouldn’t complain if that’s eventually where our game got, but we just want a league where it’s best on best, where there’s supports for the players. There’s insurance, there’s medical, you don’t have to pay for your own travel costs. We’re just looking to establish a league that is sustainable and so in the next couple weeks, having players at the NHL All-Star Game to be able to get our word out and show our product, that’s really positive to us. The more people that we can expose to what we’re trying to do, the better.
You’ve spoken about dreaming of being an Olympian since you watched the Canadian women win gold at Salt Lake City in 2002. With two medals under your belt, what is it like to know that you and your team could have the same influence on young girls?
It’s something that you don’t take for granted when you when you wear the maple leaf and when you’re able to represent your country in the Olympic Games. There’s a lot of people watching you and a lot of people that would do anything to be in your shoes, so I was lucky to be able to live out that dream. That’s one of the big reasons that we’re doing this. We want to leave our game better than when we found it, and we want to create another dream for for young girls that they can play professionally. That’s our goal, and that’s what motivates us. Right now, we know what we’re doing isn’t necessarily going to benefit our generation and our current players, but we’re hoping to benefit the next generations.
Hear Brianne Jenner 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.