Members of the Deseronto Bulldogs had their first full team practice on Thursday in Napanee, getting to know each other and working on a few drills ahead of their Sept. 28 EOSHL season opener.
Among the intriguing names on the expansion senior team’s roster is Kira Hurley, whose name appears in the Hockey Hall of Fame as the first female goalie to ever register a point in a men’s professional game.
The 34-year-old, who played for the Brampton Thunder of the now defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League, could very well line up between the pipes in Deseronto on Saturday.
“She’s fantastic,” said Bulldogs coach Steve Durnan. “We didn’t sign anybody just because of who they were. She earned her spot. She’s one of our top goalies.”
For Hurley, playing against men is nothing new.
“I’ve played guys hockey my whole life, other than university,” she said. “It feels like home for me.”
She last played in 2013 as a member of the New York Bluefins of the Federal Hockey League, once again against males. Like several of her teammates, she decided to dig out her equipment when she learned of the EOSHL, which promised to give players who had aged out of junior hockey a place to play competitive hockey.
“I’m so excited, so thrilled and so lucky,” Hurley said of being back on the ice gearing up to play competitive again. “I’m so happy they’ve given me this opportunity to play this level of hockey. I’m looking forward to it.”
“It’s just regular hockey for me, I don’t really think about it one way or another,” she said of playing among guys. “I just go out and compete and have a good time.”
As for being a role model, she doesn’t confine that to one gender.
“I would like to think everybody believes in themselves and go out and give their best effort regardless of whether it’s a guy or a girl,” said Hurley. “They just push themselves to reach their highest limit. To believe in themselves is the hardest part.”
Hurley and her teammates will look to revive competitive hockey in a town that hasn’t seen it since the Deseronto Storm folded in 2015.
“It’s a new venture,” Durnan said of the senior league. “It’s definitely going to be really interesting. I think it’s going to be really good for the community.”
The lineup will be made up of familiar names such as Brad Clark, Ryan Casselman, Brett Maracle, Todd Munden, John Sweet, Jeff Morris and Kyle Wetering.
“There’s still lots of good hockey, I couldn’t believe our tryouts,” said Durnan. “We had 40 plus guys. They made it hard for us. I was coming into it not sure how many guys would should up. Everybody’s played junior hockey, from Junior C to B to A. Some guys get a little better with age.”
The Bulldogs will begin their season on Saturday when they take on the Cornwall Prowlers. Puck drop is 6:30 p.m. at the Deseronto Community Arena. For a complete schedule see the Deseronto Bulldogs’ Facebook page.