Sami Jo Small never set out to be a pioneer in women’s hockey. She just came to embody the role.

Sami Jo Small never set out to be a pioneer in women’s hockey. She just came to embody the role.

Small, now 46, was helping break barriers in the game as a kid growing up in Winnipeg, although she wasn’t aware of its significance at the time.

Her father, Rod Small, proudly remembers the day a five-year-old Sami Jo started to carve out her own path in the sport.

<p>GAVIN YOUNG / CALGARY HERALD FILES<p>
Olympian Sami Jo Small

GAVIN YOUNG / CALGARY HERALD FILES

Olympian Sami Jo Small

"Well, I walked into the Norberry Community Club with her — her older brother played hockey — and she really wanted to play," recalled Rod Small, who represented his daughter at Thursday’s induction announcement for the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. "We walked up to the guy sitting in the registration desk and I said, ‘Is it OK if girls play hockey?’ He said, ‘I don’t see why not.’ He signed her up and the rest was history."

CLASS OF 2022

This year’s inductees into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame:

PLAYERS

Sami Jo Small: Multi-sport athlete who played for five Canadian world championship-winning squads. A three-time Olympian, Small earned gold twice.

Brad Chartrand: Played four years at Cornell University before captaining Canada’s winning entry at the 1996 Spengler Cup and a five-year career with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.

Mark Mackay: Played a University of Manitoba before joining the Moose Jaw Warriors in 1984-85 when he was named the WHL’s rookie of the year. Had a successful 17-year pro career in Europe and played for Germany at six world championships, twice at Winter Olympics and one World Cup of Hockey.

PLAYERS

Sami Jo Small: Multi-sport athlete who played for five Canadian world championship-winning squads. A three-time Olympian, Small earned gold twice.

Brad Chartrand: Played four years at Cornell University before captaining Canada’s winning entry at the 1996 Spengler Cup and a five-year career with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.

Mark Mackay: Played a University of Manitoba before joining the Moose Jaw Warriors in 1984-85 when he was named the WHL’s rookie of the year. Had a successful 17-year pro career in Europe and played for Germany at six world championships, twice at Winter Olympics and one World Cup of Hockey.

Jason Botterill: Helped University of Michigan to 1996 NCAA title and the only Canadian player to win a gold medal in three consecutive world junior championships. Had an eight-year pro career ended by injury but has gone on to serve in managment as an associate GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, GM of the Buffalo Sabres and most recently as an assistant GM of the Seattle Kraken.

Dave Hrechkosy: Long-time pro who was runner up to Eric Vale of the Atlanta Flames as NHL rookie of the year while with the California Golden Seals in 1974-75. Died on March 7, 2012 and will be inducted posthumously.

Barry Legge: Defenceman who played 345 games for four teams in the World Hockey Association before playing with the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets after the WHA/NHL merger.

OFFICIALS

Ron Ottawa: Long-time linesman and referee at university, junior A and major-junior levels who became a member of the crew of NHL off-ice officials in Winnipeg for Jets 1.0 games. When the Jets and league returned in 2011, Ottawa was named supervisor of NHL off-ice officials. It’s a position he holds to this day.

BUILDER

Mark Chipman: When the original Jets left Winnipeg for Phoenix in 1996, he was part of a group that purchased the International Hockey League’s Minnesota Moose and transferred the franchise to Winnipeg. The club became part of the AHL in 2001 and in 2011, with partner David Thomson, purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and moved them to Winnipeg. He serves as executive chairman and governor of True North Sports & Entertainment, parent organization of the NHL and AHL teams.

MEDIA

Randy Turner: Award-winning Winnipeg Free Press reporter and columnist was nominated for five National Newspaper Awards, winning twice. His book, Back in the Bigs, was the first winner of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame’s Ed Sweeney Memorial Award for raised awareness of Manitoba’s hockey history. Turner, who died of cancer on March 13, 2019, will be inducted posthumously.

TEAMS

1974-75 Thompson Hawks: Won the Western Canada Intermediate AA Playdowns and advanced to Canadian Hardy Cup final before bowing out to the Moncton Bears.

1953-61 Pierson Bruins (Dynasty category): Won MAHA C crown in 1952-53, MAHA B title in 1953-54 and 1955-56, finalists for MAHA AA championship in 1955-56 and captured four consecutive South West Hockey League titles from 1957-58 to 1960-61. The Bruins repeated as MAHA B champs in 1960.

VETERAN SELECTION

Bernie Morris: Born in Brandon in 1890, he played for numerous NHA/NHL and PCHA early in the 20th Century, including stints with the Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroons. He was one of the era’s greatest players.

Sami Jo, who published her autobiography, The Role I Played: Canada’s Greatest Olympic Hockey Team in 2020, has no recollection of the event. The harder work was to come.

"I asked him about that moment because I thought it would have been way more combative," said Small. "And clearly, it really wasn’t. Somebody did tell him at one point that if I did play hockey, my uterus might fall out. That was one thing or that I might never have babies.

"(My dad) had an older sister and I didn’t realize this until I wrote my book but his older sister was quite an athlete and quite a softball and baseball player in the local community and she kind of dominated in all the kids games. And so he always thought that girls could play sports, which was pretty rare for a man at that time."

How limited we opportunities for females in the game in the 1980s and ’90s? Well, Small played exclusively on boys teams throughout her career in minor hockey and she even played on a men’s team at Stanford University, where she was a scholarship track and field athlete,

<p>KEVIN FRAYER / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES<p>
Sami Jo Small as the Canadian women’s team goaltender 2000.

KEVIN FRAYER / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Sami Jo Small as the Canadian women’s team goaltender 2000.

Her first all-female team was Canada’s silver-medal-winning squad at the 1998 Olympic Games.

"To be quite honest, I didn’t know any difference," said Small, prior to serving as an intermission analyst for TSN’s coverage of the world U18 women’s championship. "I didn’t have anything to kind of reference it to. And I really do think I was really fortunate that I had some really great teammates and coaches that encouraged me and allowed me to play and allowed me to be in the dressing room and part of the team. I think, along the way, had anybody been really miserable to me or made my life just a nightmare, I probably would have walked away from it.

"I mean, there was misogyny for sure. There were comments made, but it was often the opponents or the opponents’ parents. It wasn’t generally the teams that I was playing on. In fact, the parents of a lot of boys were very encouraging and very supportive. At the time in the early ‘80s, that wasn’t normal."

<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
Rod Small represents his daughter, Sami Jo Small, at the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame 2022 induction announcement in Winnipeg on Thursday.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Rod Small represents his daughter, Sami Jo Small, at the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame 2022 induction announcement in Winnipeg on Thursday.

Small, who didn’t become a goalie until she turned nine, said watching Winnipegger Susie Yuen play for the 1990 national team inspired her to dream bigger.

She said the true trailblazers were those that came before her.

"I really think our pioneers were all the women that didn’t get to play but wanted to play or maybe played for a year or two and then were forced out," said Small. "They’re the ones that I really feel like we were able to stand on the shoulders of because I feel fortunate that I got to play. I was the lucky one for all of the hard work that all these women put in for so many years. I got to live out my dreams and make a career in the game."

Celebrated Free Press columnist and reporter Randy Turner, will be officially honoured at a dinner on Oct. 8.

Celebrated Free Press columnist and reporter Randy Turner, will be officially honoured at a dinner on Oct. 8.

Small, who will be the third female player to be enshrined — after Jennifer Botterill and Yuen — was one of a group of six players, one official, one builder, one media inductee, two teams and one veteran selection whose inducted was announced Thursday.

The group, which also includes celebrated Free Press columnist and reporter Randy Turner, will be officially honoured at a dinner on Oct. 8.

Long-time official Ron Ottawa, a fixture at Winnipeg Jets games for the past 11 years as the supervisor of off-ice NHL officials, was thrilled to get the call from Hall of Fame organizers.

Ottawa hung up his skates in 1986 after a lengthy career as a linesman and referee in the university and junior ranks. He also worked as an off-ice official during the Jets 1.0 incarnation.

"I was shocked when I heard I was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame — yes, I was," said Ottawa, 73. "I really didn’t expect it. I mean, you’re doing something that you love to do. And to be recognized is more than one could expect."

<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame 2022 inductee, former NHLer Brad Chartrand.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame 2022 inductee, former NHLer Brad Chartrand.

Another inductee, former NHLer Brad Chartrand, travelled from his home to in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to be at Thursday’s announcement. On May 22, he was enshrined as a member of the New York State Hockey Hall of Fame.

"This to me is special," said the 47-year-old, who grew up in St. James and is currently the CEO of a U.S.-based medical device company and still heavily involved in minor hockey. "Even all my practice planning I remember is from (former coaches and Manitobans) Andy Murray or Greg Lacomy. Manitoba is special for me. So when this popped up, my grandma is turning 100 in the fall so we’ve got a dinner so I’ll be back. It meant so much to me what Manitoba hockey provided for me as a person."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.