An area ambassador for women's hockey has been recognized on a national level. Kim Paull is the recipient of Hockey Canada's 2022 Female Breakthrough Award. She describes her initial reaction when she found out.
"I was very surprised. When I went into volunteering, I never thought about recognition for myself, I just do it because I love to help others. So, it was very mind-blowing," Paull explains.
Paull is currently the chair of female hockey with Hockey Manitoba and got to that point in just six short years of work behind the scenes. She describes how her journey began.
"When my daughter was getting into the novice level, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do with the sport of hockey but we as parents wanted to keep her in a team sport and we knew she liked skating. So, we thought it might be good to see if there were enough girls in the Macdonald area to get something going," says Paull. "Coincidentally, nine girls had registered for that age group already. So, the board fully supported me, just as a parent volunteer, to see if we could get enough kids. The nine girls turned into 13 and off we went. The community started rallying behind us."
She notes they were very fortunate to have local businesses helping fund the team as they had to pay for ice time, exhibition games, and tournaments. After three weeks, the Macdonald squad added another three girls to the roster. Paull says this was the first time there was ever a female novice team in Macdonald that played a full season.
The Macdonald Hockey Association's Board of Directors asked Paull to come aboard after that to be the female hockey representative for the area.
"I took the position. The board was extremely supportive and said that we should try and do this for every age group," Paull continues. "We were successful in icing a team for every single age division all the way up to U18."
Paull talks about why she felt it was so important to bring girls the opportunity to play hockey with other girls at a young age.
"The benefit is they have each other. Sometimes I feel like when it's a new experience, the journey they embarked on was new for all of them, so it's relatable," says Paull. "They were all like, 'I don't know, I guess we're going to try out a girls team.' So, the bonds that these girls made is something they still might have today."
The chair of female hockey for the province says the stepping stone to getting that position came in Pembina Valley.
"I took over the female director role for the region of Pembina Valley. I helped grow leagues within the region as well as worked with each association's female rep to help them grow their own teams. From there, I took a year off after a couple of years of doing that but then I was nominated to take on this position. Now, I'm a year in, and it's been fantastic. I'm the only female that sits on the board but I do not feel any less supported, they've been great resources. I'm very fortunate to have this role, I love being able to be in a position to help grow the game at a provincial level."
Paull's personal experience in athletics growing up is one of her main motivations to keep pushing female hockey forward.
"Coming from a small town of 500 people, and not having all of the opportunities that the boys would have, I would always ask my parents, 'Why don't we have a girls baseball team? Why don't we have a girls soccer team?' So, knowing that feeling is a huge drive for me to provide opportunity and equality for women and girls in all sports," Paull explains.
She adds growing the female game is not just the opportunities on the ice but also surrounding the product. Whether it's behind the bench or behind the scenes, furthering women's hockey can provide a plethora of girls of all ages the chance to stay involved with the sport they love, which Paull says is so important.
In her six years of involvement in the sport, there's one major change Paull is extremely happy to see.
"We're at a pivoting point where the girls who have played the game nationally and throughout North America are finally coming back to the game and giving back," Paull continues. "I'm starting to see a lot of them moving back home to Winnipeg and they're stepping into leadership roles. They're even starting female hockey businesses. Now the trailblazers are finally coming back and getting settled in their roots to help grow the game from the grassroots level."