Melbourne’s premiere LGBTQI Ice Hockey team the Southern Lights only formed six months ago, but in that time they have seen new and returning players hit the ice, forming two inclusive teams. And having just won their first competitive game things are on the up and up for Australia’s first inclusive ice hockey team.
“Winning our first game is such a big deal, because we are a mixture of experienced and new players,” Southern Lights founder Kade Mathews told the Star Observer.
“I’m really proud of how far we have grown in such a short amount of time. I didn’t know what to expect when we first started, but the response has been great.”
Being able to form two teams so early in the teams formation has created a better environment for new players to develop their skills in a lower grade and work up to play with the more competitive team, something Mathews is excited to be a part of.
‘When I started I could barely skate without holding onto the rails,” Matthews said.
“Ice Hockey takes time and practise. It’s is a challenging sport, but an open one, where we have men and women and all sizes playing together. There’s a role for anyone in our team no matter your skill level or strengths or weaknesses on the ice, no one person carries it all.”
Mathews feels part of the Southern Lights strength is their inclusiveness, where any person, irrespective of gender or sexuality identity and skill is welcome to play.
“Ice Hockey is a small community, so being able to find LGBTI people to play with is a really good thing,” Matthews said.
“The team has formed a shared experience on that ice that has given us a sense of belonging. Because we aren’t just passing the puck around, we are a club that stands for something.’
“For other ice hockey teams, it is just the sport that unites them, but at the Southern Lights, we stand for LGBT sport. Which means we stand for better mental and physical health improvement within our community, and we can step up and show other teams how we can all be better within the sport.”
Part of the formation of the Southern Lights was through regular social skates for people to come and give the ice a go. Having a skate around while wearing a rainbow was a great way for people to not feel daunted by giving ice hockey a try.
The team are working with partnering with an ice rink to be able to bring new players through lessons and training before they play with the team.
“It will be a great way for newbies to learn how to skate and pass a puck,” Matthews said.
“That way they can learn the basics and, hopefully if they are willing, graduate to a more competitive team.”
With members who identify as LGBTQI and allies, the Southern Lights are bringing a strong sense of inclusion to Ice Hockey, giving people an environment to be themselves and a part of a team, regardless of how they identify.