When Aynsley D’Ottavio left her home in Chilliwack, B.C., to tour Quinnipac
University in November, she never imagined how difficult it would be to get
The Fraser Valley Rush defenceman and her mother made the trip to
Connecticut with the intent of touring the university for one day before
“We got in [to Connecticut] that night and my dad texted my mom and said
that a storm was going on [back home],” D’Ottavio says. “It didn’t really
affect us too much because we do live in B.C. and there’s a lot of rain.”
Not thinking much of the precipitation, they went to sleep after the long
travel day in preparation for the tour in the morning. The next day, they
continued to receive updates about the unprecedented amount of rain they
were getting back home.
“I toured the school all day, and kind of was hearing about everything as
the day went on,” D’Ottavio says. “And then flying home that night, [that’s
when we] found out that it got really bad.”
A historic rainstorm brought some B.C. communities nearly a month’s worth
of rain within the span of 48 hours. The storm broke dozens of rainfall
records and caused devastating landslides that closed almost every major
highway in southern B.C.
After an already rain-filled September and October in the Fraser Valley,
the latest dump overwhelmed creeks and rivers that wouldn’t normally be
flood risks. Entire regions of the Fraser Valley became ingulfed by
floodwaters. About 20,000 people were forced to flee their homes due to the
The original plan was for D’Ottavio’s father to pick her and her mother up
at the airport to drive the 16-year-old to Langley so she could join the
Rush to face the Northern Capitals. While laid over in Toronto, D’Ottavio
found out that the storm ruined that plan.
“We were kind of at a loss as to what to do because my dad couldn’t get
through the flooding to pick us up,” she says. “We got into Vancouver, and
my mom’s boss generously got us a hotel in Vancouver. We stayed there for a
night and just kind of assessed the situation.”
D’Ottavio was not the only member of the Rush that was impacted by the
floods. Forward Hannah Dods was at home in Chilliwack when the storm began.
At first, the 15-year-old didn’t think too much about the incoming storm,
but hearing about the beginning of the flooding and the height of the water
in the rivers grabbed her attention.
“The night before I remember I was with my friend and we were talking about
how much it was raining and we’re like, ‘Do you think school might be
closed?’ But we were completely doubting it,” she says. “The next thing you
know, school’s closed.”
Thankfully, both Dods and D’Ottavio’s family homes were not affected by the
flooding in Chilliwack. Dods’ school would end up staying closed for an
entire week and became a refuge for people affected by the flooding.
Although Dods’ home was unaffected, she did witness the effects of her
hometown being cut off by the natural disaster.
“Literally any kind of resources you would usually get, we’re not getting
fed with any new supplies or anything,” she says. “We can’t waste the fuel
we have because we can’t get more. We can’t eat all our groceries because
if we go to the store, there’s no groceries because no supplies are getting
in and out of Chilliwack.”
With the highways blocked by debris and water, there was no way for Dods to
get to Rush practices or games. It did offer a silver lining, though—the
15-year-old was able to participate more on her basketball team.
“It was good to have chill time, but probably the one thing that
disappointed me the most was definitely missing out on my hockey,” Dods
says. “I think I missed a game and a couple practices, and not seeing my
teammates for a week was like, ‘I can’t wait to get back out there.’”
Back in Vancouver, D’Ottavio was making calls to her teammates to see what
she could do for their upcoming games against the Capitals.
“We had a game the next day in the morning, so we got a hold of some
teammates and kind of just saw if we could put together a ride to even
watch the game,” D’Ottavio explains.
With plans underway to try to get herself to Langley, she thought of an
idea. Many of her teammates have old hockey gear in their homes. If she was
unable to have her own equipment with her due to the flooding, what if her
teammates could piece together a set for her?
“It was great,” she says. “I brought up the idea of getting some gear and
everybody was just so on board with it and really wanted to see me on the
ice, which was great because I really wanted to be on the ice and play with
everybody. It was really awesome.”
Decked out in a set of hockey gear cobbled together from several teammates,
the practicality of the idea hit when she stepped out on the ice.
“It was so awkward, and it was so weird,” D’Ottavio says. “Skating at
first, I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. Different skates are
so tough to get used to just to begin with, but ones that are already
broken in and old skates, it was so tough.”
Despite the discomfort, she recorded an assist in the Rush’s 3-2 overtime
win. With the game complete, the next challenge was how to return home.
D’Ottavio and her mother joined her defence partner Jade Lore and Lore’s
mother to see if they could find a way home without using the closed roads.
Their first thought was to drive to Pitt Meadows Airport, a regional
airport about 32 kilometres from Vancouver International Airport, to see if
they could find a small plane that could fly them home, but there was no
“We didn’t even have it in mind, but we saw the helicopter service across
the street and asked them if they had any availability,” she says. “It
turned out that somebody had cancelled, or they just had room and they were
generous enough to give us a ride.”
In her first helicopter ride, D’Ottavio had a birds-eye view to see
devastating flooding in her community first-hand.
“It was crazy. I couldn’t even recognize roads. There’s a highway that cuts
right through, we couldn’t even make out where the highway was. It was
worse than I would have imagined,” she says.
Although the circumstances surrounding the historic storm were difficult,
the generosity of those willing to help in the community was always
Several hockey associations
in surrounding areas helped those affected by the natural disaster. Dods
says her family assisted with filling up sandbags at a nearby park.
“It felt cool seeing all these people coming together,” Dods says.
D’Ottavio is thankful for all the generous acts that helped her and her
mother return home. As the city worked to repair the damages, she remembers
the positivity the community had for those most affected.
“Everybody was rallying around the farmers and the people living in the
floodplains that were affected and had to leave their homes,” D’Ottavio
adds. “The pilot told us that a bunch of plane and helicopter services were
giving people free rides across the water to get them home to their
families or people that had just left for work in the morning and just
couldn’t get home. It was really awesome to see.”
Although lots of the infrastructure damaged by the storm has been repaired,
there are still signs of the flooding six months later. Once the roads in
and out of town re-opened, D’Ottavio and Dods were happy to be back with
the Rush on their road to the Esso Cup.