Photo by Jessica Pincente

Haley, Jennings Hit the Ice with U16 Aboriginal team

By Jessica Pincente

TORONTO - Two Ryerson Rams women’s hockey coaches are hitting the ice this offseason, coaching a team of U16 Aboriginal girls from across the nation with the hopes of providing hockey-related opportunities to Indigenous girls from remote Canadian communities.

Lisa Haley, bench boss of the Rams, and Margaret Jennings, Ryerson’s lead assistant coach, have been with the squad since early July. The team, called Hit the Ice, features Indigenous girls from all across the country alongside an all-star coaching staff who are aiming to help the players achieve their goals.

The team is a part of a larger documentary series of the same name. The television show ‘Hit the Ice’ is entering into its seventh season, with the 2018 edition being the first to feature a girls’ team. The series runs on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in the winter.

“The producer of the show, Jason Brennan, approached Mel Davidson of Hockey Canada to inquire about a Head Coach for the event,” explains Lisa Haley. “Mel recommended me, Jason called me and explained the event and I jumped at the opportunity.”  

According to their website, “Hit The Ice is a multiplatform project which consists of a television show and a website which will see the top twenty Aboriginal players, aged 15 to 18 years old, experience the rigors of a professional training camp. Throughout the camp, these prospects will be put to the test and they will gain valuable experience as they get ready for their on ice audition in front of many junior scouts from Canada and the United States.”

This year’s team has been training out of North Bay, Ont. since early July. Haley and Jennings, along with the players and coaching staff, will travel to Boston, Massachusetts, to compete in the Beantown Classic Showcase Tournament from July 19 to July 22, 2018, a highly scouted event for both NCAA and U SPORTS schools.

“The players will have an opportunity to play in front of these scouts that they normally might not have considering many of them come from small and remote communities,” says Haley.

Haley and Jennings are working alongside several other high-quality coaches. Among the coaching staff is Brigette Lacquette, an Olympic silver medalist and the first Aboriginal woman to compete with Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team, and Jenesica Drinkwater, an assistant coach with the Kunlin Red Star of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and a former NCAA Div. 1 player at Syracuse University.

Haley says her priority as head coach of this team is to continue to grow the game of women’s hockey in Canada.

“It's been such a rewarding experience already, working with these players,” says Haley. “They are unbelievably keen and eager to learn and make the most of their time together.

“This is a new experience for myself and [Margaret Jennings].  It's also given the two of us a special opportunity to work together in a new environment, which will only make our relationship stronger when we return to Ryerson.”

Hit the Ice is scheduled to air on APTN this winter. To find out more information about the team or the series, you can visit their Facebook page or their website.  

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