Mixed gender pickup hockey league remains ‘polite and courteous’

Halifax couple brings men and women together to share in Canada’s sport

Julie Briand, who created the Halifax Co-Ed Hockey League so she could play with her husband, skates down the ice past teammates and defenders for the Halifax Co-Ed Hockey League Snipers
Julie Briand skates past teammates and defenders for the Halifax Co-Ed Hockey League Snipers.   Seth Earle

Julie Briand’s three-year-old daughter laughs playfully as she runs around at her mother’s feet. Briand, holding her nine-month-old son, is sitting on her couch telling stories about the hockey league she helped found.

“We didn’t know exactly what we were doing in the beginning.”

The young mother, currently on maternity leave, is a career engineer.

Her husband, Peter, does computer support. They lead busy lives.

Three years ago they posted an ad on kijiji looking for players to play co-ed pickup hockey with. The replies began pouring in.

“Then I started searching online and realized there was no co-ed hockey league and that was kind of the moment when I was like, ‘We have to make this league.’”

In only a matter of weeks, the Halifax Co-Ed Hockey League had four teams, a website, and referees.

Julie says she never expected such a response and when the season ended in the spring she was surprised to find so many people still wanted to play in the summer. The league has been running with separate seasons, year round ever since. Each new season brings new players, consistently adding teams.

This fall, the league expanded to 16 full teams, each team with its own name and personalized jerseys.

Even with such growth, the spirit of the league remains.

Matt Walters is all smiles on the ice as he waits for a pass from a teammate Walters plays for the Halifax Co-Ed Hockey League Privateers
Matt Walters waits for a pass from a teammate.   Seth Earle

Matt Walters plays in the league for The Privateers team.

“It’s great to play in such an organized league, while still being able to keep it fun and competitive.”

His teammate, J.R. Loeb, praises the league for its inclusiveness:

“The most Maritime league possible. Everyone’s polite and courteous. It’s welcoming to the newest players or anyone just dusting off their skates.”

For Julie and Peter, that was always the most important aspect.

When players join, they are asked to fill out a brief questionnaire online self-assessing their skill level and then Julie and Peter build the teams, keeping friends together and balancing the experience and talent level across the teams.

For two professionals with little kids it can be a large workload to manage over 200 people throughout the year.

Peter tries to make it out to games every week, even when they aren’t playing, to make sure the games are fun, fair, and run smoothly. Julie is constantly keeping up with her email.

Despite all the extra hours, she says it’s worth it to play with her husband and there’s a certain sense of satisfaction marvelling at what the two have created in such a short period of time.

“Sometimes to be at the rink and there’s four games going on at the same exact time and all those people are there because of what we started. It’s a cool thing.”

The success of the league has morphed into a full-fledged side business for the couple, with demanding hours and both a personal and a financial reward.

But the spirit of the game will always be the central tenet.

You can find Halifax Co-Ed Hockey League teams playing at the BMO Centre every week.

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