As the Western Women’s Canadian Football League looks to gain traction, the eight-team league begins its regular season on May 4. This shall mark the third season in WWCFL history, as the budding league hopes interest continues to grow.
Five teams comprise the Western Conference, and they include Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge and Okotoks. The quartet that constitute the Prairie Conference include Manitoba, Regina, Saskatoon (defending league champions) and Winnipeg.
All clubs are aiming to capture the league title on June 15 in Regina, Saskatchewan. If the league could find a sponsor for its championship trophy (the way Adrienne Clarkson sponsored the Clarkson Cup, the trophy for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League), it would help bring great momentum, while sending the message that a long-term future is secure.
With the Lethbridge Steel visiting the Okotoks Lady Outlawz in the opening game of the season (on May 4), both franchises will be looking to start their season with a win. A four-game schedule stretched over a five-week-long season means that every win is crucial for a postseason berth.
The boom in women’s football in Western Canada signifies a great renaissance period for sport in the region. In summer 2012, the Legends Football League (known as Lingerie instead of Legends at the time) placed three squads in Western Canada (Abbotsford, BC, Regina and Saskatoon).
While the popularity of football in Western Canada is partly attributed to the Canadian Football League, the interest of women competing in the sport has opened a remarkable chapter in Canadian sporting history. Although some clubs in the league compete on high school football fields, attendance of 600 fans at some home games has provided the league with encouragement.
As the third season gets underway, many players will now emerge as veterans. Their experiences from the 2011 and 2012 campaigns should help produce a much stronger product on the field.
The Saskatoon Valkyries have emerged as a feel-good story. It has served as a means of providing many female athletes from the University of Saskatchewan with the ability to continue their athletic endeavors. An added sign of encouragement for the Valkyries is that some members of their coaching staff once coached the University of Saskatchewan men’s program.
Many players are already looking to use their newfound athletic status as ways to give back to the community. Megan Jalbert and Erin Banbury, competitors for the Regina Riot, are both looking to develop a young girls football league to help stimulate interest while developing future stars.
Despite the growing pains and the obstacles that present themselves to any young league, the WWCFL is helping to provide women with another avenue to pursue dreams of being able to compete at an athletic level. While it may take a few more seasons before the league is part of the larger sporting conversation, women’s football is beginning to lay down strong roots.