In 1973, a group of Leaside girls approached a local boys’ hockey coach and asked if they could play in the arena.
“We got tired of sitting around the arena watching the guys play. It didn’t seem right and it didn’t seem fair,” notes Daniele Spethmann.
Spethmann, along with a group of other players, went on to form the Leaside Girls Hockey League, a two-team house league comprising the Lancerettes and the Blazerettes.
As community interest grew, so too did the number of players and teams.
Five decades later, the now-named Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association (TLGHA) league is one of Ontario’s largest hockey organizations for women and girls with more than 1,600 players from the ages of three to 60.
From Learn to Play lessons for both youth and seniors, to house league and competitive teams, all the way up to a junior team which competes at the highest level in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), the league has, and continues to, grow by leaps and bounds – and goals.
According to Andrew Dillane, president of the TLGHA board of directors, the league is dedicated to player development along with safety, equity, inclusion, affordability as well as leadership examples and opportunities.
Each Leaside Wildcats team has at least one woman in a leadership role, and older players can certify and work as referees as well as volunteer coaches or instructors.
The TLGHA is also the only league with a female director of hockey operations. An excellent example of female hockey role modeling, Kim McCullough was a Wildcat herself, played in the NCAA at the provincial and national levels, and was an original member of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), the forerunner of the CWHL.
The league has also brought in major mental health initiatives and works with girls on many aspects of their lives on and off the ice including navigating their university selection process.
As Dillane points out, the TLGHA is “not just about hockey, but also about life skills the girls can use into the future.”
To celebrate this, their 50th year of play, the TLGHA is planning several events.
The milestone season started with a celebration weekend on September 30th and October 1st, featuring lots of great hockey as well as an alumni game and pub night.
All league jerseys are also adorned with a special commemorative logo for the 2023-2024 season.
The annual March Break Tournament (now known as the March Matchup Tournament) will host nearly 3,000 players from across the province and will be marked with several anniversary events.
A host of other events will be held throughout the year and the celebrations will culminate with a community festival at the end of March.
Check the TLGHA website (torontoleasidewildcats.ca) as well as their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages to stay up to date on all the plans.
The league is seeking old photographs and memorabilia to be included in an anniversary display. All submissions will be on loan to the TLGHA and will be returned at the end of the 50th season celebrations. If you have an item to lend to the group, please email .