Women in sport, as well as women in traditionally male-dominated jobs, have been a hot-button topic over the last little while – and rightly so. Fellow BCHLNetwork writer Brieann Knorr recently collaborated on an article that focussed on the jobs of women in both the BC Hockey League and Western Hockey League.
Her findings indicated that out of the current 18 teams in the BCHL, only two franchises don’t have women in any sort of organizational position recognized on their website.
Kimberley Osborne is the operations manager for the Coquitlam Express. This is her story.
Osborne started team sports at the age of five, playing baseball and soccer. At the age of six, she started to dance.
As she got older, Osborne soon had to decide what she really liked and narrowed her extracurricular activities to accommodate her passion for dancing.
She soon became a regular on the field at BC Place as a member of the Felions dance team. Osborne also danced at General Motors Place for the Vancouver Ravens of the National Lacrosse League.
At 18, she became a member of the Express dance team in 2011. The studio she was with offered senior dancers the chance to dance at Express games. Osborne was quick to jump on the opportunity when it arose, noting she wanted to “check it off her list.”
“As part of the dance team, we welcomed fans into the arena, cheered when the Express scored, danced during stoppages in play, and even did a short dance on the ice during intermission,” Osborne reflects.
“It was a great experience and brought an extra level of entertainment to the already great hockey atmosphere.”
A shift in position
She returned to the Express in the 2012-13 season and hung up her dancing shoes after landing the role of game day coordinator.
“Being at the games so much, I had gotten to know the staff and they felt I would be a good fit for what they required,” said Osborne. “As a team, we enjoyed adding elements to the games to bring in more fans.”
The Coquitlamite felt it was important to embrace the community. The team made an effort to engage in a true partnership with local businesses and advertise their services.
Osborne remained with the Express for two seasons. The team won the Fred Page Cup in 2014 and she went out on top. That same year, she got married and looked to start a family.
Returning to the “Pond on Poirier”
The 28-year-old returned to the Express at the start of the 2019-20 season, initially covering a shift in the merchandise room.
With the change in ownership, Osborne – described as driven and goal-oriented – soon added sales and marketing in addition to operations manager to her expanding portfolio.
She looks after the business side of operations in the Express office. Her main tasks involve building and continuing partnerships and sales for the team. Osborne is a big fan of trying to increase the profile of the Express in the Tri-Cities.
“(I really enjoy) continually getting the team involved in the community and attending community events, during non-COVID times.”
She is also tasked with events like “The Friends of the Express” dinner, which is the club’s annual fundraiser. Home game nights, fan buses, team events, and parents’ weekend all are items in Osborne’s domain of expertise.
A boys’ club?
Osborne notes that when she first started, hockey was predominantly a boy’s club. Over her years in the BCHL, she has seen more and more women join various organizations.
“I took pleasure in meeting some of my female colleagues working with other teams and even for the Express,” Osborne explained. She enjoys relating to them and leaning on them for support.
Osborne stresses that if you are a woman looking to get into a sports organization, never give up and work hard for what you want.
“Always work towards your goal. With that said, I do feel extremely lucky that I get to work with such a great team. From management to coaches, staff as well as players, I have always felt included and welcomed. They sure do not make me feel like the odd woman out, ” Osborne added.
Osborne notes that during COVID times it is hard to say what is next. “I truly enjoy being part of such a great program (with the Express). This is a step in these boys’ careers where they work towards gaining scholarships and moving onto the next level.”
Leaving a lasting impression
Osborne has met some incredible players who have left a lasting impression on her and in her mind make it all worth it. She is living in the moment for now like everyone else, not knowing what is coming next during the pandemic. With the Express turning 20 next season and the BCHL turning 60, Osborne will be involved in some way that’s for sure.
Express general manager Tali Campbell feels Osborne is a dynamic employee who wears her heart on her sleeve.
“You don’t find many people in this business who put as much time and effort into (a team) as she does, she truly is an Express lifer,” said Campbell. “She deals with all situations with a calmness that makes everyone around her feel good. She is truly the heart of our business team.”
With Osborne leading the charge, the future of the Express looks bright and there’s no doubt she is an inspiration for other women to get involved in the BCHL.