Meet the all-trans hockey team changing lives one game at a time: ‘My found family’

Players for Team Trans play hockey against each other on the ice

As soon as Team Trans’ hockey players first stepped onto the ice four years ago, they felt something life-changing. They’d found a family for life. 

Mason LeFebvre joined Team Trans, an international collective of trans and non-binary hockey players, for its first event in Boston in November 2019. They played off against Boston Pride Hockey, an LGBTQ+ team that’s been around since the early 90s. 

It meant to a lot to Mason, who’d been playing hockey since he was 10. Finally, he was “getting to play with other people who had similar experiences”.

“Up to that point in my life, I’d only ever played with, as far as I was aware, cis people,” he tells PinkNews. “It was just about wanting to have that experience, to get to know other trans hockey players, because I hadn’t been able to do that.”

A Team Trans hockey player approaches the goal on skates while the goalie is posed on the ice in front of the goal
Goalie Mason LeFebvre says he never experienced the “concept of found family” until he joined Team Trans. (Ian DeGraff/Ian Steven Photography)

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Team Trans primarily plays internal draft tournaments all over North America, with all-trans teams playing against each other.

It relies on donations to fund travel and hosting events. The National Hockey League (NHL) is a supporter, both financially and vocally, defending the club on social media from bigotry.

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Having begun as a collective of a few players, it has over the years involved hundreds of players, who’ve formed tight bonds.

“I hadn’t experienced the concept of found family until I joined Team Trans, and now my found family is a couple hundred people strong,” Mason says. “I’ve invited these players to come stay with me in my house for a weekend at events we’re hosting or just an open ended invitation in general.”

When they’re together, Mason says, it “almost doesn’t matter” that they’re trans – they can simply exist as people. That 2019 event sparked a deep love within him for Team Trans, and he stuck with the club for years, eventually joining its board.

Mason LeFebvre and Danny Maki smile at each other while wearing Team Trans hockey uniforms for a team photo
Mason LeFebvre and Danny Maki say they found a network of friends through Team Trans. (Ian DeGraff/Ian Steven Photography)

Danny Maki grew up in a “hockey family”. He started skating at age 2 – his parents tried to put figure skates on him, but he “absolutely hated them” – he wanted to play hockey like his older brothers. 

They joined Team Trans through a hockey community in Minnesota after being off the ice for about 10 years.

“It was amazing, especially because when I joined I was already going through a hard time, and I didn’t have any trans friends that I could reach out to,” Danny says. “I was like hockey has always been good for me. I’ll start doing that again.”

Danny ended up becoming the vice president of the Twin Cities chapter.  It’s “opened up possibilities for meeting tons of people” and “going places” that he never thought of before. 

The locker room is often a serious obstacle for trans people, and Danny says one of his favourite things is being able to be comfortable with others in such a space. 

“I drove together with one person to Toronto, and she’s never been able to show in the locker room before,” Maki says. 

“She was able to do that without worry, and I was able to do that because nobody’s gonna care what I look like naked. Nobody gives a s**t, and just the general joy of – we didn’t do super well in Toronto – of still having fun.”

A Team Trans goalie poses in front of a goal while playing a hockey game
Mason LeFebvre says it was “powerful” to connect with the NHL because it made him realise “what an impact” Team Trans has “just by existing”. (Ian DeGraff/Ian Steven Photography)

There’s been some sadly predictable backlash to Team Trans, and Danny was mentioned in a few articles after getting injured on the ice. The headlines ran with the usual anti-trans voices disparaging trans inclusion in sports. 

Danny describes these “nasty articles” as “absolute rubbish” that is “putting a target on us”. However, they fuel him to “keep pushing forward and keep representing the possibilities for trans individuals”. 

“I imagine a young trans kid who loves hockey, they could see that we as Team Trans exist and will be available to them once they turn 18 (as of our policies right now),” they say. 

“This negative media, as cruddy and at times hurtful as it is, will not stop me from playing the sport I love and the sport that has kept me alive more times than I like to admit.”

Mason feels the same – he’s energised too by the support and love coming from within the community and allies.

One of his highlights was received an email from the NHL, which wanted to film a Team Trans event he recalls thinking: “Holy s**t.”

“That was one of the most powerful things because it helped me realise what an impact we can and are having just by existing and showing there are more than just the 16 of us that originally showed up in Boston.”