For 14-year-old Kennedy Ottenbreit, age is indeed just a number.
Maturity, however, is another story for the star forward from Grayson, Sask., since her coaches and teammates agree that she’s wise beyond her young years.
“I had heard about her and saw her stats and how impressive they were, but when you think of a 13- or 14-year-old, you think ‘okay, you’re just a little kid,’” said Rob Muntain, director of operations for Saskatchewan. “But when you actually talk to Kennedy she fits in with the rest of them, just like she is a 17-year-old.
She’s very mature for her age and she shows that on the ice as well,” he said.
Ottenbreit is the only player at this year’s National Women’s Under-18 Championship who was born in 1995, making her the youngest on the ice this week in Surrey. But just as Muntain said, it doesn’t show in her statistics.
The member of the Melville Prairie Fire currently leads the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League in scoring, and finished in the top five during the 2008-09 season.
“Yeah, she can put up offensive numbers, but the mature side of her allows her to play defence,” Muntain said. “She’s very, very responsible that way.”
Saskatchewan captain Jessica Campbell, 17, is also responsible both on and off the ice, and along with her fellow veterans has been working to make newcomers such as Ottenbreit feel welcome.
“For my experience as a rookie, I was always made (to feel) comfortable and that’s why we’re trying to do the same for Kennedy and for the other younger players,” said Campbell, who is in her third and final year at the national championship. “That’s one thing we’re proud to say – that our team has always gotten along, no matter what the ages.”
Yet Campbell, who is from Melville, Sask., added that Ottenbreit doesn’t need a whole lot of direction.
“Kennedy is a pretty mature girl and she’s developed well enough to be a mature player,” Campbell said. “She’s got the size, she knows the game and she’s able to play at this level.”
Ottenbreit herself, who joins the likes of current National Women’s Team players Brianne Jenner and Marie-Philip Poulin in becoming one of the select few females who have played in the national championship at age 14, seems to be taking it all in stride.
“It’s just such an honour to be able to play with girls of this calibre and with such a great team,” she
said, adding she doesn’t feel any extra pressure to perform. “I just try to give 100 per cent all the time
and see what happens – you can’t really ask for anything else.”
Ottenbreit said she looks up to Campbell and the other veteran players, explaining “no matter what your age, they just treat you like a teammate.”
Muntain said that Team Saskatchewan has always been that way.
“In Saskatchewan, it’s pretty common because we don’t have the numbers,” he said of having underage players on the roster. “Every year, we’re basically looking at a younger players, but I think Kennedy is probably the one that is going to be the most productive.”
So does Campbell have any advice for the up-and-coming Ottenbreit?
“Just go as hard as you can no matter how old or young you are, because it’s going to be a great experience.”