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2024 u18wwc primerano stewart

Breaking barriers in the women’s game

As players like Chloe Primerano and Rhyah Stewart continue to make history early in their careers, it opens the doors for the next generation to set goals to do the same

Shannon Coulter
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January 10, 2024
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Sometimes history can happen in the most unlikely of places—like in the car on the way home from school.

That’s where Chloe Primerano was when she found out that she was selected by the Vancouver Giants in the 13th round of the 2022 Western Hockey League Prospects Draft, becoming the first woman skater to be drafted into the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).

“I heard some rumours, some talking that it might happen, but I didn’t know for sure if I was going to be drafted, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up or anything,” Primerano explains. “I saw on my phone that it happened and got a call from the GM. It was a pretty unreal experience to be the first to get drafted.”

Trailblazers like Hayley Wickenheiser, Manon Rhéaume and Cammi Granato opened the doors by recording historic “firsts” in the men’s game. As the women’s game continues to advance, more and more players are writing their names in the history books.

One year after making history at the draft, Primerano had another “first” when she participated in the annual Creative Artists Agency (CAA) summer prospects camp in Los Angeles, becoming the first woman skater to attend. At the camp, she was on the ice with top prospects like Hlinka Gretzky Cup gold medallists Berkly Catton and Ryder Ritchie.

“I think being on the ice with everyone, it was really good,” she says. “All of the players were super high-level, so it was good to be able to be pushed every day. It wasn’t easy, but it definitely helped me out.”

Chloe Primerano plays the puck against Germany.

Primerano is not the only member of Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team to have made history. Goaltender Rhyah Stewart made history when she appeared in a pre-season game for the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League’s Cape Breton Eagles, becoming the first woman to play for the Eagles and the fifth woman to play in the CHL.

After finding out she would get a chance to play from Eagles head coach Louis Robitaille and goalie coach Blade Mann-Dixon, Stewart says she was really excited.

“I knew it was an opportunity not many women get to have, so just to be one of the few, it was definitely an honour,” she says. “I was definitely really excited to get that opportunity to see what I can do in one of those big moments in my career.”

Stewart saw 30 minutes of action against the Moncton Wildcats on Aug. 25 and stopped all 24 shots she faced. The 16-year-old from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, received a standing ovation when she was removed from the game and was named first star.

Reflecting back on the game, Stewart says the fan support she received sticks out.

“The building was fairly packed for a pre-season exhibition game,” she says. “Just to see the reaction when I was done and all the younger fans there in attendance to watch me was pretty cool.”

Rhyah Stewart makes a save against Czechia.

Both Primerano and Stewart were a part of history at the Canada Winter Games last year, too. With British Columbia and Nova Scotia reaching the gold medal game, Primerano helped lead B.C. to its first gold medal and Stewart made history as Nova Scotia earned its first-ever medal in women’s hockey.

“It was awesome that we got the chance to win. I don’t know if we all expected it, but we came out on top,” Primerano says. “You get to see so many different people and meet a lot of new people from different provinces. We got to go watch a couple different sports. It’s pretty special.”

“It was an incredible experience,” Stewart adds. “One thing that stands out to me was our semifinal [against Ontario] when we went in as heavy underdogs. For us to be able to go off that victory was pretty incredible.”

As historic firsts continue to happen in women’s hockey, it helps to inspire the “see it, be it” mentality within the next generation.

“I think it’s impacted the growth [of the women’s game] immensely,” Stewart says. “For someone to go in and be able to break down the barrier showcases that another woman is also capable to do that. I think when younger generations get to see that, they get to strive for higher goals.”

With continued advancements in the women’s game, like the inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) season, it opens the door for more young hockey players to dream of playing the game professionally, including players like Primerano and Stewart who have already made history in their careers.

“I’d love to play in that league,” Primerano says of the PWHL. “It’s great to have something where you can play all year round and play against high-level competition.”

“I’ve always wanted to play professionally, but there was uncertainty that came with that. You didn’t know what kind of league you’d be getting into,” Stewart explains. “Now with the new PWHL, it’s opened the doors and made me really want to strive for that goal.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

emadziya@hockeycanada.ca 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

jknight@hockeycanada.ca

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