Popularising Women’s Ice Hockey in a Country with no Hockey Tradition
Since the start of our crowdfunding campaign in 2020 and the backing of 280 kind supporters, the project finally started to bring fruits. Our goal two years ago was to popularise ice hockey in Estonia through women’s ice hockey since there is such a significant discrepancy between male and female sports, both financially and community-wise. We wanted to support female players and gender equality and provide the female players with equal opportunities in Estonia and beyond. There was no better way to do this than through film.
We started a media campaign on television and online to support Estonia’s first women’s national ice hockey team after a 12-year break. Ice hockey is becoming more popular in Estonia two years later, and the team won the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Belgrade in March 2022! Therefore, introducing ice hockey in a country through a women’s team is becoming a reality. As far as we know, this is the first time in history that ice hockey is popularised in a country through a women’s and not a men’s team.
In March of 2022, the team went to play in the International Ice Hockey World Championship in Division III, Group B, where they won all the three games against Israel, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The team missed only one puck throughout the whole championship at the final match with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it won with a score of 1:10. The remarkable comeback of the Estonian women’s ice hockey took place.
Filming and Selecting the Main Characters
Our team had to decide how many main characters we could include in the documentary during the documentary shooting process since the film's length was planned to be around 90 minutes.
Once we’ve shot enough material of different players, we’ve selected seven main characters and the challenging task of fitting them into the 90-minute film has begun. Each of the characters had to be revealed — their personal lives portrayed, their struggles, hopes, dreams, family lives.
The documentary’s producer, Karolina Lahti, noted, “We’ve been filming the characters’ individual stories and private lives in the last months.” Most of the personal stories were filmed in 2021, just before the World Championship. This included participation in the Estonian tournament and capturing multiple personal stories. Our filming team visited Viljandi, Vastseliina, Kohtla-Järve, Jõhvi, Tallinn, and Helsinki to meet our main characters.
As a result, by 2022, we had 22 terabytes of materials, which amounted to roughly 50 hours of footage that we had to go through. In the end, around 10 hours of the material was selected.
Additional Support for the Project
After a successful crowdfunding campaign on the Estonian platform Hooandja, where we had managed to gather just over 10,000 euros for the project and support the team’s expenses for practice and training camps, we applied for additional funding from several film foundations and institutions. The crowdfunding campaign made the whole project possible, and it helped to gain a lot of attention in the television and press. However, additional funding was needed to move on with the project further.
Karolina, the producer of the documentary and head of the project, added that “it is great that the Cultural Endowment of Estonia trusts us with this documentary, especially as first-time filmmakers. They also provided valuable comments from professionals in the industry, which is priceless.”
The progress: from beginners to pros
A few weeks before the World Championship, Karolina asked the players about their expectations since many didn’t have a chance to play on a professional level.
Nobody expected to win the tournament and miss only one puck during the whole championship. The team missed only one puck while playing against Bosnia and Herzegovina, winning with an amazing score of 1:10.
Karolina noted, “I was amazed how much the team developed from the beginning — it is like seeing completely different girls than two years ago.” They managed to form a professional ice hockey team in 2 years to win a World Championship. They started playing while having their full-time jobs and made fantastic progress in between. Our production team was pleased to receive the news of such an unexpected and incredible win at the World Championships.
Ice Hockey Becoming a Thing in Estonia
While sitting together and discussing the new project two years ago, we had a vision of ice hockey being popularised in Estonia through a women’s team, something other countries have not experienced. It seemed like a long way off and almost an unreachable goal, but we can confidently say that we are halfway there two years later. Such personalities as Jüri Rooba help boost the popularity of ice hockey in Estonia since even men’s hockey is in a state where it is still not very popular.
A lot has changed since we started the project On Silver Heels. Two years ago, when we told people that we wanted to make a documentary about ice hockey in Estonia, the usual reply was “Hockey?! But it doesn’t exist in Estonia.”
We are happy to prove them wrong, and we will be working further to support the women’s ice hockey in our country and release the documentary telling the unique stories of the brave women who went against the public opinion and stereotypes, who overcame financial issues and finally reached their dream of becoming true champions in every sense of the word.
Watch the trailer for the On Silver Heels documentary here:
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