TORONTO (Reuters) - Anissa Gamble is not a household name in ice hockey but is so passionate about forming a sustainable professional women’s league that she put dental school on hold in a bid to pave the way for the next generation of girls.
The 26-year-old Canadian had no choice but to abandon her childhood dream of making a living as a hockey player but hopes it will one day be an option for other girls and so decided to participate in this weekend’s Dream Gap Tour in Toronto.
The event is a traveling showcase featuring some of the game’s elite talents and has a stated mission of closing the gap between what boys and girls can aspire to achieve.
“I actually got into dental school this year and (this event) was one of the pillars of me deferring for the year because I really want to be a part of this movement in some way or form,” Gamble told Reuters.
“And I knew that we needed all hands on deck for this. Even though I am just a small player I would love to contribute in any way.”
Gamble, who in 2001 was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, is one of many displaced players following the demise of the six-team Canadian Women’s Hockey League in May.
The absence of the CWHL left the five-team, U.S.-based National Women’s Hockey League as the only professional hockey option for women in North America.
But Gamble was among the more than 200 women’s players who this year announced a boycott of any professional leagues in North America until they were given the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.
Gamble, who does Type 1 diabetes research at a Toronto hospital, considers herself an “average Joe” in hockey circles but knew she had to be a part of what she hopes will lead the way for a viable future for women’s hockey.
“It’s not about any of the 200 players,” said Gamble. “It’s about unifying together and having a synergy effect of creating a sustainable league so that the next generation of females can play in a league and do this as a career.”
Gamble, who as a child dreamed of one day playing in the National Hockey League, grew up in New Brunswick where she said she played against boys until she was about 14-year-old because there was no girls’ league.
She soon realized that not only was the NHL not an option for her but simply making a living as a female hockey player was also not in the cards, and she cannot stand the thought of other girls going through that same heartbreak.
“As time went on in my career I realized that I couldn’t make a career out of something that makes me really happy,” said Gamble. “That was really frustrating and disheartening.
“And it’s hard to see young ladies today where you see that sparkle in their eyes and that desire in their heart but the only platform at the moment that they can try to achieve is going to the Olympics and (the chances) are so insignificant based on numbers.”
Gamble will not draw much attention this weekend given she will be among a group that includes Olympic gold medalists Marie-Philip Poulin, Brianne Jenner, Rebecca Johnston and Natalie Spooner, but for her it is not about recognition.
“I don’t want the next generation to go through the same things that we are doing,” said Gable. “That is not progressive, that would just be a cyclone of repeating history.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty