Flying in the Canadian Armed Forces
By Derek Brown
Women’s hockey has taken wings in Canada’s military and no team is more prominent than the RCAF Flyers of 8 Wing/CFB Trenton. These women prove themselves day in and day out as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and now even more so as representatives of their respective units and wing as members of the Flyers women’s hockey program.
Their everyday tasks are daunting; constant training to fly and maintain the C-17 Globemaster, performing as air evacuation medical technicians, or handling C-7 rifles are all challenging enough. What do they have to do with hockey?
Just as they train so hard to master their military tasks, these women display a similar dedication to becoming the best hockey players they can be. The Flyers introduced their new women’s hockey program in September 2016. And make no mistake; it really is a “program” in every sense of that word – much more than simply a team operating year-to-year. The long-term goal is to develop women’s hockey at 8 Wing Trenton. Players of all skill levels were invited to attend practice twice a week. Still in its early stages after just one year of operation, the freshman coach has one overriding goal in mind, and that is to improve. Success for the new program came quickly in February 2017, just four months after its inception.
The Ontario Regional Championship in Petawawa was the first true test. With stellar goaltending and an unmatched work ethic, the Flyers were undefeated at 5-0 in the preliminary round, and then won it all in a 1-0 triple overtime win against host Petawawa. That gave 8 Wing Trenton the right to represent the Ontario region at the Canadian Armed Forces Women’s National Hockey Championship for only the second time since 2004.
Riding high after the Regionals, the team set its sights on a national title In March 2017, just one month after what was a hockey highlight for most of the players at 8 Wing, the Flyers rolled into CFB Borden for the Nationals. They quickly established themselves as the team to beat, winning all the way through the round-robin, including a shootout win over a powerhouse team from Val Cartier, Quebec. The Flyers had positioned themselves to achieve what no other women`s team out of Trenton had done before – win a national championship.
In the playoffs, the Flyers faced off against a defensively sound team from Shearwater N.S., representing the Atlantic region. Though they beat the Atlantic team in the round-robin handily, they proved to be a resilient opponent in the semi-final . The Flyers squeezed out a 3-2 victory and advanced to the title game against none other than Team Quebec. The two top teams in the nation would face off for CAF women`s hockey glory.
The final would live up to the hype. It was one of the most entertaining games ever played at a national championship. With end-to-end action that kept fans and players on the edge of their seats, the competition was fierce. Quebec eventually broke through with the first tally. Down 1-0 heading into the third period, the Flyers came out of the gate like it was the last time they would ever see the ice. But they couldn’t crack the wall that was the Quebec goalie. They lost 2-0, and settled for silver. Despite the tough loss, there was still a huge sense of pride and accomplishment among the players. They’d gone an impressive 10-1 in tournament games, and wound up second-best in all of Canada in just their first year. These women knew they were part of something special.
As the 2017/2018 season approached, interest after the incredible first-year showing was at an all-time high, and more than 40 women began the season as part of the Flyers program.