ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – As a young female hockey player, Cheryl Pounder wrote motivational words such as “fun” and “passion” on her bedroom walls to help herself stay inspired on the ice, and make her own Team Canada dreams come true.
Pounder shared this short story from her youth with a group of young girls from the St. John’s area who gathered in the Mile One Centre on Thursday, November 11 to participate in an Esso Fun Day, presented by Hockey Canada in partnership with Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, as part of 2010 4 Nations Cup festivities.
Pounder made a surprise special appearance in the midst of the day’s activities, taking time out of her busy schedule working with TSN/RDS to encourage the girls to work hard and believe in themselves no matter what goals they set for themselves in life.
Hearing from the two-time Olympic, five-time world champion and seven-time 4 Nations Cup gold medallist was exactly the motivation the excited youngsters needed before lacing up their skates and hitting the ice at the Esso Fun Day, a female hockey development activity held to give girls of all ages the chance to give the game a try in a fun and positive environment, while also learning the basic skills and rules of the game.
Olivia, 6, and older sister Emily, 8, attended the Esso Fun Day accompanied by their dad, Glen Hawco and grandmother, Mena Hawco.
Mena said both girls started out in figure skating, but added it didn’t take long before Olivia wanted to be signed up for organized minor hockey. Emily also wanted to give the sport a try, but decided to ease into it by having her parents register her for the Esso Fun Day at Mile One Centre.
A hockey mom for more than two decades and now a hockey grandmother, Mena said she enjoys spending time at the rink and supporting her family, adding Olivia and Emily are making many great new friends by getting involved in the female game.
Following Pounder’s inspirational speech, Hannah Fudge, 6, ran up to the Team Canada alumna in the arena hallway to tell her that she had been “picked to play for Team Canada,” or in other words, was chosen to participate in a mini-game during an intermission of a 2010 4 Nations Cup game. It’s another female hockey development activity that gives young girls the chance to be in the middle of the action, by playing in front of a cheering Team Canada crowd, this time in a major arena at an international event.
Pounder reminded ecstatic Hannah to work hard on the ice during the mini-game, and to always believe in herself, because dreams do come true.
Mom Paula Fudge said Hannah started playing hockey halfway through last season, and just can’t seem to get enough of it.
Pounder, who started out playing ringette in Mississauga, Ont. en route to making her way on to the National Women’s Team, told HockeyCanada.ca she believes programs such as the Esso Fun Day, intermission mini-games and the McDonald’s In The Lineup program are vital to getting young girls into the game.
“The girls (on Canada’s National Women’s Team) know how important it is to give back, especially in the smaller communities,” Pounder said, adding the East Coast has always been extremely supportive of women’s hockey.
As the Esso Fun Day continued, Katarina Smith, 2, watched Team Canada practise and seemed absolutely captivated by all the pucks flying up and down the ice as the women’s hockey superstars conducted their on-ice drills.
“Go, Habs, Go!” Katrina responded when asked by HockeyCanada.ca if she likes hockey.
The other young girls participating in the day’s development activities also watched in amazement from the stands as the members of Team Canada skated up and down the ice, their long hair hanging out the back of their helmets.
As the future national team hopefuls watched their role models at work, they chanted in unison, “Let’s Go Canada, Let’s Go!”
Much to their delight, one of the Canadians players joined the chant by tapping her stick to the beat on the ice. It was a small gesture that will make for a big memory, forever treasured by these young female players with Team Canada stars in their eyes.
“I had fun at the stadium today!” Katrina declared at the end of Team Canada’s practice, proving you’re never too young to enjoy Canada’s favourite sport.