A Lurgan born woman has been inducted into the Canadian International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.
Geraldine Heaney, who won a staggering seven gold medals with the Canadian team, is only the third woman to receive such an honour following Angela James and Cammi Granato.
The lavish ceremony for the star of the ice was held in Toronto recently and during an interview with her local paper the 46-year-old recalled when her brothers told her ‘girls don’t play hockey’.
“My dad came to Canada six months before us to get a job and get things organised for us to come over and he learned what everybody did on Saturday nights was watch ‘Hockey Night in Canada,’” she said.
Geraldine soon followed her brothers onto the street to play the game. “I’d watch my brothers and ask, ‘Why can’t I play?’ but I was told, ‘girls don’t play hockey’.”
However, that did not put Geraldine off and she went on to become one of the greatest ever players in the sport.
She played 18 seasons and over 1,000 games with the Toronto Aeros organisation, won six Ontario provincial championships and was named Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA) Most Valuable Defenceman on three occasions. The Aeros retired her jersey number 91 in 2006. Internationally, Heaney was a member of the Canadian national team in the first seven Women’s World Championships, winning gold each time. She is a two-time Olympian, winning silver at the inaugural tournament in 1998 and gold in 2002.
Now living in Ancaster, Ontario with her husband John and their daughter and son, Geraldine said only their four-year-old son Patrick was at home when she received her phone call from the Hall of Fame.
“He was the only I could tell right away,” she said. “I was just about to do a workout and then when I got the call I decided ‘I’m not going to do it today’.
“It’s the people you meet, the experiences and all the memories you create playing the game of hockey is the things I’ll remember.”
Her parents Michael and Kathleen Heaney, who were at the ceremony, emigrated to Canada when Geraldine was one-year-old, but although the family settled in Ontario, where she grew up and developed her passion for hockey, she always keeps in touch with her Lurgan connections, staying with her aunt Noreen in Aghagallon when she comes home. Her parents are also regular visitors to Lurgan where Michael’s brothers Dessie and Dermont along with sister Eilish Loye still live.
Although retired from ice hockey, Geraldine still plays an active role as coach for her daughter Shannon’s team.