By Kyra McDonald (as told to Katherine Dolan)
My biggest challenge as a 15-year-old hockey player with dreams of playing for Team Canada is being seen by scouts.
You see, I grew up in Inuvik, N.W.T. a small community of around 3,300 people. I am one of the best players in our area, I won the Top Female Forward of the Tournament award at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships as well as the Most Sportsmanlike, but it doesn’t bring me any more attention down south. That’s where it matters.
But I won’t let that stop me from pursuing my dream.
My role model is Brigette Lacquette. She was the first Aboriginal woman to play for Team Canada and I hope one day to become the second. I’ll never forget her advice to all of us girls at a hockey camp I attended. She said that when she was playing hockey as a girl, she experienced a lot of racism. Other kids would call her names and she would get broken down. She said you just can’t listen to them you have to ignore everyone.
Her advice just stuck with me.
I have only experienced racism once at a tournament last year but it was a big eye-opener for me. It motivates me, even more, to show just what Aboriginal players can do. Just showing that I deserve to be there and can do anything anyone else can do.
That is why I had to move down south.
There are a lot of good players from the North, but a lot of them don’t get seen and aren’t as lucky as I am to be able to go down south to play.
So, this is my first year away from my family.
At the end of the summer I moved to St. Albert and I am living my dream, playing Midget Triple AAA with the St. Alberta Slash. It’s a huge difference from my regular routine up North when it comes to hockey. I love it as I have learned so much, but it is so different.
What I used to do back home was meet my Dad at the local rink during my school lunch for open skate. There normally wasn’t anyone there, so it was like my own private lesson, practicing shooting and skating.
I played for the Inuvik Ice Bears last season, but have no stats to share with you. There were around 5 girls on the team and 10 guys. We only had one team in our community, and we barely had enough most days to ice a full team.
My Dad was the coach and it’s because of his drive and determination that I have taken up the same passion for hockey. My Dad is my inspiration because growing up he was fairly poor, but he loved hockey and wanted to become better. He barely had enough equipment to play, but he taught himself how to play and eventually got good enough to play down south in Alberta.
He didn’t have the opportunities, yet he still pushed himself and managed to get those opportunities. He will always be my inspiration.
My biggest challenge this year will be myself. I sometimes can get down on myself if I am not playing good and I know it will be tough this year because I will be with a lot of amazing players. But I know that the best thing I can do for myself is to calm down, and convince myself that I can keep up with these girls.
And it’s true.
If I play at my best, I know I can keep up with anyone.
So for those of you who might be living up in the North or are in remote communities around the country, I want to share with you my best piece of advice.
Train hard, work hard and know it’s not impossible. Don’t talk about how great you are, show people what you can do.
You deserve to be seen. Find a way to make the opportunities happen. There is always a way.
Work hard for it and know you can do anything.
See you on the ice,