Celebrating women in the MJHL | Kate Wiens

Wiens behind the Stampeders bench during the 2019-20 MJHL season.

Story by Dave Anthony 

Kate Wiens – Athletic Therapist & Equipment Manager, Swan Valley Stampeders

Kate is from Glenlea, Manitoba and she says she’s loved hockey her entire life. “I’ve played hockey my whole life. I started when I was four or five. I’ve always watched the games, they’re fast paced and very exciting.”

When she told her parents that she wanted to work in hockey, Kate say’s they had her back the whole way. “They were very excited for me. I’ve always been interested in the injury side of things. Watching football, hockey or baseball on tv, I always wanted to know what was going on, but they’d go to TV timeout and I didn’t enjoy that, I wanted to know what was happening. So, they were very supportive when I wanted to get into hockey. They knew I loved it and they were glad I got to be a part of a sport I always enjoyed.”

The hockey journey started for Kate in AAA where she spent three years while also going to school. “It was fairly easy for me, I guess” Kate says about getting her foot in the door to start working at the AAA level. “I’m not really sure if it was the easiest thing in the world. I knew coaches from playing hockey and I’ve played with coach’s kids that played. I just kind of got into it after that. I did AAA with Eastman for a while. A family friend was a coach and a friend of mine actually worked for the team with me, so it was great to make connections and go on from there.”

Growing up playing hockey, Kate primarily played girls hockey and says making the transition to working with the boy’s hockey programs was an easy one. “I had a great team to start with. They were very welcoming to having a female therapist there, or student I guess right at the very beginning. It was a lot of fun. I’m pretty grateful to have had teams that understand females belong in hockey, too. I’ve been pretty lucky that way.

When the opportunity came to move up to the MJHL, Kate didn’t hesitate, and Stamps didn’t hesitate to bring in a great talent. “I applied and I got an interview right away. It just went from there and I’ve been here for a while now. I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Kate details a little of what she does on a given game day. “I typically show up to the rink 5 or 6 hours early, depending on the day. Get the locker-room all set up, make sure it’s all clean, sharpen whoever’s skates need to be sharpened… I’ve been pretty lucky to have the guys I work with ask me to do it the night before, but if I don’t get to it the night before, it becomes a game day thing. I’ll set up the room with jerseys and socks. Vacuum and sweep the room so there are no rocks when they go onto the ice. I make sure it’s all set with tape or whatever equipment they might need.”

Having such a deep passion for the game of hockey, Kate says being on the bench or having the in-depth conversations that come to working for a team, is a dream come true. “It’s really cool to hear at all levels. How coaches deal with players or manage situations. It’s all kinds of stuff and it’s really something special.”

Being a woman in what’s primarily considered a man’s league, Kate says she doesn’t have to look too far for role models. “I think there’s quite a few people I look up too. There’s so many. It’s cool to see women in the NHL, like Hayley Wickenheiser and Cassie Campbell, doing their thing. It’s super cool to see.”

Across the province, Kate has become someone that girls can look up too. They see her on an MJHL bench and that’s something that means a great deal to Kate. “It’s an honor” she says, her smile and pride evident even through a phone call. “I can’t even explain that feeling. It’s so cool to have the kids come up to the glass beside me and they just tap on the glass and wave or say hi. Their curious what about I’m doing and it’s really cool. I just appreciate that so much. I’m speechless because of that support from those kids. It’s, it’s special.”

Even just in her third year in the MJHL, Kate has noticed more women taking roles in the league and she’s thrilled about it. “It’s great to see that. It’s such a huge step forward. To have a lot of female athletic therapists in the league is huge. There’s females in broadcasting and marketing and in every aspect, it’s all just such a great step forward.”

When it comes to breaking down the doors of coaching, Kate believes there will certainly be a female assistant or head coach in the MJHL sooner rather than later. “I think we’re trending towards that. It would be really cool to see.”

Despite not having any games this year, Kate’s found a way to make an impact away from the rink. “Right now, I’m working in the Coronavirus Immunization Clinic. I’m in that role, helping people get vaccinated. Been keeping busy with that while also dealing with team things like renovations, equipment things and getting guys ready for next year.”

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League Prospect Development Camp is scheduled for mid-July and Kate will be there again, lending her talents to the league and the game she loves. To say she’s excited about getting back to the rink and having hockey again, is an understatement. “I can’t explain my excitement” Kate says bursting at the seams with joy at the thought of a fall start. “I can’t wait to get started. You can’t measure my excitement.”

As Kate’s career continues, she hopes to keep building her skill level, building a strong reputation in the community and being a leader for women and athletic therapists across the province.

She also hopes to one day, make it all the way to the show. “I’m going to keep working and go where the hockey road takes me. WHL, AHL or hopefully, one day, the NHL. I’m hoping to open a clinic that I can practice athletic therapy out of as well. That’s the goal.”