Brooke Hobson finds herself in an unfamiliar position.
True, the 17-year-old defenceman from Prince Albert is playing for Saskatchewan, the host team for the 2016 National Women’s Under-18 Championship. True,
too, this is Hobson’s third time competing at the U18 nationals. And having played five seasons in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League, she’s
certainly been to Regina on many a road trip.
So what’s different this time?
Hobson’s a veteran, one of six returning players for Saskatchewan and an unquestionable leader – and alternate captain – on a team looking to win its
first-ever medal at the U18 nationals.
And, well, Hobson’s always been a little ahead of the game.
She joined the Prince Albert Bears, her Midget AAA team, when she was 13.
She verbally committed to Northeastern University in Grade 9.
She played at the 2013 U18 nationals as a 14-year-old, the youngest player there.
“When I was the younger player I thought, it doesn’t matter the age,” she says. “You get chosen for a reason, so I shouldn’t play down just because
I was a couple of years younger. The U18 nationals [in 2013] was one of the biggest stepping stones for me and one of the biggest things that
pushed me to get better.”
This whole pattern of playing above her age bracket started early, naturally.
Hobson was in Initiation – still playing without officials – when she got called up as an affiliate player for her brother’s Novice team.
“I was kind of scared of the refs,” she says, laughing. “Where I was playing it was just half-ice because we were so little and the coaches were
out there [refereeing]. You go out there’s these big, striped guys and it’s like, ‘Oh.’”
And Hobson was 12 and playing Peewee when she got called up as an affiliate for the Bears. Head coach Jeff Willoughby had her play forward.
She had a shorthanded goal before the first intermission.
“She comes to the bench and I tell her, ‘What took so long?’” says Willoughby, laughing. “It’s not like she’s getting a full shift. As a
12-year-old scoring her first goal in her first game, it shows what kind of player she is, just a gamer.”
And that’s just hockey. Hobson’s an even more accomplished golfer.
At 13, she captured her first Saskatchewan junior girls’ championship in 2012. She repeated in 2013 and reclaimed her title in 2015. She’s played
in four national junior girls’ championships and two Canada Summer Games. (That’s in addition to playing at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in
hockey.) Twice she finished third in the provincial amateur championship, advancing to nationals both years. And at 14, she won the Ladies
Lobstick, an event open to competitors of all ages.
With her dad, Gord, being a golf pro it was only natural that Hobson found her way to the sport. His par-three, nine-hole course was the perfect
fit for a young kid – and her favourite playing “partner.”
“I remember at the driving range my dog would always run after the balls I hit because I didn’t hit them very far back then,” says Hobson. “He
picked them up and put them in a pile.”
By dedicating her summers to golf and her winters to hockey she built up not only the athleticism but, perhaps more important, the mental fortitude
to be successful in both.
After a lightning storm having suspended play after one hole on the second-to-last day of the tournament, Hobson played 35 holes in one day to win
her first junior provincial title. The Ladies Lobstick title – the one she won against an open field – was a match-play event.
“Golf, definitely it’s a mental game,” says Hobson. “However you think the game is how it affects your play. That’s the same for hockey. Hockey is
a faster game, but in the same way it’s however you think is however you’re going to play.”
Earlier this summer the time came for Hobson to make a choice: golf or hockey?
“My decision was based on the team environment for hockey, that’s kind of what puts hockey ahead for me.”
With an eye toward making Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team, Hobson instead dedicated this past summer to working with a trainer in
Saskatoon. She scored an invitation to selection camp in August. On the last day she took her turn in front of the coaches.
“I sat down and they said congratulations,” she says. “I just sat there; I didn’t know what to say.” She was taken to another room, the one holding
her new national team teammates. “As soon as you walk in they all clap and cheer. That was a super-cool experience seeing everybody excited.”
Hobson returned to Bears a different player. After announcing her arrival in her first appearance all those years ago, she’s played 111 more games
for the team and was named the league’s top defenceman in 2014-15.
”Just in the last four to six months having the opportunities with Team Canada has just changed her game so much; her confidence and discipline has
been such a treat to see,” says Willoughby. “She’s setting such a good example for not just our players, but I know she commands lots of respect in
our league. I can’t say enough about what she does for our team and our program.”
The immediate future has Hobson looking to help lead her club team and her province to their first provincial title and national medal,
respectively. Come next fall, at Northeastern, Hobson can return to the role of the youngster who more than holds her own in any game she plays.