In her new book Offside, Rhonda Leeman Taylor draws upon her personal experiences to tell the story of systemic change in women’s hockey over the past five decades.
Leeman Taylor co-authored the book with her niece, Denbeigh Whitmarsh.
“It was such a privilege to work with my Aunt Rhonda,” said 20-year-old Whitmarsh, who hails from Sunderland, Ont.
“What she’s done for female hockey is amazing,” the McGill University student said.
“It’s because of her I got to play hockey every Saturday just like the boys. This book documents the history of women’s hockey, and it helps to inspire the next generation to pick up the torch in the battle against gender discrimination.”
In the 1970s, Leeman Taylor played hockey in Kingston with a team known as the Red Barons. Many regarded them as one of the best teams in the country.
“I have wonderful memories playing with the Red Barons,” said Leeman Taylor, a Kingston and District Sports Hall of Famer who now resides in Newmarket.
“There’s a special chapter in the book about that wonderful group of ladies.
“We were trailblazers and didn’t even know it. We had Cookie Cartwright, Annabelle Twiddy and even a talented 10-year-old named Kim Ferguson, whose dad Lorne played in the National Hockey League.”
After her playing days were over, Leeman Taylor continued to fight for gender equality in hockey. She became the first voting woman on the board of Hockey Canada.
“I have a lot of stories to tell about Hockey Canada and the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association,” Leeman Taylor said.
“Some are good and some need to be left alone. Hockey Canada was very supportive at that time and wanted to know about the troubling issues in the early stages of women’s hockey.”
Leeman Taylor is proud of what she was able to accomplish in her sports career. In 1982, she organized the very first national championship for women in Brantford, Ont.
Offside is the personal story of Leeman Taylor’s experience in the world of hockey over the past five decades and the challenges she faced as a female player, coach and builder.
For every book purchased, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Grindstone Award Foundation to support young girls in hockey.
As for the Red Barons, they plan to commemorate their 50th anniversary this Saturday by unveiling a plaque at the Kingston Memorial Centre. The reunion will feature numerous players as well as Fran Rider, president of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association. The ceremony is set to take place at 2:30 p.m.