Joan McEachern got a late start in her soccer career but more than made up for lost time.
Growing up on a farm near Sinnett, McEachern and her brothers and cousins played what she called “farmer soccer” – a soccer-rugby hybrid.
McEachern played her first organized soccer game in Grade 11 when Lanigan formed a high school team thanks to the efforts of teacher Ed Horn. She won a provincial title with Lanigan Central High School but was left without anywhere to play upon graduation. She and some teammates entered a women’s team in an indoor men’s league in Saskatoon where they won the title. An unaffiliated club team formed at the University of Saskatchewan in her third year. The U of S Huskies fielded a varsity team in her final year of studies. The Huskies didn’t have a league schedule to contest but did compete at the first Canada West tournament in 1984 where McEachern was named the Most Valuable Player.
McEachern also represented Saskatchewan at the 1983 Western Canada Summer Games. Those experiences grew her confidence and drew attention to her talent.
She was recruited to join the Edmonton Angels, winners of the first five Jubilee Trophy women’s national club championships. McEachern would win the Jubilee Trophy with the Angels in 1985, 86 and 88. She was also the tournament MVP in 85. She won the Jubilee Trophy again in 1994 with the Coquitlam Strikers from B.C.
She also represented Alberta on their provincial all-star team that finished third at nationals in 1986 and second in 1987. Those tournaments went a long way to help select the first women’s national team. An injury limited McEachern in 1986 and she wasn’t selected when the Canadian women’s national team debuted later that year with a pair of games against the United States.
McEachern framed a photo of her three Angels teammates playing for Canada and used it as a motivation to join them. A year later, she made her international debut in Canada’s third match.
McEachern spent nine years on the national team and at the time of her retirement in 1995 had 31 appearances which placed her sixth on the all-time list.
There was no World Cup for women yet, but there was a push to change that. The Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) staged a 12-team test event in China to gauge the interest and quality of women’s soccer. After playing in front of modest crowds, Canada played China in front of 63,000 fans. McEachern scored her first international goal in a win over Ivory Coast. Canada lost 1-0 to Sweden in the quarter-final.
China hosted the first FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, but the United States claimed the only berth available in the region and won the title. In 1995, with two berths available, Canada easily qualified for its first World Cup in Sweden. McEachern was part of the Canadian squad that debuted at the tournament and bowed out after three games in the group stage.
McEachern was named one of Canada’s ‘Top 30 Women’s Footballers’ by Canada Soccer in 2012 as part of their centennial celebrations. She was also inducted into the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame in 2009.
Installed in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame on September 23, 2023.