On the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, seven serious women’s hockey fans, of all different ages, and their guests, arrived at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, Alta., full of anticipation for what was expected to be a very special experience for them – meeting their Team Canada idols in person during a VIP celebration of the 2013 National Women’s Under-18 Championship.
But as the members of Canada’s National Women’s Team wandered into Hockey Canada’s Hall of Champions, and were bravely approached by our seven “meet and greet” contest winners carrying autograph cards, it didn’t take long for the two groups to become one, mixing and mingling quite comfortably, sharing laughs and swapping stories, and by the end of the night, quite frankly, interacting like old chums.
It quickly became clear that the experience was just as special for the Team Canada players themselves. While the players who lace up for Canada’s National Women’s Team, many who have won Olympic and world championship gold medals, continually inspire onlookers both on and off the ice, they too take inspiration from those around them – those they represent while competing internationally.
Yes, it quickly became clear that those 27 players who wear the red and white on the ice and were in attendance at that special reception, were in turn inspired by the pride and passion, the care and compassion, the spirit and stories, of some of their biggest – and biggest-hearted fans.
Here are the stories that our contest winners shared in order to win the hearts of the 2013 National Women’s Under-18 Championship host committee – and our entire National Women’s Team.
Taylor Blais – Calgary, Alta.
“I would like to meet the women’s national team because they are (an) inspiration to me. This team is the reason that I wanted to play hockey. I think it would be a dream come true if I got to meet the national team. They could give me lots of great tips that I would love to hear.”
Aaliyah Cohen – Calgary, Alta.
“Dear U18 national championship contest,
I would like to meet the National Women’s Team because I remember how hard it was to be at my first hockey practice, and I want to see how it’s really done. I started playing hockey when I was five and now I am turning nine. I have made lots of hockey friends over the years and they are some of my best friends. I love watching and playing hockey so much because I love beating the kids to the puck, and I am working on getting my first goal in a game. Hockey used to be really hard for me, but now I love it and it is getting easier. My dad, Taric, helped me from the very beginning on the ice, and this year he is the head coach of my Atom team for the first year ever. All the other years he was an assistant coach. This year he picked all the girls in the league draft to play on my team, the Green Machine. Our team has seven boys and four girls, including me. So far, we’ve had two games and lost really, really close. But we are getting better and better every week. If I meet the national girls’ team, maybe they will help me out with finally scoring my first goal. Every Monday, I go to the Olympic Oval and skate for an hour or two for extra skating practice. I hope one day I will be good enough to play on Canada’s girls’ hockey team.
#7, Bow River Atom House League Green Machine.”
Milene Denzel – Calgary, Alta.
“Hockey is the ONLY sport for me. The door to my room is full of hockey pictures and my skate mat is my ‘welcome’ mat. I love playing hockey and could play every day, especially on ice. I love watching it, too, with my dad – women’s hockey and NHL hockey. Playing in boys’ hockey, I have to prove myself as a girl – that I can be just as good as them. I have been called names and tripped on purpose, or ignored because I am a girl, and the only girl there. It made me sad. But I won’t give up. I keep going because I love it so much. My dream is to play in the Olympics when I get older. The women who play hockey for Canada inspire me. They prove that girls can do it too! I am proud to be a girl playing hockey. So I deserve to meet the National Women’s Team because I will be meeting my heroes and one of my hockey dreams will come true!”
Jody Forbes – Calgary, Alta.
“I’m a hockey player, minor hockey vice-president, team volunteer and proud hockey mom of two. I have enjoyed playing the game into my adult years and still play twice a week in a ladies league … I have now embraced the sport as more than a player, but as a volunteer and minor hockey leader. I am the only female in a board leadership role within our organization. This combined with my experience as a player fuels my passion for female hockey. I want to share this passion and confidence that I got from the sport with my daughter, as she is our future hockey leadership, and hopefully when it’s her turn she won’t be the sole woman around the table. It would be my privilege to share this opportunity with my daughter, to build her passion for the sport, in hopes she is a lifelong player and female hockey leader, like her mom.”
Paige Grenier – Olds, Alta.
“It would be amazing if I could meet the Canadian women’s national team because from the moment I watched them play, I knew I wanted to become one of them. They make me want to get out there and train to get better and achieve my goals. I don’t know if I would be able to speak if I got to meet them. I’d probably make a list of questions I would want to ask them. I’m always saying how Meaghan Mikkelson inspires me, because she’s an exact replica of what I want to be when I’m older, on and off the ice. Of course, my friends play other sports so they have no idea what I’m talking about. Meeting them would be a dream come true, as I’m sure it would be for a million other girls alike. Or as my Dad would say, I grew up with five older brothers and no sisters, so I need to be around other girls that speak my language.”
Trish Slivinski – Calgary, Alta.
“I am a huge hockey fan. I volunteer a lot of my time with different events to do with my passion for the sport. I am currently participating in hockey Helps the Homeless (in) Calgary. I have put my name in to volunteer at the U18s next month (November 6-10). Yearly, I volunteer to score keep the Mac’s Midget tournament. I was lucky to be a volunteer at the IIHF world juniors in Calgary. I am the GM of a women’s team in the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association. I play in SAWHA as well as Hockey North America (my retirement team). I am 46 years old and a single mother of twin 17 year-old-boys. I am a Calgary Hitmen fan and watch as much hockey as I possibly can, given my busy schedule. Bottom line, I would enjoy meeting the ladies and asking them some questions, and maybe supplying them with a little extra motivation to succeed!”
Starlisse Weflen – Okotoks, Alta.
“I think I deserve to meet the best team ever (Canadian National Women’s Team) because I have watched hockey ever since I started playing. But it was all NHL. I don’t have a problem with it, but I think it’s time for women to be treated equally. It all started in ringette. I was about the worst on the ice, although I worked as hard as I could, every practice and game. Eventually it REALLY paid off. My very first game when I scored, I got the ‘fox.’ It was a stuffy that a girl would get if they had a good game. I really enjoyed ringette. It was AWESOME! But we had to move here to Okotoks. There was no ringette here, so I had to try hockey. Of course I was having a great time. I was the top girl on my team for scoring.
Ever since then, I have fallen in LOVE with hockey. My first year in Atom, there was a tournament and we did awesome. The final game to win the gold medal ended up in a shootout. All the second-years were chosen to shoot first. Nobody scored, not even the other team. Then it was sudden death and I was the fourth shooter. I scored. Our team won a gold medal and got our team name on a trophy. We made it into the newspaper and even on the announcements at school. Ever since then, I (have) had better confidence in myself. I was proud.
After that, my parents were talking about future hockey. My dream is to be on the CANADIAN National Women’s Team. I spent a lot of time researching the team over their last few years and that was when I was sure it was my goal. I have one big picture of the team for 2012, (which) my dad won in a fundraiser at Alberta’s game Boston at the Saddledome. It is the team picture and has a shadowy look at the bottom showing the team’s gold medals and themselves. I even have hockey cards of the team. Oh, and I also went to a hockey fest with Cassie Campbell and Daniel Goyette. I HAD A BLAST! I Also, I am a part of the Hayley Wickenheiser hockey club. My point being, I have a really BIG dream of being just like the Canadian National Women’s Team. From an early age, my parents told me to have a very hard work ethic and to achieve my dreams. Now I try really hard to be the best I can be at everything I try.
Every time I watch women’s hockey, my family tells me hopefully I could end up there, if I continue to work hard and believe in myself. My little brother Jaeger, now in Atom, has taught me a lot of things, like stick handling, slap shots and well, you name it. He has been a real big part of the success I have. Basically my life is super busy. I have a ton of homework now, since I am in Grade 6. I have to practise trumpet, which isn’t easy with braces, and I (spend) hours upon hours in the basement, practising my shot and stick handling. Last year, my team had a great season. We won playoffs, ending up in provincials in Red Deer. Unfortunately, we came third.
But one amazing experience I had was at the banquet. There, I met Meaghan Mikkelson, where I got to touch her gold medal and have her autograph (and get) a picture we took together. I had a great time. After that, I played spring and summer hockey and I had a blast. I think I am almost at 400 words. Ha, Ha. But I think I pretty much told you my whole life. So I hope I get to hear about your lives! Thank you for reading my story.”