1st all-female adult team a milestone for Yukon Native Hockey Tournament

A group of young women from across the territory is making history at this year's Yukon Native Hockey Tournament.

They're the Nisutlin Knights, and they're the first all-female team to compete in one of the tournament's adult divisions.

The huge tournament, which begins Friday in Whitehorse, is now in its 42nd year. It brings together hockey players and fans from across the North, as well as B.C. and Alberta.

Women have always been allowed to play, but before this year they've only played on mixed teams. There's also been an all-girls team, in a younger division.

Destiny Taylor and Shania Hogan played together on a team last year.

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"A lot of people came up to us and were like, 'Wow, some of the girls are better than the guys and it really shows,'" said Taylor.

The experience inspired them to try for an all-women's team this year.

"There's a lot of really skilled girls who get picked for men's teams but don't really get to play," said Hogan.

"We want to show what girls can do, and that we can compete with men — and we're all really excited to be a part of it."

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They put out the call for players in January and the response was immediate.

"We had so much interest that we had to turn people away, which is really cool," said Hogan.

This week is the first time they're on the ice all together. The Knights bring together 17 women from Old Crow to Teslin, Faro to Burwash Landing.

They're all seasoned players, and some are even playing down south. But for some, like Maddie Nicholson of Whitehorse, it's their first time in the tournament.

"It feels really good," said Nicholson, who's been playing for 13 years. "When I was younger, I was definitely inspired by this tournament."

The Knights understand their involvement is a milestone, and that generations of Yukon girls will follow in their tracks. 

"We have lots of fans already," said Hogan.

"If you just put yourself out there, there's going to be people who will support you. Especially being a young First Nations woman, being in this sport is really empowering, and people understand that. So you'll always have support."

The players say it would be great to get a couple of wins this year, but beyond that they've got an even bigger goal: an all-women's division within the next few years.

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