"He's A Girl..."

Abby was capable of skating at the age of three, and began carrying a hockey stick at the age of 5. At nine years of age, in 1956, after cutting her hair short, under the guise of a boy, Abigail Hoffman signed up in Toronto boy's Junior A hockey league: "Little THL" as 'Ab' Hoffman. With her crew cut, her boyish looks "and long strides on the ice, it was hard to realize that it was a girl chasing a puck" (2)

Wearing the number 6, Abby's skill gave way to being chosen to play defense for the upcoming all star game that would raise money for crippled children. However, regulations called for the players to hand in their birth certificate prior to the tournament. Coaches and managers were astounded, and the league infuriated, that the blue eyed player was in fact a girl.

"I defy anyone to pick her out as a girl when the team is on the ice," said her coach, Al Grossi. "She skates like a boy, plays aggressively, meets the players when they come in on defense."
TV interview with Abby, her mother and the coach:

Abby learned early the difficulties that came with being a female in the sports world. She was permitted to play in the tournament but after their loss she gave up playing Junior A hockey. Abby's mother and father were wise to her being an impostor. Her mother was quoted saying,
"I think children should be out playing hockey, not watching it. And any of these sports that are good for health and teaching fair play should be good for girls as well as boys." (2)
Perhaps her mothers view on girls playing sports inspired and motivated Abby to continue on her path to being a professional athlete and prepared her for her future involvement in the administrations that govern Canadian sport.

Prior to Abby's affinity to the game of hockey she would swim at the cottage and for the Lake-shore swimming club. After her bout with hockey she continued swimming competitively for another short while before beginning her sports career in track and field.

1. www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/women
2. www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/hockey/kids
3. Clip: http://archives.cbc.ca/clip.asp?IDClip=9516
4. Photo: http://fans.nhl.com/blogs/6920

"Only She Who Attempts the Absurd will Achieve the Impossible"

At fifteen years of age Abby broke out onto the international athletic scene, appearing at the 1962 Commonwealth games in Perth, Western Australia. Abby was a middle distance runner however she finished last in the 880 yard run. This undoubtedly gave her the motivation she needed to become a successful endurance runner. The next year Abby won gold in the 1963 Pan-American Games.

In the following years she captured the national 800m title eight times and held the national records in the 800m from 1962-75. Abby represented Canada in four Olympic Games, four Pan-Am Games, two Commonwealth Games, three 3 FISU World 91University Games and the 1969 Maccabiah Games (1) (see the list to the right for her achievements in these competitions.) Abby's active athletic career is one of Canada's longest and most distinguished.

Culturally women were viewed as lesser athletes and were not given "an equal portion of the athletic pie in terms of facilities, resources, coaching and sponsorship." (2) This inequity did not go unnoticed by the young runner, not only did she face opposition when she was a child playing hockey in a boys league, but she faced a running hurdle. In 1966, as a women, she was refused the privilege of running on the only indoor track in Ontario. The University of Toronto's Hart House, which was an all-male facility was opened to women because of Abby's efforts. There is now a plaque that bears the quote
"Only she who attempts the absurd will achieve the impossible." (1)
Abby Hoffman was by nature, an activist, she fought for the rights of athletes, of female athletes and against racial inequity in the Olympics. Her efforts were not overlooked, and changes were taking place. This was evident in the 1976 Summer Olympic Games held in Montreal, Canada; Abby became the first women to bear the Canadian flag, leading the Canadian team into Montreal's Olympic Stadium during opening ceremonies (see photo from in the following post.)

1. www.cshof.ca/accessible/hm_profile.php?i=461
2. The Girl and the Game: A history of women's sport in Canada by M. Ann Hall
2. Photo: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/

"Maker and Breaker in Canadian Sport"

In 1977 Abby was named one of the "50 'makers and breakers in Canadian sport" (2) (along with three other women). She certainly had made some records and broken some rules. Her career as athlete had come to an end but her career as an activist has never ceased. After a short stint teaching at Guelph University, Abby became the first female elected to the Executive Committee on the Canadian Olympic Association, as Director General of Sport Canada. (3) Here she continued her fight for women's equity in sport, following is an excerpt from the newly adopted Policy on Women's Sport:
Equality implies that women at all levels of the sport system should have an equal opportunity to participate. Equality is not necessarily meant to imply women wish to participate in the same activities as men, but rather to indicate that activities of their choice should be provided and administered in a fair and unbiased environment... create an environment in which no one is forced into a predetermined role or status because of gender. (2)
After 10 years of dedication with the Olympic association, Abby moved to a position with Health Canada, as Director General in the Women's Health Bureau. Here she takes up a more intimate fight for women, "real gains will only be achieved if... we endeavour to change those conditions beyond sport that limit sport involvement" (2) She was referring to the increase in women in the work force, lower wages, family responsibilities, therefore added stress and decreases in health.
All the while Abby also took part in the IAAF (International Amateur Athletic Federation). (3) She was often a speaker at conferences and became the author of books and articles on "women in sport, high performance sport, athletes’ rights, athletics in developing countries, the campaign against doping." (4) Her efforts here were rewarded, receiving a medal in 1998.
Other acclamations she has received include: Becoming an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982 and she was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame (5).

2. The Girl and the Game: A history of women's sport in Canada by M. Ann Hall