In the early 1980’s, Karen Wallace was a hockey mom with 4 kids, but was struck with the blaring disparity that girls in the hockey system were an afterthought. In comparison to her sons, Karen’s daughters had little opportunity to advance in the sport, so she decided to take a stand and make a difference. In addition to her already countless hours with minor hockey, she took her advocacy to a new level in 1985 when she became the Director of Female Hockey for the province of BC. Female hockey programs were very uncommon at that time, so Karen toured the province organizing female camps and Jamborees, while communicating to parents that hockey was a great choice for young girls. She wrote a manual on how to organize and grow the girl’s game, which was utilized by all Canadian provinces, and in 1989 she brought the Women’s National Championship to BC for the first time in history.
Karen brought her vision to the national stage in 1990 when she was elected as Chair of Hockey Canada’s Female Counsel, which represented the needs of female players. She went on to obtain approval for girls’ hockey to be included in the 1991 Canada Winter Games, where 13-year-old Hayley Wickenheiser would score the game winning goal in the gold medal game. As a result, women’s hockey began to gain momentum and registration numbers increased by 40% Canada wide.
However, Karen was not finished just yet, as she began to set her sights on Olympic glory. She and her female counsel put together a compelling case for the inclusion of female hockey in the Olympics, and in 1992, female hockey was included as a full medal sport. The 1990’s were a period of unprecedented growth for female hockey, and specifically between 1990-1997 under Karen Wallace’s leadership, enrollment more than tripled, and the Canadian women’s national team won every major international competition including 3 world titles. The rest of the world began to look at Canada’s female hockey program as the international leader.
Karen later went on to become Secretary of North Delta Minor Hockey, as well as Secretary of the Pacific Coast Junior B Hockey League. Karen Wallace passed away on March 23rd, 2018 at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, BC, with her family by her side. So today, when girls get to lace up their skates and participate in the game of hockey with equal opportunity, they get to do so because of the work from people like Karen Wallace.