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A game for the girls … and grandparents

Lauren Vaters will get her first chance to show off her skills in front of her grandparents at the 2020 IIHF Global Girls’ Game

Quinton Amundson
|
February 06, 2020

It’s been nearly two years since Marie Vaters has seen her granddaughter Lauren.

But grandmother and granddaughter remain in constant contact via phone calls and text messages. The latest adventures of P.K. Subban in the NHL are a frequent topic of discussion.

“She’s always been an avid fan of Subban, and he’s been moving around from Montreal to Nashville to New Jersey,” says Marie. “I keep asking her where her interests are now, and I think she’ll continue to cheer for him wherever he goes.”

Marie, a Glenwood, N.L., resident, appreciates hearing the latest about No. 76, and she loves it when Lauren, who lives 4,800 kilometres away in Dauphin, Man., chronicles her latest on-ice exploits with the Grand Plains Ice Dogs.

While they have seen Lauren on the ice before when she was just learning how to skate, Marie and Lauren’s grandfather Joe have not enjoyed the treat of witnessing their 13-year-old granddaughter play in an actual game.

But that will change this weekend in St. John’s.

Lauren is one of 40 Bantam-aged players starring in the Canadian leg of the 2020 IIHF Global Girls’ Game, an event that unites 40 countries from around the world for an empowering celebration of women’s hockey. For the fifth-consecutive year, the results of 40 individual one-hour matches – hosted in a chain sequence – will be tallied together for a final global score.

Puck drop for the Canadian segment of the global match is 3 p.m. NT on Saturday at the Mile One Centre (watch it LIVE at video.hockeycanada.ca). Nine of Hockey Canada’s members – including Hockey Manitoba – get two representatives, the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association has six slots and the remaining 16 roster spots belong to Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The way we run the event is meant to empower the players and allow them to make connections,” explains Lindsey Nielsen, a Grow the Game manager with Hockey Canada. “A lot of the feedback we get from the players across the country is they appreciate the chance to make new friends and connect with people with similar interests from different communities across Canada.”

The game is not the only aspirational event of the weekend; the participants will be treated to a seminar from Dr. TA Loeffler, a Canadian adventurer who has scaled six and four/fifths of the Seven Summits. She also completed a 3000-kilometre canoe expedition from Jasper, Alta. to the Arctic Ocean.

Each Hockey Canada member selected players who have an excellent track record of exhibiting positive values on and off the ice.

Lauren fits the bill perfectly – people in her community regard her as a girl with a generous and empathetic spirit. Away from the rink, she volunteers at the Parkland Humane Society for animals, and at the rink she gives as a second-year referee and mentor to young girls playing in the Grand Plains Minor Hockey Association.

“I try and teach the girls about the importance of working hard, communicating and showing respect on the ice,” says Lauren. “My family has taught me to be kind and respectful, and I want to share that lesson.”

While the forward cherishes the significant victories and clutch goals, it is the friendships she has made through the game that she treasures most.

Grandma Marie has imparted that lesson onto Lauren.

“When it comes to hockey, it is not about winning. It is about socializing and being able to get along and agree. Hockey is fun, and it's meant to be fun.”

Lauren is keen on adding to her network of friends this weekend in St. John’s. Seeing her grandparents again is another major impetus why she applied for the event. The opportunity to play in front of Grandpa Joe and Grandma Marie delights her.

“I am excited to show them how far I have come as a hockey player and how the game has helped me grow in confidence,” says Lauren.

Outside the game, Marie and Joe will spend evenings with Lauren and attend a Newfoundland culture party planned for the players.

“This is such an unreal and amazing opportunity for the players and families,” says Marie. “We’re going to make every minute count.”

Jamie Keeley.

A hockey mom, a hockey coach, a hockey leader

Armed with a passion for helping women find confidence behind the bench, Jamie Keeley has created opportunities in her association, in Calgary and across Alberta

Jason La Rose
|
July 05, 2024
The genesis of Jamie Keeley’s minor hockey coaching journey was about as Canadian as it gets – just a parent wanting to enjoy the hockey experience with their child.

“It was seeing my son on the ice and just having that want and desire to be out there with him and experience what he was experiencing, helping him learn,” she says.

That was almost six years ago.

Today, Keeley is the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award recipient in the Community category, and the creator of a thriving coach development program with the Knights Hockey Club in Calgary.

“I think it’s important for women to realize that they have so much to offer and that what they have to offer is recognized and is appreciated,” Keeley says of the BFL CANADA honour. “This award gives that; it brings light to [the fact] that we can do this. We’re here now, and let’s keep blazing trails and breaking ceilings and all of those amazing things.”

A ringette player growing up who dabbled in hockey when the boys’ team in her northern Saskatchewan community needed bodies to fill out the lineup, Keeley had never given much thought to coaching until her son got into the game at the Timbits U7 level in the fall of 2018.

When she wasn’t selected to coach the following season in U9, her attention turned back to her first athletic love and she joined the Bow View Ringette Association, working as an assistant coach and head coach at U10 and U12.

“[It was about] learning and gaining the confidence that I needed to step back into hockey and make a difference,” she says of her three years with Bow View.

The word that continually comes up is process – Keeley spent those seasons observing other coaches, ensuring she was surrounded by the right people, building her coaching support system, filling her toolbox and learning how to be a coach in the competitive space.

One of her biggest takeaways? No one does it alone.

“What I believe makes the most successful coach is to surround themselves with people for the skills that they don’t currently have,” Keeley says. “And so for me, I always make sure that I have a very, very rounded team of people that can offset the skills that I don’t have, that I can learn from.”

When the 2022-23 hockey season rolled around, Keeley was ready to get back behind the bench with her son at the U11 level.

But she didn’t come back to hockey empty-handed. In addition to the skills she had learned with Bow View, Keeley came armed with a proposal for a coach development program targeted at women.

“The program was not so much about giving women all the tools they needed to be a coach,” she says. “It starts with having the confidence to put up their hand and say, ‘Yeah, I have something to offer.’ It was really about just helping the ladies to make that decision to put up their hand and to help them have that confidence to step on the ice.

“One of the objectives was to make sure that we had strong female leadership to keep girls in sport, because that’s important. What if we have strong leadership from the same gender on the ice? Would that make a difference? Would girls want to stay [involved in hockey] if they saw strong female coaches on the ice?”

The association was quick to jump at the proposal, and Keeley was off and running.

“Where we started was I held one on-ice session to begin with, and we had 12 ladies that put up their hand and came out,” she says. “And really what it was about more than anything was just to see what this program was all about.

“I had an hour-and-a-half ice time, and I think we spent 20 minutes on the ice. What we spent more time doing was talking about if this was the right fit for them, if they had the confidence to put their skates on and what this was going to look like if they actually got selected to be on the ice with their kid. It was amazing to hear females talk about challenges and obstacles and barriers, and me as a part of launching this program, being able to provide that space to have those open and honest conversations that they wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

What was originally meant to be a local program for women in the Knights program rapidly turned into something much bigger, much to Keeley’s delight.

Next was a training course, with the help of Hockey Alberta – the province’s first women-only Coach 2 clinic.

“At first, I was just opening it to the [local] group that had shown interest. Then we decided to open up to all of Alberta. And so on a very snowy November day, we had 24 females sitting in a room from across Alberta. We did the four-hour classroom, and then the next day we met for another seven [hours].

“That’s where the network started. A lot of us still keep in contact, and we send out emails to each other, and when there is an event happening for all female coaches, we make sure that we share and attend.”

In that first season, nine women were behind the bench with the Knights Hockey Club. During the 2023-24 season, that number grew to 14 – two as head coaches and 12 as assistants.

Keeley hosted a start-of-season meeting in September to teach coaches how to prepare a season plan and build practice plans, and had regular check-ins with every coach involved in the program, working through any challenges they were facing and ensuring they were getting what they needed from the experience.

She also continues to work closely with Hockey Calgary, participating in ongoing opportunities for women in coaching, including on- and off-ice development sessions.

But her No. 1 role is still being a mom, and there are few things that give her more joy than sharing hockey with her son. This season, Keeley led the U13 Tier 4 team.

“I always ask if he wants me to coach,” she says of her son. “And that even existed when I went and coached ringette because, of course, I wasn’t with him. I was always a non-parent coach in ringette, and I would ask him every season, ‘Are you okay if I do this?’

“When I coached the U12 AA team [in the spring of 2022], I was away quite a bit. We were on the ice five times a week. That was the first time he ever said to me, ‘Mom, I miss you. Can you come coach me?’

“We’re just in the midst of filling out our application for this upcoming season, which is his second year of U13. And he said, ‘Mom, are you going to coach again?’ I said, ‘Do you want me to?’ He said, ‘As long as you want to.’ So yes, I’m going to apply to be a coach again.”

That’s a lucky son, and a lucky association that gets to benefit from what Keeley has to offer.

But ask her, and she’ll tell you just the opposite – that she’s the lucky one, benefitting from what the players can offer her.

“I have had some really amazing experiences both on and off the ice, just learning from these players. The amount, if you sit back and you listen, that you can learn is just unbelievable, and they always make you smile.”

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Shakita Jensen.

Giving back through coaching

Guided by influential coaches during her playing days, Shakita Jensen knew she wanted to give back to the game she loved by becoming a coach in her hometown

Shannon Coulter
|
July 04, 2024

It was a full circle moment for Shakita Jensen when she stepped on the bench as head coach of Team Northwest Territories at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games.

In 2014, she played in the tournament in Alaska. A decade later, she returned to Alaska to coach.

“I felt a lot of emotions,” says Jensen, the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner in the Competitive category.

Jensen, from the Tahltan First Nation, started as an on-ice volunteer with the Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association in 2014. Since then, her passion for giving back has driven her to continue her coaching journey.

“The hockey community has given me so much that I felt an obligation to want to give back to the hockey community in any way I could,” Jensen says. “When I got back from school, I was like, ‘I should probably try coaching, see if I like it.’ And of course I liked it right away.”

In addition to giving back, a few impactful women who coached Jensen growing up opened her eyes to her own potential journey.

“Having my first female head coach was super cool, and that made me want to get into coaching,” she says. “Growing up, being sometimes the only girl on my hockey teams, not really many women coaching, and then having my first few female coaches thinking, ‘Wow they’re so cool, I want to be like them one day.’”

The position of being a role model and a leader for youth in her community was also a driving factor in wanting to become a coach.

“I’ve had so many influential coaches in my own playing career. [There are] everlasting impacts they can have on their players, not only on the ice, but off the ice as people as well, what you can teach your players as a coach. I felt that I had lots to offer [as a head coach] and I wanted to be there for kids.”

Shakita Jensen coaching Team NWT at a One For All practice.

 Jensen was in the right place at the right time to get her first head coaching position. There was a shortage of coaches in her association, so they asked Jensen—who initially applied to be an on-ice helper—if she wanted to be a head coach.

“It was a lot of quick learning and kind of being thrown into it, but I felt confident in myself the whole time,” the 26-year-old explains. “I just tried to network with past coaches as much as I could to have a successful season, which I think I did.”

Early in her career, Jensen decided to apply to be a part of the 2023 Canada Winter Games coaching staff for Team NWT, but she wasn’t selected. However, one of the coaches recommended she apply for the Aboriginal Apprentice Coach program with the Aboriginal Sports Circle.

“They chose one woman and one man from the territory, and it could be from any sport, so I knew that it was a bit of a long shot, but when I heard I got in for hockey, I was super excited.”

Through the apprenticeship program, Jensen was able to attend last year’s Canada Winter Games on Prince Edward Island and work with Team NWT leading up to the event. Afterwards, she became an assistant coach for Team NWT for the 2023 Arctic Winter Games before being promoted to head coach for the 2024 tournament.

“I think that definitely opened a lot of doors,” she says. “It was cool to see the progression and to allow me to gain all the tools and resources that I needed to prepare my team.”

As head coach of Team NWT, the location of each player’s hometowns can often be difficult to navigate—sometimes resulting in very few full team practices before an event.

“It was definitely a challenge wanting to build your team culture and work on your strategies and trying to prepare for a high-performance, short-term competition when your team is scattered all over the territories, in some places that are fly in/fly out or just a lot of money barriers,” she explains. “I think one thing that was super helpful was our ability to connect online leading up to the Games.”

Another huge opportunity for Jensen’s team this year was February’s One For All event in Yellowknife. With more than 300 participants over four days, the event celebrated women’s and girls’ hockey with Try Hockey events, on-ice skills, coaching clinics and more.

Team Northwest Territories and Team Nunavut gathered to practice and face off in an exhibition game.

“It was an overwhelming successful weekend—players putting on their hockey gear for the first time and then other players who were about to be graduating minor hockey,” says Jensen, who volunteered with the event. “It felt super to contribute to that program, give back and hopefully keep that program on a yearly basis here.”

When Jensen found out she was the BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner for Hockey North in the Competitive category, she was shocked.

“I was so surprised, kind of caught off guard. I felt so much pride and gratitude.”

Jensen was unsure if she would be able to compete with the great provincial and territorial candidates across the country. But when she saw Cassie Campbell-Pascall on a video call congratulating her for winning the national award, she was in disbelief all over again.

“There are really no words,” she says of winning the national award. “There are so many influential coaches who go unrecognized sometimes for all the work they do. [I’m] really feeling proud of myself, but also feeling proud of everyone else across Canada who’s doing so much for the women’s game.”

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Kelly Paton with the BFL Canada Women in Coaching logo.

The importance of mentorship

When Kelly Paton began her coaching journey after she hung up her skates, it was her coaching mentors that were key to helping her develop confidence behind the bench

Shannon Coulter
|
July 03, 2024

Even as a player, Kelly Paton had always taken an interest in what happens behind the scenes in hockey. She took opportunities to learn more about the game from her coaching staff, including how staff helped to support student-athletes while she attended the University of New Hampshire.

That, along with her strong hockey IQ, led Paton’s head coach, Brian McCloskey, to give her a piece of advice: “Patty, you’re a coach.”

“He just kept telling me I was a coach,” says Paton, the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner in the High Performance category. “Certainly, I was interested; I didn’t have my mind made up. I wanted to find ways to stay connected to the game and at that point, with some limitations of hockey beyond college, that was probably my best pathway for it.”

A Woodstock, Ontario, native who has spent the last six seasons as head coach of the women’s hockey team at Wilfrid Laurier University, Paton grew up in an athletic family. When her older brother started playing hockey, Paton wanted to start playing as well.

“Many days were spent in our cul-de-sac; I got stuck in the goalie position and his friends would shoot many pucks and balls my way,” Paton says. “That’s probably where my interest started.”

Paton initially played boys hockey in her hometown until switching to girls’ hockey with the London Devilettes. After her final year of minor hockey, she spent four years at New Hampshire, serving as captain and finishing as a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior in the 2009-10 season.

“[It] helped shape my confidence in my ability to play the game, but then big picture, how there are ways where I could give back and help the development of others,” Paton says of her time as a Wildcat. “I think that’s where I had some affirmation that my IQ for the game was pretty good and that aligned really well with coaching.”

Kelly Paton coaches the Laurier women's team during a break in play.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Paton wasn’t sure how she wanted to incorporate coaching into her life, whether as a volunteer or as a career. But after finishing a graduate degree at Mercyhurst University and then living on Vancouver Island for a while, she decided to return home to Southwestern Ontario and get back involved with the game she loved.

She reconnected with her minor hockey roots by taking on a coaching role with the Devilettes’ junior program. There, Paton credits Dwayne Blais for being one of her mentors as she began her coaching journey.

“I was the head coach, but he certainly was the one I leaned on the most with being mentored and learning how to manage conflict, how to manage expectation, but more importantly just building practice plans that supported development.”

After reconnecting with one of her junior coaches, Paton was presented with an opportunity to join Western University as an assistant coach.

“I walked into a space where [the Mustangs] were coming off a national championship, which came with a lot of expectations,” Paton says. “I was happy we were still able to carry out some of that momentum and be a top performer in the OUA.”

Paton served as an assistant coach for two years before being promoted to head coach at Western. Ahead of the 2018-19 season, she made the move to Laurier.

“We’re coming off a great season this past year and our leadership group has done an excellent job of really stepping into a space where they’re allowing me to coach, which is awesome,” she says. “We’re certainly a team that carries high expectations, knowing that we still have responsibility to carry the legacy of Laurier hockey. […] The goal is to keep moving forward. I certainly think we’re in the right pathway to do that, and a lot of that is a testament to the players that we have in our program now.”

Kelly Paton looks on from the bench.

Reflecting on her time coaching in U SPORTS, one of the bigger transitions for Paton was navigating how to match her communication to each individual player on her team.

“In the university sector, it can get really challenging to satisfy 25 athletes with all different learning styles and still walk away and feel like we got through what we needed to get through today,” she explains. “Now with experience, I’ve learned that’s part of the process. But when I was younger, that day-to-day management of seeing where everybody’s at—generally the only way to figure that out is to ask, and that’s where the communication piece is.”

Building relationships has been key to Paton’s coaching journey, and she is grateful to have found a support system in her corner as she continues to develop as a coach.

“It’s been a pretty critical piece to finding confidence in myself,” Paton says of her mentors. “There’s been a couple that have been instrumental with shaping my coaching style, my communication style, my knowledge of the game. Dwayne was a big piece of that, Rachel Flanagan, and even my college coach, Brian. I still speak with him [14 years after graduating].”

For those looking to begin their coaching journeys or advance their coaching career into the high-performance area, Paton’s advice would be to stay honest and accountable.

“When mistakes happen, don’t shy away from taking ownership of that. If there are areas that are challenging or you need advice on, that’s where that mentorship really comes in handy; having somebody that’s a neutral soundboard that’s going to help you make decisions without carried bias or carried experiences.

“I’m really grateful that I’ve had those opportunities to have good people around me and have the confidence that went up when mistakes are made, and that helps trickle into the player group as well.”

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Hockey Canada forms women's and girls' steering committee

15 stakeholders to lead work on reflections and insights on state of women’s and girls’ hockey

NR.038.24
|
May 31, 2024

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Hockey Canada has formed a committee of stakeholders, chaired by current board member and National Women’s Team alumna Gillian Apps, to oversee a discussion paper that will lead to formal recommendations to guide the organization’s next women’s and girls’ hockey strategic plan.

The committee was formally launched at a press conference in Winnipeg today, where Hockey Canada’s Spring Congress is taking place alongside a women’s and girls’ hockey symposium with provincial and territorial representation from all of Hockey Canada’s 13 Members, facilitated by Canadian Women & Sport.

“Internationally, Canada has always been a leader in women’s hockey. Now is the time to ensure we are on the leading edge of identifying and addressing gaps in the current system to provide women and girls with even more opportunities to thrive in the future,” said Apps. “This committee’s efforts will be critical to furthering the game at all levels, and we are grateful this group has agreed to volunteer and be part of this important work.”

The committee features 15 stakeholders, including six National Women’s Team (NWT) alumnae:

  • Gillian Apps, Hockey Canada Board of Directors and NWT alumna
  • Pierre Arsenault, chief executive officer of U SPORTS
  • Thérèse Brisson, president and chief executive officer of Alpine Canada, and NWT alumna
  • Cassie Campbell-Pascall, broadcaster, special advisor to the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) and NWT alumna
  • Debra Gassewitz, president and chief executive officer of the Sport Information Resource Centre
  • Jayna Hefford, senior vice-president of hockey operations for the PWHL and NWT alumna
  • Katherine Henderson, president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada
  • Marian Jacko, Hockey Canada Board of Directors
  • Angela James, Hockey Canada Foundation Board of Directors and NWT alumna
  • Rob Knesaurek, senior vice-president of youth development and industry growth with the National Hockey League
  • Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer of Own the Podium
  • Mary-Kay Messier, vice-president of marketing for Bauer Hockey
  • Brad Morris, Hockey Canada Foundation Board of Directors
  • Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, chief executive officer of Canadian Women & Sport
  • Kim St-Pierre, regional manager at Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and NWT alumna

“Supporting the growth of women’s and girls’ hockey in Canada is a priority for our board, and forming this committee is a tremendous next step to further understand and address the challenges that exist in the game,” said Jonathan Goldbloom, chair of the Hockey Canada Board of Directors. “We thank Gillian for taking on a leadership role with this project and are confident the committee’s efforts will benefit our organization, Members, stakeholders and Canadians for generations to come.”

After consulting with Hockey Canada’s Members, the committee’s women’s and girls’ hockey discussion paper is expected to be published in early summer 2024. Additional interviews will take place at that time with stakeholders inside and outside of the game, including opportunities for the Canadian public to be part of the research.

“Our women’s and girls’ hockey department, led by Marin Hickox, has made significant strides in the past few years to grow the game at all levels, including by mobilizing the leads from each of our Members,” said Henderson. “We are thrilled this new committee will work collectively with Marin and her leads to review existing research and establish a roadmap for where we all envision women’s and girls’ hockey in the future, as there remains a tremendous amount of potential to remove existing barriers to the sport.”

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Kaylee Grant instructs a group of young girls on the ice at the One For All event in Yellowknife.

Making an impact in the North

A game-changer in women’s hockey, Kaylee Grant tirelessly gives her time across the territories, volunteering to ensure opportunities exist for women and girls

Katie Brickman
|
April 14, 2024

The first thing Kaylee Grant did when she moved to Yellowknife was find a hockey team.

The operating engineer took a one-year term to gain experience in her industry. Twelve years later, she’s still in the Northwest Territories and hockey has been a reason why she calls it home.

“You gravitate to what you know, and I knew sports,” Grant says. “When you join a sport, you instantly have 17 friends and a group where you feel accepted through a common goal and interest. When I moved to the North, I didn’t know how else to meet friends, so I went to the rink right away.”

Grant grew up around the rink in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The community was also a hockey hotbed, supporting its Junior A, Junior B and university teams. Being around that passion and community made hockey an important part of her life.

“Playing hockey is what we did,” Grant says. “The community rallied behind our teams and the rinks were full, the atmosphere was great, and hockey was so prominent.”

She played minor hockey in Nova Scotia before moving to Newfoundland and Labrador to play at Memorial University. At 23 years old, she made the move to Yellowknife and knew she would find her community inside a rink.

“I find that the easiest thing to do when you come to a new place to meet people is through sport,” she says. “With joining a hockey team, I was already creating a group of people that were like-minded in interests and similar age. Plus, there are so many opportunities in the North to grow as coaches, players and mentors that have been so helpful.”

Grant’s love for the game wasn’t just as a player—she expanded her knowledge by getting into coaching while in Nova Scotia. She started as an off-ice coordinator with the Antigonish Bulldogs women’s under-18 team.

Kaylee Grant smiles as she skates with a young player on the ice.

She did her Coach Development 1 training before getting her High Performance 1 training and evaluation certification. She continued to pursue additional coaching certification and training over the years to educate herself and give back to her community.

“I think seeing the female game continuously grow and develop that keeps me interested,” Grant says. “I love to see the progress in my players. I love seeing these players grow and adapt as individuals. Seeing them get involved in coaching is the coolest part.”

Her coaching philosophy is to develop a player’s passion for the game, be a role model and create an environment that is positive for women and girls.

Coaching and mentoring young girls are important to Grant, and she saw that path was through high-level opportunities, particularly by becoming a facilitator to drive more players into the coaching route. She has been working with Hockey North and the Hockey Canada Women Master Coach Developer program, which is focused on removing barriers to coaching education for women.

“Kaylee has volunteered at pretty much every level and she’s getting more involved with training coaches and being a clinician, which is an amazing progression for her,” says Kyle Kugler, executive director of Hockey North and a close friend of Grant. “She’s a great ambassador for hockey by giving back to other coaches through her experiences and helping with their development.”

Through being a volunteer coach, Grant has been able to experience some highlights with her teams, including as head coach for the Arctic Winter Games and Canada Winter Games, and as an assistant coach for Team North at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship.

“Hockey North has given me so many opportunities and having that support has impacted me as a coach,” Grant says. “I enjoyed every year with those territorial teams and those experiences are a very big reason why I stay here – the coaching opportunities and knowing that we continually have room to grow.”

Another event that Grant was a key volunteer for was the inaugural One For All festival held in Yellowknife in February. It was a four-day event for women and girls from across the N.W.T. and Nunavut that included goaltending clinics, on-ice scrimmages and other off-ice experiences. The event was launched in partnership with Hockey Canada and Hockey North to celebrate the sport and grow grassroots hockey in the North.

“Kaylee is one of our co-leads in the North, and when we set out to deliver this programming in Yellowknife, it was a no-brainer that she would be involved. And typical Kaylee, she just runs with a task and completely owns it,” says Katie Greenway, manager of women’s and girls’ hockey with Hockey Canada. “To have champions like Kaylee that dedicate themselves to their community and sport is so important.”

Giving back through coaching is just what Grant does—it’s like a hobby for her and she does it for others and to see more women in the sport, not for what it could bring to her.

“I’ve known Kaylee for a few years now and she has so much on her plate, but she never says no,” Greenway says. “She doesn’t do it for the accolades, but out of the goodness of her heart with a smile on her face. She’s fantastic and is really impacting everyone that she comes across.”

Grant’s impact on hockey in the North has been felt by many of the girls she has coached, mentored and played with over the past 12 years, but it’s the bigger picture that is most important to her.

“I’m not going to say that myself, individually, has drastically impacted female hockey in the North. I think I am a very small portion of what’s been going on in the North in the last 10 years,” Grant says. “I would like to think that I have helped develop more female coaches and I’ve been a good role model. I think if I have impacted hockey in the North, its pushing players to want to coach a little bit, but it’s a collective—everyone has left their mark on the female game.”

For Kugler, as the lone administrator for Hockey North, having volunteers like Kaylee is so critical to the work and development of hockey players.

“I think volunteers are essential for the delivery of anything in small communities in the North,” he says. “[Kaylee] takes on more than we even realize. Coaches have a huge influence on teams and athletes and she’s a positive role model and advocate for female hockey. She’s selfless with her time and she’s just an awesome person.”

Interested in becoming a coach? Visit HockeyCanada.ca/Coaching, or contact your local hockey association or Hockey Canada Member for more information.

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Creating Coaches program 2023

Eight student-athletes to participate in Creating Coaches program

Creating Coaches’ third cohort runs until end of 2024-25 season

NR.061.23
|
September 21, 2023

CALGARY, AB – Hockey Canada and U SPORTS have announced the eight student-athletes who have been selected to join Creating Coaches, a program designed to increase the number of women coaching hockey in Canada, as part of its third cohort which will run during the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons.

Launched in 2021 through a partnership between Hockey Canada, U SPORTS and the Hockey Canada Foundation, Creating Coaches provides training and mentorship to current U SPORTS student-athletes who are concurrently looking to begin their coaching careers. Participants in the program serve as an assistant coach with a U13, U15 or U18 girls’ hockey team for the duration of the two seasons and receive coach education, professional development opportunities and an honorarium.  

This year’s cohort includes student-athletes from eight U SPORTS women’s hockey programs across three of its conferences:

• Alexis Anonech (York University, OUA)

• Emmy Fecteau (Concordia University, RSEQ)

• Lyndsey Janes (Mount Royal University, CW)

• Madison Laberge (Nipissing University, OUA)

• Isabelle Lajoie (University of Alberta, CW)

• Sophie Lalor (University of Saskatchewan, CW)

• Sarah-Maude Lavoie (McGill University, RSEQ)

• Chihiro Suzuki (Guelph University, OUA)

“We are thrilled to welcome these eight accomplished student-athletes to Creating Coaches and look forward to working with them during the next two seasons,” said Marin Hickox, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of women and girls’ hockey. “Creating Coaches is an important program to support and develop hockey’s next generation of leaders and we are grateful to the U SPORTS coaches who nominated this talented group.

“Girls who have been coached by a woman are more likely to transition into a coaching role at the end of their playing careers, and it is our intention that this program will positively influence the recruitment and retention of girls and women in leadership roles in the sport.”

Since its inception, Creating Coaches has included student-athletes from 16 U SPORTS women’s hockey programs and all four of its conferences.

“The eight student-athletes selected to join Creating Coaches are tremendous ambassadors for hockey and university sport in Canada,” said Lisette Johnson-Stapley, chief sport officer at U SPORTS. “We have already seen the positive impact that this program has had inspiring young girls in communities across the country and we are excited for Alexis, Chihiro, Emmy, Isabelle, Lyndsey, Madison, Sarah-Maude and Sophie to begin their coaching careers while continuing to represent their universities with pride as student-athletes.”

The Creating Coaches selection committee includes representation from Hockey Canada, U SPORTS, Hockey Canada’s Members and the Hockey Canada Foundation Board of Directors.

During National Coaches Week, Hockey Canada is celebrating the positive impact that coaches have on athletes in communities from coast to coast to coast, with #ThanksCoach resources and features shared here.

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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2022 BFL Female Coach of the Year winners announced

22 recipients selected across Community, Competitive and High Performance categories

NR.033.22
|
June 15, 2022

CALGARY, Alta. – In partnership with BFL CANADA, Hockey Canada has announced the national and provincial/territorial winners of the 2022 BFL Female Coach of the Year Award, which recognizes coaches who led by example in demonstrating fair play and a commitment to the development of every player and staff member, and made significant contributions to the game during the 2021-22 season.

Nominated by parents and players from coast to coast to coast, three national and 19 provincial and territorial award winners were chosen by the selection committee, which included Olympic gold medallists Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Gina Kingsbury and Caroline Ouellette, Teal Gove of Hockey Canada and Sacha Vaillancourt, vice-president and national practice leader of sports and leisure with BFL CANADA.

Sarah Hilworth, the head coach of the women’s hockey team at the University of New Brunswick, earned the national award in the High Performance category and will receive a $5,000 bursary and an invitation to Canada's National Women's Team camp this summer. Since joining the Reds, Hilworth has consistently demonstrated the importance of sportsmanship, empowered her players to make a difference on and off the ice and contributed greatly to her community.

Laurence Beaulieu and Amy Doerksen are the national winners in the Competitive and Community categories, respectively, receiving a $2,500 bursary and Hockey Canada merchandise package.

A former professional hockey player with the Canadiennes de Montréal, Beaulieu’s coaching career began five seasons ago. Through her passion for the game, the Titans du Cégep Limoilou assistant has already made a name for herself behind the bench.

As a Timbits U7 coach in Brandon, Man., Doerksen has gone above and beyond to create a positive hockey experience, while providing a safe and inclusive environment for all participants. Additionally, she has emphasized the importance of having fun through organizing team activities and special events for her local hockey association.

In addition, 19 provincial and territorial award winners were recognized and will each receive a $1,000 bursary.

Winners in the Competitive category included: Mandy Layden (Alta.), Brittany Kirby (B.C.), Tess Houston (Man.), Abby Clarke (N.B.), Grace Hatcher (N.L.), Josanne Deveau (N.S.), Stephanie Pascal (Ont.), Rebecca Babiak (P.E.I.) and Tori Spencer (N.W.T./Y.T./Nvt.).

Winners in the Community category included: Lesley Burton (Alta.), Heather Neale Furneaux (B.C.), Katie Peddle (N.B.), Monique Organ (N.L.), Erin Crowell (N.S.), Kiara Jefferies (Ont.), Nadine Moore (P.E.I.), Laetitia Létourneau (Que.), Barb Bryden (Sask.) and Jessica Cox (N.W.T./Y.T./Nvt.).  

For more information on Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Hockey Canada adds two key staff

Natasha Johnston named director, sport safety; Marin Hickox hired as director, women and girls hockey

NR.023.22
|
May 18, 2022

CALGARY, Alta. – Hockey Canada has announced that prominent Canadian sport executives Natasha Johnston and Marin Hickox have joined the organization to lead its strategies in safe sport and women and girls hockey, respectively.

“We are thrilled to welcome Natasha and Marin to Hockey Canada in these brand-new positions that focus on advancing two key strategic areas of our organization,” said Hockey Canada president and chief operating officer, Scott Smith. “They both have invaluable experience from across the sport industry and will both play critical roles to ensure hockey is a safe and inclusive sport for all participants.”

As director of sport safety, Johnston will oversee Hockey Canada’s safe sport portfolio, which includes developing sustainable solutions to address player safety and maltreatment. Johnston will also work with Hockey Canada’s 13 Members to deliver strategic initiatives that promote inclusion and provide participants from coast to coast to coast with positive hockey experiences for years to come.

Most recently the executive director of Ringette Canada, Johnston contributed to the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport as a national representative, and previously held progressive roles with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and Football Canada.

Hickox will lead the organization’s recruitment and retention efforts that support the continued sustainability of women’s and girls’ hockey programs across Canada, and drive a collaborative approach to increase the number of women in key roles within the hockey ecosystem, including in leadership, coaching and officiating.  

In 2020, Hickox was a member of the women’s hockey task force for the inaugural Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game as part of National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star Weekend. The former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and NHL marketing executive has also consulted for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association.

Johnston and Hickox have started their new positions with Hockey Canada, working from Ottawa and Toronto, respectively.

For more information on Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, become a Hockey Canada Insider, or follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Dr. Peggy Assinck charges forward in her sled.

Leading the growth of para hockey

As a veteran Canadian para hockey player, Dr. Peggy Assinck’s goal is to grow the sport internationally and ensure women have a chance to play the game she loves

Shannon Coulter
|
April 30, 2022

Growing up, Dr. Peggy Assinck was very athletic. She was not yet identified as being born with spina bifida—a congenital defect of the spine—so she was entirely able-bodied and played a variety of sports.

That’s why when she experienced complications from her condition and became paralyzed from the waist down at age 11, she felt like she lost a bit of her identity.

“It was really difficult to be honest with you, because I think I really self-identified as an athlete,” Assinck, 38, says. “My parents really wanted to find a way to have me be involved in sport, despite the fact that I was dealing with ongoing medical and paralysis-below-my-waist issues.”

A recreational therapist recommended she try one of the only adaptive sports near Peterborough, Ont., at that time: para hockey. Assinck and her family travelled 90 minutes away from home to try the sport for the first time. Although it wasn’t necessarily love at first skate, she was thrilled to meet other kids just like her.

“Because I grew up in such a remote community, I'd never met anyone else in a wheelchair or anyone else using adaptive equipment,” she says. “That was pretty cool just to meet other disabled kids.”

With time, her passion for para hockey grew and flourished. Now one of the veterans with Canada’s national women’s para hockey team, Assinck’s goal is to ensure other women and girls around the world have an opportunity to try the sport she has dedicated her life to.

Ensuring positive experiences for women

One thing Assinck emphasizes is ensuring positive experiences for women when they try para hockey for the first time. As the women’s team holds its selection camp in Yellowknife, N.W.T., from April 25-30, a grant from the Hockey Canada Foundation will assist with providing try-it opportunities and grassroots sessions in the community.

“I want to make sure that more kids and more people who sustained new injuries are getting a good first-contact experience,” Assinck says. “I think the Hockey Canada Foundation grant really helps for the women’s para hockey team to do that in remote communities [and] to help support female-specific programming.”

We believe as a Foundation that girls grow when they play hockey and hockey grows when girls play,” says Alexandra Wise of the Hockey Canada Foundation.

“Working with an organization like Women’s Para Hockey of Canada is something that allows us to align our missions and keep developing the game from a grassroots level, but then also at a higher level," Wise adds.

It’s no coincidence that wherever Assinck has gone in her life, women’s para hockey has grown with her guidance and support. Inspired by wanting to learn more about spina bifida, she attended Brock University to pursue a neuroscience degree. As she completed her undergraduate degree, she played with the Niagara Thunderbirds and volunteered with the Brock Niagara Penguins, a sporting program for youth and young adults with a physical disability.

Upon her graduation in 2008, Assinck began her master’s degree and completed her PhD in neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. Looking to continue training as an elite para hockey athlete, she searched for a club team to join in her new home province.

“After growing up in southern Ontario, where para ice hockey was everywhere, I was quite surprised at how little para ice hockey was in British Columbia as a whole,” she says.

Once she joined a team based out of Surrey run by SportAbility, Assinck helped to create new para hockey programs in Vancouver and Victoria, and aided in making opportunities across the province to try the sport. From there, she helped to organize a provincial team with support from BC Hockey.

Traveling across the pond

A postdoctoral fellowship took Assinck overseas in 2017 to the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cambridge. There were a handful of club programs in Great Britain when she moved, and the Canadian quickly joined the closest team to her—the Manchester Mayhem—to continue training.

“I’ve been participating as an athlete on that club team for a while, but I think it became pretty clear that I had a lot of expertise in para hockey, and I got asked about a year into playing here to join as the assistant coach on [Great Britain’s] men’s para ice hockey team,” she says.

Assinck traveled with Team Great Britain to the IPC World Para Hockey Championship, B Pool, in 2019 in Germany.

“I think I was probably the only athlete who was also a coach, I was probably the only female who was also a coach,” she says. “It was a really amazing opportunity to just be on the bench and to help to support the men’s program in what they were doing and in their goals.”

With the addition of coaching on her résumé, a new opportunity presented itself in 2021: the International Paralympic Committee approached the coaches of Great Britain’s men’s para hockey team to ask if they would create a women’s team.

I suddenly found myself with the opportunity to create a team in another country… and it just seemed like the right space for me,” Assinck says.

Assinck quickly got to work. She put out a call for athletes with lower-body disabilities living in Great Britain, interviewed potential players and selected 27 athletes —most of whom had never played para hockey before—for the new program.

Although Assinck was leading the charge overseas, she continued to receive support from Team Canada staff back home. One of the difficulties she encountered was a lack of ice time, meaning she was often teaching a group of athletes how to play hockey without being on the ice.

“She’s spending time in classrooms teaching them the basics of hockey,” says Tara Chisholm, head coach of Canada’s national women’s para hockey team. “She’s renting out gymnasiums so they can do floor hockey and learn about systems that way. She’s literally pulling everything she can together to teach these athletes how to be hockey players in a space that really is not intended to flourish for hockey players.”

Despite the limited resources and the challenges of creating a new team during the COVID-19 pandemic, the newly formed Great Britain national women’s team is prepped to compete at its first international event, the IPC Women’s World Challenge, this fall.

“I honestly do not know how she does everything that she does,” Chisholm says. “I’m very grateful for all the work that she has done that goes unnoticed and that has essentially helped to develop women’s para hockey to where it is right now.”

Growing the game in Canada and beyond

As she created the team, Assinck put together a document of how she kickstarted the program with the goal to share it with other countries so they can replicate the processes.

“That is the big goal right now, to not only grow the game within our borders of Canada, but then to make sure that other girls and women with disabilities across the world have the opportunity to play the sport of hockey,” Chisholm says.

“In order to be in the Paralympics, we need more countries to create teams,” Assinck adds. “We just want to make sure that they have a great first experience and that we’re creating a sustainable program that can continue for many, many years.”

I’m a true believer that if I hadn’t been involved in [para hockey] when I was young, when I was going through the struggles that I had, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Assinck says.

Although it’s a bit of an odd position to play against the team you created in competition, Assinck had the full support of her British colleagues to return to Canada and prepare for the Women’s World Challenge. Despite everything she has done to grow the sport, she still prioritizes being the best athlete she can be and she trains hard to earn the privilege of wearing the Maple Leaf on her chest.

She hopes people see her as someone who has dedicated a lot of her life and finances to being an elite athlete, and someone who has gone over and above to support women and para hockey in Canada and around the world. It’s the least she could do for a sport that has changed her life.

“I’m a true believer that if I hadn’t been involved in [para hockey] when I was young, when I was going through the struggles that I had, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” she says. “I wouldn’t have the confidence to be up speaking in front of thousands of people about neuroscience or even the confidence to be able to be jumping around from team to team in some of my coaching roles.

“I’m hoping that I can look back and feel like I did everything I possibly could to make sure that people with disabilities, particularly women with disabilities, are getting exposure to the sport that means so much to me and could mean so much to them.”

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© SFU Hockey

Munro finds her hockey home

The COVID-19 pandemic changed Kayla Munro’s post-secondary plans, but the goaltender landed on her skates at Simon Fraser University, making a little history in the process

Ryan Sinclair – BC Hockey
|
March 14, 2022

The past two years have been anything but normal for Kayla Munro. Like many athletes, the young goaltender’s daily life was shaken up by the global pandemic, as seasons were cancelled and restrictions were put in place. The challenge to find avenues to be able to play hockey became difficult.

For Munro, her journey to continue to play hockey has led her to the unique path of joining the Simon Fraser University (SFU) men’s hockey team. The result has been a talented young hockey player being able to continue in the sport while breaking through barriers.

“I didn't know if I was going to get to play hockey again,” says Munro. “I am just grateful right now to be playing on the SFU team.”

SFU and Munro had a fantastic 2021-22 British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) regular season, going undefeated with a perfect 12-0-0 record. For Munro, she made history throughout the season. She first jotted her name into the BCIHL history books as the first woman to ever play in a league pre-season game on Sept. 25, 2021, when she entered in the third period to take the net versus the Okanagan Lakers. She had a solid outing, stopping 13 of 14 shots in the frame. Munro next made her mark on Oct. 16, 2021, when she became the first woman to start a BCIHL exhibition game, also against the Lakers.

“I was a little bit nervous,” Munro says of seeing her first game action. “Honestly, I hadn't thought about it as being a big milestone. I was nervous because I hadn't played a game in about two years. Last year at Syracuse and the year before that I had shoulder surgery. I talked to a sports psychologist and have learned some really good ways to control my nerves and make them a driving force of how well I play. Although a little nervous, I felt prepared.”

Munro’s crowning achievement, to this point, was on Feb. 5, 2022, when she became the first woman to ever play in a regular season BCIHL game. The 19-year-old took the crease for the third period against the Okanagan Lakers as SFU skated to an 8-5 victory.

For Munro, the original plan was not to rewrite history as a member of the SFU men’s hockey team, in fact it was far from it. Her goal was to play NCAA hockey, and it appeared she had attained that lofty accomplishment when she committed to Syracuse University in New York on a hockey scholarship in 2019.

“It was honestly a dream come true to get the scholarship to Syracuse,” says the product of North Vancouver, B.C. “It had been my goal to play in the NCAA since I started playing hockey. In my opinion, other than the Olympics, it is one of the highest levels you can get for female hockey.”

However, as the world locked down and sports changed, so did Munro’s plans as she chose to stay home with family and not play south of the border. The decision was not easy but was met with support and understanding.

“I went to Syracuse for about a month in 2020,” says Munro. “We couldn't practice or do anything; we were just stuck in our apartments. For family reasons, I decided to come back home. Originally it was just for a semester, but then I decided just to stay home. [Syracuse head coach Paul Flanagan] was supportive. He is an amazing guy. He wants the best for you, and he told me that he wanted whatever made me happy and what was best for my mental health.”

Once Munro decided to stay home in British Columbia, she was left looking for a university to continue her studies. Additionally, she was hoping to find a place to play hockey, a difficult task given all of the restrictions in place associated with the pandemic.

“I applied to Simon Fraser University and was accepted,” says Munro.

With her schooling plans secured, she began looking at hockey options.

“I began looking at everything. Even if they had an intramural team or house league, I just wanted to keep playing.

“I found that SFU had a men’s hockey team and so I emailed [head coach Mark Coletta] asking if I could try out. I told him a little about myself, the teams I played on and the level that I've gotten to in hockey. He was really supportive right away.”

“Kayla needed a spot to play,” says Coletta. “I let her know that she was more than welcome to come try out, and if you're good enough to play, you’ll play. Given her predicament, we wanted to give her a shot.”

The tryout for Munro was successful and after a training camp, she was included on the 2021-22 roster for SFU.

“She can play hockey,” adds Coletta. “She's technically very good between the pipes, she moves around very well. So, making sure she adapts well is the important thing.”

Coletta was clear that Munro made his squad on the merits of her play. He views her as a hockey player, with no designation of gender.

“Kayla’s a tremendous person,” he says. “She's proven every day that she comes ready to work and play.”

Not being treated any differently is something Munro has valued from Coletta.

“He believes that the best players should be on this team,” says the goaltender. “It doesn't matter if you’re a girl or a guy. The first time when we talked on the phone, he said that I was just an equal hockey player, no more or no less. I found that very rewarding and empowering, and it made me feel really good.”

Over the years, Munro has had many positive influences that have helped her as a player and person. While she was with the North Shore Avalanche of the North Shore Female Ice Hockey Association, Munro was first introduced to Jeff Eaton.

“I have two coaches that have stuck with me,” says Munro. “(Eaton) coached a lot with the North Shore Avalanche, came out and did skills with us. Eventually, I got to play for him with the [Pacific Steelers Junior Female Hockey Club]. He's just one of the most knowledgeable hockey people that I know, and so supportive. Coach Eaton just wants to see us succeed and he was the biggest reason why I got my scholarship to Syracuse. I learned a lot of really good things from him.

“The other coach was Delaney Collins. She coached me on the [U18 AAA] Fraser Valley Rush my first year with the team.”

Collins, a fixture on defence with Canada’s National Women’s Team during the 2000s, transitioned her 95 appearances and nine gold medals with the national team into coaching. Collins brought an impressive resume to coaching but also left Munro with a lasting message.

“(Collins) is a big believer in women being empowered,” says Munro. “That we should be considered equal, not just in sports, but everything. I learned from her how to be a confident woman. That it's okay to be strong and have muscles, and not just be dainty and delicate. She helped me find who I was as a goalie and a person. She was a really big role model for me.”

“Kayla was an amazing individual to work with,” recalls Collins. “Her leadership and energy were infectious, and her teammates could count on her to always compete. As a goalie, she was extremely athletic, quick and her puck play was similar to a defender. She is fun to coach and is a great person and role model for young girls.”

After everything Munro has experienced over the last two years, she is well aware that plans can change quickly. However, going forward, the young goaltender has set some goals.

“I want to finish my schooling,” she says. “That’s very important to me. So, for my future, it is continuing my schooling and likely getting a job, while hopefully playing hockey. Honestly, I am grateful to be playing because there was a point I didn't know if I was going to get to play hockey again.”

Munro’s time with SFU will serve her well in the game, and additionally to help build life skills.

“This has been an adjustment for her,” says Coletta. “For Kayla to be able to adapt, I think it will serve her well once this year is over.

“She's worked hard and made a commitment to us. She was ready to play a lot of minutes or play the backup role. Anything to prepare herself for a spot as a starting goalie somewhere next year, whether it's back on the female side or not.”

Through it all, Munro has stayed strong through the challenges.

“During the last few years just staying motivated was my biggest challenge,” she says. “But I'm extremely happy where I am today. I'm very proud.”

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For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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