SURREY - Thea Hill, a local math teacher at Elgin Park Secondary, is taking part in her first Team Canada women's sledge hockey tournament.
"For me, it's going to be neat to have my name on the back of my jersey," Hill said of her first official outing with the national team at a women's-only tournament in the United States next month.
But she needs a helping hand to get to there, hopefully in the form of a corporate sponsorship to offset the costs. Women's sledge hockey is just gaining popularity across this hockey-mad country and it isn't yet established enough to be covered under the Hockey Canada umbrella, which pays for the men's team travel and expenses.
That means Hill and fellow Surrey team member Peggy Assinck are left scrambling to find the money to attend the upcoming tournament in New Jersey, a decision that was only just finalized.
"We just found out last week the trip is on," Hill said recently. If not for the lack of notice, she said they would have organized fundraisers or at least had time to save the money to attend.
"It's a really big step for women's hockey" to now have an international tournament of women's only teams, she said.
Hill, who made Team Canada in October, plays with a local co-ed team, the B.C. Surrey Eagles. When she plays and travels with that team, their travel expenses are subsidized by Sportability.
As part of the national team tryout process, the women's team played an exhibition game against a men's team in Ontario.
"That was the first time I played with all girls on my team," she said, "and I was really pleased with how I did."
The international tournament will be her first time playing against women as well.
Sledge hockey, for those who are not familiar with the sport, was featured in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics. The athletes are seated on a small sledge with blades and propel themselves over the ice with short sticks that have metal picks on one end and a typical hockey stick curve on the other.
She noted that the sport is rather expensive because players have to buy all their own specialty equipment, which is not cheap.
Hill was born with a rare condition called PRRD, proximal femoral focal deficiency. As a result, she had her leg amputated at an early age and has used a prosthetic ever since.
Hill estimates the cost for her to attend the tournament - with the team meeting in Toronto and then taking a bus down to New York State for the six-day event, from May 9 to 14 - will add up to about $1,800. And, as a teacher, she will likely have to take four unpaid days off work, she said. If any business owners would like to offer a sponsorship to help Hill cover expenses for the trip, they can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.