By Darren Lum
Published Feb. 27 2018
It’s all for the love of hockey.
Under the Bancroft Jets Girls Hockey Association which includes a peewee and midget team with Highlands girls the bantams’ 15-member roster includes several players from the county which includes Emily Alexander Gillian Rosik Emma Tidey Jaylin Frost Ryan Rupnow and Bella Smolen.
They come from all over including two from Marmora one from Barry’s Bay and six from Bancroft.
Every winter the local girls and their families drive countless hours and miles making the trip to and from practices alternating between Wilberforce and Bancroft. This includes regular season and tournament games. All of this effort is worth it.
Like all the girls 14-year-old Jaylin Frost loves hockey and her teammates.
She describes her team as a second family and the rink as a second home.
Jaylin appreciates hockey for its physical nature and how it keeps her fit.
There is nothing like jumping on the ice and playing hockey to leave all your troubles behind she said.
“When I go out there I zone out everything that is happening off the ice. I’m in my own world and I’m with my friends and doing what I love … I get a feeling in my gut. It’s butterflies. They all go away when I hit the ice” she said.
She credits her brother who is seven years older Brayden with helping her improve whether it is advice or getting in net for her to take shots. He played several years as a goalie.
“We went to a lot of hockey games when I was a baby and then my brother and my dad taught me how to skate and it kind of got me into hockey. Ever since then I really enjoyed the sport” she said.
As a bantam player Jaylin expects to be able to play for the Jets for another three years.
After that she doesn’t know what will happen. She just hopes she remains connected to the sport somehow. College hockey could be something beyond midget hockey she said.
Her dad Bill regularly sees his daughter shooting some 80 pucks at a net from the deck at the back of the house. He believes in the importance of athletics for children for a variety of benefits.
“It gives them confidence. It gives them goals. It works on their discipline. One of the other things that’s great is when you’re driving them it’s just you and your child so you could be driving for two hours and you have some pretty fantastic conversations. You talk about everything” he said.
Although some of the time children will listen to their iPods he remembers having some thoughtful conversations with his older son Brayden.
Often there are two games a weekend and one or two practices either in Wilberforce or Bancroft.
When Jaylin’s brother was an atom-aged player he started in “travel hockey” her dad said. As a result she was taken all over to accompany him and the family. She was practically born into hockey.
Her dad remembers a funny interaction earlier this season following a tournament when his daughter played five games in three days. While driving home from the tournament his wife suggested a day off but Jaylin didn’t even consider it hoping to play the next day.
Playing hockey is a family affair he said.
Working weekdays until 5 p.m. sometimes Jaylin’s parents can’t drive their daughter to practice due to work so her grandparents help out. Bill said this actually brings families together.
“It brings grandparents together too” Bill said. “There are so many grandparents at hockey. If they live in the area they go.”
When it comes right down to it it’s all about the child.
“I always say ‘you do it because they want it’” he said.
Without a high school team there isn’t an opportunity for girls to play in front of friends or neighbours at either the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena or the A.J. LaRue Arena. Jaylin is hopeful a team can form while she is at the high school.
Cheryl Tidey of Minden said her daughter Emma loves playing hockey. It’s been this way since she started at three years old with the Highland Storm county league.
After county league Emma played hockey with the boys during her atom years. The move to playing with girls came the first year of peewee hockey when body checking is allowed.
“I can’t speak for others but the body checking was a contributing factor along with the fact that many of her friends and fellow players were trying out for the team which made it easier to make the transition” Tidey said.
“Bancroft has a fantastic development hockey program and already had an established girls association. It is one hour away and we have been fortunate to have practices in Wilberforce to meet halfway for the Bancroft and surrounding area players and the Haliburton County families.”
There is a social aspect to this team she said.
“Emma has made some great friendships that will last a lifetime. The car pooling with her teammates has made the travel very enjoyable and cost effective and watching the girls work together and push themselves to reach their goal of going to the Lower Lakes Championships and provincials is my motivation to travel to Bancroft” she wrote.
Backstopping the bantam team is Bella Smolen now playing in her third season as the team’s goalie.
Bella’s decision to first play net was rooted in the team’s needs but has grown into real enjoyment.
Her mother Dani said this is her daughter’s favourite sport.
She “loves her position. She takes it seriously because her team depends on her. She thrives on that responsibility” she wrote.
Over the years there have been many car pooling opportunities and shared accommodation.
“Overall I find that travelling with others and lodging brings the girls closer together and adds to the experience on a whole” she wrote.
Smolen said her daughter is dedicated and competitive.
Twice a month Bella travels to London with her brother who is also a goalie to work with a goalie coach.
None of the hockey would be possible without prioritizing Dani said.
“She tries to be well rounded but has had to make some sacrifices. She won’t be going to her dance competition this year because it is the same weekend as provincials but she is dedicated to the team and the team is dedicated to her. They knew she wanted to do The Nutcracker this year (after missing last year ) and they chose a different hockey tournament from the one they always do so that she could do that” she wrote.
Playing hockey hasn’t come without “serious injuries” this past year.
Bella has been pushing through them she adds which included a bout of pneumonia.
During this illness her teammates stepped up for her and took turns playing for her and won both games.
“They are such amazing young ladies and a great organization! Overall this has been a great experience” she wrote.