Unsung Heroine’s Lorie Springall & Sharon Buehner – Women’s Hockey League

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Women's Hockey League
Lorie Springall (left) and Sharon Buehner (right) Women’s Hockey League

Here’s another story about 2 outstanding women volunteers in Sault Ste. Marie. Unsung Heroine’s Lorie Springall and Sharon Buehner organize manage and also play in the Women’s Hockey League.

In 1998 Lorie moved to the Sault Ste. Marie to teach Geography and Math. In 2000 she convinced the 2 existing girl’s hockey associations to amalgamate, with Lorie as President the Women’s Hockey League was created.

From a humble beginning in 2002 with a registration of 52 players including 4 goalies the league has grown to a registration of 386 players in 2016/17. Initially 2 games were played every Monday evening on the natural ice surface in Echo Bay. Lorie and Sharon were the only 2 referees available, oh and they were the timekeepers and scorekeepers too! truly remarkable.

Women's Hockey League The teams played 9 regular season games as well as 2 playoff games. The cost per player was $50 and the league budget was $2500. By comparison, in 2016/17 there 4 divisions composed of the Big League, Middle League, Beer League, and the Fun League. There are 27 teams including 1 from Sault College. They play 16 games a week, 23-26 league games during the 8 month season, then the playoffs. In addition they play an Early Bird Tournament and participate in the Charity game.

The league moved from the natural ice surface in Echo Bay to the Sault city and Rankin rinks in 2005/6. The league now has 9 female referees, 4 male referees, and 9 timekeepers, all of whom are paid. In early September Lorie, Sharon and the team captains organize a draft for ranking the players and organizing the teams for the forthcoming season. Trophies are awarded at the end of the season for the winners of the fun league, the regular season, and the playoffs. Aptly 2 of the trophies are named after Lorie and Sharon’s mothers. Depending upon sign up time, with September 10th being the last registration date, the cost/player ranges from $325 to $400/season. Currently the youngest player is 19 and the oldest 73.

Between Lorie and Sharon they arrange the rink reservations, league and playoff schedules, referees, timekeepers, training clinics, and NOHA accreditation. The league has adopted some interesting rules such as: 10 minute misconduct for reckless play, 3 penalties result in ejection from the game, No checking, Slap shots only allowed in the Big and Middle league Crease rule in effect.

The Sault business community has responded remarkably with sponsorships from an extensive number of area businesses. With cakes that are decorated in a hockey theme auctioned off at a season end party, participation in the Charity Tournament organized by Albert Williams, and generous donations from the players the Women’s Hockey league has raised over $123,000 which they donated to ARCH.

What an incredible achievement for Lorie and Sharon to see the results of their volunteering efforts provide such a healthy outlet in the Sault for Women. The WHL also should be proud of their financial donations to ARCH.

Volunteers are exceptional people who contribute quietly and effectively to the benefit of the community. They neither receive nor seek any reward or compensation for their efforts other than the self-satisfaction. Each community should be grateful for the efforts of volunteers. I lived in another country for quite some time where the word volunteer doesn’t exist and there is little or no thought about helping another person.