She Was The Sole Girl On The Boys' Hockey Team. Decades Later, She's Cheering On The PWHL | CBC Radio

The Current

The PWHL is giving an opportunity for women to forge a career in professional hockey — something Ontario’s Dagmar Boettcher never had growing up in the 1950s and ’60s.

‘I think the young people who are in the stands … they’re going to carry this on,’ says Boettcher, now 70

Mouhamad Rachini · CBC Radio

· Posted: Feb 18, 2024 4:00 AM EST | Last Updated: February 18

Dagmar Boettcher, now 70, made waves in 1964 when she was the first girl to play against boys on her local hockey team. (Submitted by Dagmar Boettcher)

The Current10:20A trailblazer for women’s hockey

When an 11-year-old Dagmar Boettcher lined up for a face-off during a hockey game in 1964, she overheard a conversation that’s stuck with her for decades.

“I could hear two elderly women sitting in the stands right behind me,” she recounted. “And I heard one of them say to the other, ‘Muriel, I think that’s a girl.'”

“The other one said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. That’s not a girl.'”

But it was a girl — a girl in love with hockey, and the only one on her school’s hockey team.

“I loved running around, I loved the wind against me. I loved just having fun and the team spirit and the camaraderie,” the 70-year-old told The Current’s Matt Galloway.

Although it was uncommon to see a woman playing organized hockey — Boettcher believes she played just one game against the boys — at the time, it isn’t now. That’s in large part to leagues like the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL).

The six-team league opened its debut season on New Year’s Day, when New York blanked Toronto 4-0. The regular season goes on until May 5, with the playoffs starting the next day.

Boettcher, front, pictured circa 1963, played hockey on outdoor rinks with boys for years. (Submitted by Dagmar Boettcher)The PWHL’s debut game was watched by nearly three million viewers through the league’s three Canadian national broadcast partners.

Boettcher was one of them, and she struggled to hold back tears when she saw the women take the ice on television.

“I was very emotional — and still am most of the time,” said the Ontario native. 

Although some of those tears were joyful, Boettcher said she feels some sadness, too.

“If the times had been different, that could have been me, that I might have had that opportunity,” she said.

A long-time loveBoettcher’s love of hockey started young. One Christmas morning, her younger sisters received baby carriages for their dolls, but an eight-year-old Boettcher was given a tabletop hockey game. 

“Montreal and Toronto were [on] the little metal players that you could move around,” she said. “So shortly after that, I’m sure I started playing ball hockey on the street with the boys.”

Boettcher said the local boys would knock on her door to ask if she could come out to play. She had a hockey net and goalie stick — and she was a good player too.

Her mother wasn’t always comfortable with the prospect of Boettcher playing hockey with boys, and as she grew older, her mother told her that she didn’t feel it was appropriate. 

But Boettcher didn’t always listen. She’d even jump out of her bedroom window sometimes to avoid her mother and play hockey with the boys.

“With my mother, I always decided it was better to take the punishment than ask for the permission,” she said.

Boettcher stopped playing hockey in high school and university, but picked it up again in her mid-40s and early 50s, even joining a league in Toronto.

WATCH: Ella Shelton reflects on scoring the PWHL’s 1st goal

New York’s Ella Shelton reflects on scoring 1st-ever goal in the PWHL25-year-old Canadian defender Ella Shelton joins Hockey North after playing and scoring in her first PWHL game with New York.

Nowadays, she hits the ice at an outdoor rink in Haliburton, Ont., with her partner’s grandkids.

“Luckily, I didn’t fall flat on my bum,” she said. “But I stepped on the ice and that feeling just came back and we just played.”

The next generationAs a kid, Boettcher’s dad would often take her to watch games. Although she enjoyed the experience, she noticed that the rest of the crowd was usually comprised of fathers who would take their sons — not daughters — to the game.

But while watching the PWHL on television, Boettcher noticed the audience had a good mix of girls and boys alike.

“When you look at the camera and where they pan … it’s on the faces of young girls who are holding up signs for their heroes,” she said. “And it’s hockey moms now bringing the girls in.”

By watching the players, the girls see hockey as a possible career choice, according to Boettcher. “They’re looking at where they might be.”

Boettcher has been watching Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) games since the league launched in January. (Alex D’Addese/PWHL)Although the PWHL isn’t the first women’s senior hockey league in Canada — others have come and collapsed before it — Boettcher sees a bright future for this league.

“I think the young people who are in the stands — that that didn’t happen before. They’re going to carry this on,” she said. “They’re the ones who are playing in the leagues now with their parents taking them.”


Mouhamad Rachini is a Canadian-Lebanese writer and producer for CBC Radio’s digital team. He’s worked for several CBC Radio shows including The Current, Day 6 and Cross Country Checkup. He’s particularly passionate about stories from Muslim and Middle Eastern communities. He also writes about soccer on his website Between the Sticks. You can reach him at

Produced by Dawna Dingwall

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *