Kim St-Pierre: Playing for gold

The first time she put on goalie equipment, she got the pads on backwards. She was nine years old and the coach of the Chateauguay pee-wees was letting his players try out the goalie's position.

Kim St-Pierre was interested, but her mother cautioned, "'Just to try,'" recalls the grown-up Kim, now 20 and recently back from Finland where she played with the gold-medal-winning Team Canada women's hockey team. "She was worried that if I started to play goal, that's all I would ever get to do," chuckles St-Pierre. "In those days, the goalie wasn't the most prestigious of positions."

St-Pierre's first game as goalie wasn't exactly a smashing success -- her team lost eight to nothing. "I said to my mum, 'I don't want to play goal anymore.' But I went back."

Perseverance is a quality bred into this athlete's big bones. Her father, a provincial police officer, plays hockey, runs daily and lifts weights. Her mother is a physical education teacher and triathlon runner. And her brothers, one older, one younger, are also hockey players. By the time St-Pierre was 10, she was competing in tennis, soccer, softball and swimming, as well as hockey. Athletic pursuit is a family value in the Vallières-St-Pierre household.

What's new for St-Pierre is playing hockey with members of her own sex. From age eight to 20, she played with boy's teams and was in the men's junior AA category -- that's two levels before professional league hockey -- when the general manager of the McGill women's hockey team, Dean Madden, hand-picked St-Pierre for his team.

Not that McGill didn't have competition. The University of Vermont and several other American universities also courted the talented goalie, but St-Pierre chose McGill because she wanted to continue living with her family and welcomed the opportunity to play on a team where there were lots of new recruits. "We have great team spirit," she says.

Madden, who has also coached the women's hockey team, is delighted that St-Pierre accepted his offer. After watching the talented young player for three years, Madden "knew she had the abilities to help McGill's program to play at a higher level."

In addition, says Madden, "Kim has a very positive attitude and a great work ethic."

His hopes that Kim and other high calibre hockey players, like Julie Hornsby and Dana Rittmaster, would make the Marlets more competitive have panned out. This year, McGill placed second in Quebec and fifth in Canada at the recent national championships held in Mississauga.

"We lost, 3-2, in an overtime shoot-out with Alberta, who came in second to Concordia," notes Madden.

He believes his team is on its way to joining the "elite" clubs, like the Concordia Stingers and the Alberta Pandas, and the fact that St-Pierre was selected for Team Canada "is a great boost."

St-Pierre, for her part, can't quite believe how her hockey career has come together since she began at McGill last September. She has played in four championships: the "Three Nations" (Canada, the U.S. and Finland), the world, held last month in Finland, the Canadian senior women's, and the Canadian inter-university. Except for that last competition, St-Pierre has been a part of gold-medal winners.

Her success has been noticed. She is a finalist for McGill's woman athlete of the year honours and she was selected by the Quebec university women's hockey league as its best rookie this season.

While St-Pierre, a first-year physical education student, will be qualified to teach primary or secondary school in a few years, her dream, aside from spending a day talking goaltending with Colorado Avalanche star Patrick Roy and playing for Olympic gold in 2002 at Salt Lake City, is to earn her living as a hockey player. And she thinks the timing couldn't be better.

By the year 2003, she says, the women's NHL should be off the ground with three teams in Canada, three in the States. "I'll be 23 then," says St-Pierre, "and in my prime."

What it is that so attracts her to fending off the opposing team's advances? Tending goal is "like playing an individual sport within a team," philosophizes St-Pierre. "You're a little in your own world."

The goalie is also in the unique position of being the only player to see everything going on on the ice which gives her the responsibility of being the "number one" communicator once the action enters her zone.

"You're boss of the defensive zone," says St-Pierre.

All of which makes for lots of pressure, which, says St-Pierre, she thrives upon.

Bronwyn Chester

Burning issue in the 1920s

Eighty years ago, the sight of a woman lighting up would raise eyebrows and cause consternation. Not that there was anything wrong with smoking in the minds of most folks, mind you. It's just that tobacco wasn't meant for the fairer sex.

"Doctors saw no problem with smoking in moderation," says Jarret Rudy, a PhD candidate in history. They were still decades away from realizing tobacco's link to lung cancer and heart disease.

"It would have been alright if women [could be trusted] to smoke moderately. But women were more likely to do things to excess. That's why they couldn't be trusted with the vote -- they would vote radically," says Rudy, summing up the views of the day.

Rudy is looking at the social issues connected to smoking from the 1880s through the 1920s -- the period during which tobacco really caught fire as a commercial product.

For instance, smoking habits were tied to the urban/rural tensions of the period as thousands of country folks migrated to the city in search of work. Home-grown tobacco, popular among rural dwellers, was derided in big city editorial cartoons as the mark of being a "country bumpkin," says Rudy.

As for women, newspapers of the day ran articles about fires caused by women smokers too careless to be trusted with cigarettes. "Women smokers were looked down upon. Their moral values were questioned." Rudy says women with jobs received similar treatment -- they too were paying the price for invading male-dominated territory.

Suffragettes in Britain, noting the gender bias implicit in refusing women the vote or a smoke, proudly lit up. Upper class women in Montreal followed their example and took to public smoking -- resulting in a city-wide scandal in 1914.

Of course, women can smoke all they want to these days -- lung cancer has become the leading cause of cancer death for women. You've come a long way, baby?

Maybe I'm old-fashioned but having a baby is a special act, it's so private and intimate. It's not a sporting event.

Obstetrics and gynecology professor Alice Benjamin, speaking to The Gazette about a spate of contests revolving around which couple can produce the first baby of the new millennium.

Who falls through the net?

Them that's got shall get, but them that's not are getting more. That's the latest on who in Canada is using computers, where and for what purpose. In the Statistics Canada study "Canadians Connected: household computer use," conducted by professor of economics Paul Dickinson and George Sciadas, of Statscan, and published in the February edition of the Canadian Economic Observer, income emerged as an important determinant in the degree and type of computer use but other factors, such as age, education and the user-friendliness of the technology were also found to be important. And, what's interesting to Dickinson is that while the gap between the most-connected and the least-connected is widening, the least-connected have the highest rate of growth in use: Internet growth in the bottom income quartile rose by 100.2 % 1996 and 1997, while for those at the top, it was 64.4%.

Dickinson and Sciadas found from that 53.7% of households in the highest of four income brackets used computers at home, while only 12.4% in the bottom bracket did. However, Dickinson notes that many falling into the latter bracket are elderly people who are less likely to have a familiarity with the technology and less likely to have post-secondary education, which is associated with using a computer. Overall, the workplace dominated as the place of computer use: 19.9%, followed by the home (16%) school (9.4%) and library (3.7%).

Interestingly, geographic location too plays a role. While in every province, use of a computer at work is greater than at home, in Newfoundland, PEI and Nova Scotia, use of computers at school equals or exceeds use at home. British Columbia had the highest rate of computer use at home,19.9%, while Quebec had the lowest at 10.2 %. Dickinson notes, however, that Quebec still has the second largest number of computer-users.

[Children] are better able to acquire new knowledge. And it's just as easy to learn a second language as it is to learn a first language because [a child's] brain is really wide open.

Psychology professor Fred Genesee, an expert on language acquisition, talking to NBC Nightly News.