2023 bfl fcoty national winner alicia macdonald e

Diversifying the bench

Working in part with the Newfoundland Growlers, BFL Female Coach of the Year Alicia MacDonald’s belief is creating opportunities for herself and for others

Jonathan Yue
June 8, 2023

Coaching hockey since her days as a student at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Alicia MacDonald has since been behind the bench for more than 20 years.

And during that time, whether it’s reaching out to organizations for her own growth or advocating for more diversity behind the bench, MacDonald has tirelessly worked towards making hockey more inclusive for everyone.

That’s a big reason why the Onslow Mountain, N.S., product has been named the national winner of the BFL Female Coach of the Year in the Competitive category.

“Having the opportunity to see what the opportunities are, whether that’s as an official, or coach or training staff, being and seeing all that, being aware of it, brings more diversity to the game,” MacDonald says. “It’s important that the young girls and kids see the potential, and I see so much value in it and I want to be a face that’s visible to them.”

Growing up, playing on the community boys league and eventually the girls’ team when the opportunity came up, MacDonald first started gravitating to coaching during university. Wanting to give back to the girls in the community and seeing the positive reactions to them having a female role model has pushed MacDonald to want to see more females continue in the sport. Since then, she has continued to refine herself, learning and growing her knowledge of the sport and coaching so that she can apply it to her own teams.

This season, she worked with the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers, shadowing the coaching staff and continuing her development. With no university or other high-performance teams in rural Newfoundland, the Growlers were the only option for her if she wanted to learn in a professional environment. With the organization, she was able to discuss tactics with the Growlers staff, go through video sessions with the team, and provide her thoughts and her experience, while receiving feedback.

That’s why MacDonald preaches the importance finding her own opportunities. From starting out working with local minor hockey teams to serving as an assistant coach with the Newfoundland and Labrador women’s team at the 2023 Canada Winter Games to her most recent role as head coach of the provincial U14 team, it’s about getting comfortable in putting herself out there and looking for opportunities.

“Working with coach Eric Wellwood and the Growlers, I’ve really learned from that program and set myself in a more professional organization,” MacDonald says. “The biggest thing is about being able to take the leap. There’s always going to be situations where you don’t know the solution, but that’s okay. It’s just about trusting the coaches and mentors around you and taking the plunge and going for it.

“We don’t have too many professional opportunities in Newfoundland so it goes back to putting myself out there and asking for situations that I could be involved, and I’ve learned a lot from the coaches and the players.”

With the spotlight that comes with her BFL honour, she hopes to continue her goal of bringing more diverse voices into hockey.

“There were a lot of deserving coaches out there and I hope programs like [BFL Female Coach of the Year] continue so that coaches do feel validated and heard,” MacDonald says. “As a nation, we can be better at highlighting the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC community, creating that diversity for everybody to see what the options are and there’s still a way to go.”

For now, MacDonald hopes she’s able to spread visibility of women behind the bench so others can feel inspired to step up and speak up to achieve their goals. But once spoken, their words will be heard and respected.

“It’s about getting used to speaking up in a room of men and sharing thoughts and opinions,” MacDonald says. “They’re always welcomed and valued, it’s just about believing in yourself.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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