The Oxford Dictionary describes hockey as “a game played on ice between two teams of six players each, in which players try to shoot a puck into the opposing team’s net with sticks.” But to me hockey is a way of life.

It is a sport that has taught me teamwork, trust, a dedication that is second-to-none, and respect—both for the members of my own team and the members of the opposition. The game of hockey has defined not only the way I live, but also who I have grown up to be today.

I have had a passion for hockey from my earliest memories. Growing up in Port Hardy, I was so excited to stay up past bed time to watch the end of the hockey game on TV with my dad. The best nights of all were with my mom when we stopped at the gas station for a hot chocolate before heading to the rink to watch my dad play.

At the age of four, and after skating for a couple years, I asked my dad if I could buy gear and join a hockey team. That day we went down to the local sports store and about an hour later I left carrying my very own hockey bag full of gear. I remember how happy I was to be able to finally be a part of a real hockey team.

Growing up in a small town I was forced to play on the boys teams until my second year of Bantam hockey, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Playing with the boys pushed me to be stronger and faster and to prove that I deserved to be on their team. After being with the same group of boys every year for hockey and each day at school, I eventually felt like I became one of them. They stopped giving me a hard time about being a girl and accepted me as a teammate.

Some of the best memories I have from growing up are at hockey tournaments, in the arena, and being part of a team with some of the best friends and coaches anyone could ask for. The coaches I had throughout my life have taught me so much about who I am as a person. I have had the “friend” coach who is easy to talk to and is more than willing to sit down with you and chat about everyday life as if we were long time friends. I have also had the “enforcer” coach who does not want to be your friend: he is there to coach.

I wouldn’t trade one for the other. The friend coach taught me how to care for others even if we aren’t the closest of people, and how working as a team is better than working alone. The enforcer coach taught me some of the hardest lessons, but always the most worthwhile. He taught me that every action we make has a consequence. He also taught me how to be the bigger person in difficult situations and make the best of the moments you can’t change.

Even at a young age I learned a respect for the game: how to trust my teammates and how it feels to have them trust me in return, and how my actions not only affect my outcome but also the 15 other people fighting for the same goal.

When I was 16 I decided to play competitive hockey for a team that was three hours away from home. My parents sat me down and explained the commitment involved—not only the physical aspects, but also the mental dedication needed in playing for this team. I played on the team for the three seasons to follow. Travelling every weekend and missing school each week was a mental strain and so was training alone during the week because I lived so far away from my team. I wanted to play on a competitive, higher-level hockey team so I pushed myself to stay at the best I knew I could be.

After graduating high school I moved south to attend VIU and I began working for the City of Nanaimo teaching skating and hockey lessons. I have done that for three years now and couldn’t imagine going to work every morning anywhere else. I have taught players from the age of two right up to the seniors citizens at the senior leisure skate.

Nothing makes me happier than teaching toddlers to skate and play hockey. Any day that I can share my passion on the ice makes me feel like everything I have worked hard for has been worth it. A perfect day in my world is when I can leave the rink knowing one child now has the desire to pursue a game that is guaranteed to teach life lessons.

In the years to come I plan to start a family and I can only pray that my children are able to inherit the same passion I have for Canada’s favourite game.