Did you play with boys growing up? What was it like? What did your dad think?
I was four years old when I learned how to skate, five years old when I started playing ringette, and seven years old when I started playing hockey. My family was living in Regina, Saskatchewan at the time, and a group of the girls that I played ringette with wanted to try playing hockey, so they started up a female hockey team. I played in Regina on this female team for one year before my father, who worked for IBM, was transferred to Edmonton. We bought a house in St. Albert, which is a city just outside of Edmonton, and unfortunately they did not have any female hockey. I wasn’t allowed to go into Edmonton to play in their female hockey league, so I played boys hockey in St. Albert.
When I first started playing boys hockey, I was at an age where we were all similar sizes, there was no hitting, and the politics that are often involved in minor hockey had not yet come into play. I was just one of the boys, and blended right in, or at least I felt like I did! My best friends were boys on my team, and the vast majority of the memories I have from those first few years are very positive. It seems as though as the years went on, being the only girl on an all boys team, and often the only girl in the entire league, became increasingly more challenging. I was very lucky that the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association was so accepting and supportive of having me be a part of their teams, and I am extremely thankful for that. In saying that, I think it was inevitable that I was going to run into individuals who did not like the fact that I was playing boys hockey. Whether it was a boy on my team or another team that teased me, or parents that did not agree with a girl playing hockey with boys, there were a few different challenges, but, with the help of my parents, I refused to let them bother me or to set me back. To any young girls out there playing boys hockey, I offer the same advice!
As I said, I ran into more and more challenges as the years went on, but I don’t think that this was because I played boys hockey. No matter where you play, or under which circumstances, as you move along on your path, there will be challenges. Hockey careers, and life in general, are full of ups and downs, highs and lows, individuals that will be difficult to deal with, and I believe that where you end up is determined by how you handle various individuals and challenges, and how you respond to the highs and lows. Rather than seeing them as set backs or failures, view them as opportunities, a chance to learn, become better, and become stronger. Use these challenges to motivate you and to drive your efforts as you work towards achieving your goals. You need to have the right perspective, believing that hard work and perseverance will prevail in the end. Have a clear vision, and let your passion to succeed drive your discipline in your day-to-day actions, and don’t let anything get in your way. One of my favorite quotes, which my dad introduced me to is by a legendary basketball coach John Wooden, and he said “Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out”, and that is what I have done throughout my career to the best of my ability.
I am very lucky that my parents taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance. Without them, I would not be where I am today. I was extremely lucky as a young hockey player hungry to learn that I had a father who had NHL experience whom I could turn to with any questions that I had about any aspect of the game. He offered me advice when it came to the tactical and technical areas of the game, but also in overcoming the challenges that I faced when it came to being part of a team, or being the only girl on a team. He was always there for me and supported me no matter what. He never pushed me to play or to do anything I did not want to do, but always made sure that I knew he was there if I needed him or if I wanted his help.
The most valuable thing that my dad taught me however was that, no matter what I was doing, the most important thing was to be a good person, and that good things happen to good people. On this Father’s Day, I pass that same message along to you, because at the end of the day, what is most important is that we are all good people.