08 September, 2013

Jaclyn Hawkins

I was 15 years old when I left the stability and comforts of home to chase a dream that perhaps at the time, no one saw but me.

I was playing in an organization out of Ottawa that was going through some tough times and talks of the organization folding were in the air.  I just wanted to play hockey.  I wanted to play all day, every day so the thought of not being able to play was horrifying. I was always outside in the driveway with my big brother and his friends playing street hockey.  My dad would make an outdoor rink in the backyard during the winter where you could always find my brother and me.  Hockey has always been a significant part of my life and my family’s life.

A good friend of mine had moved away to Watertown, CT to attend The Taft School – a private co-education boarding school.  We remained in touch while she was living in Connecticut and before you knew it, I was visiting Taft and a few other boarding schools in the New England area and contemplating moving 7 hours away from home.  If I were to attend Taft, I would be receiving a top notch education, while getting to play hockey 6 days a week during the season as well as playing for the Connecticut Polar Bears – a highly respected travel team.  Sounds like a great opportunity to me!  How could I pass that up?  I couldn’t and at the ripe age of 15, I left my hometown of Manotick, Ontario, Canada to chase a dream.

After spending three years at The Taft School, I was awarded a full scholarship to attend the University of Connecticut where I bled blue and white for the next four years as a Husky.  I was living a dream many aspire to, but my dream hadn’t been completed yet.

It’s every young girls’ dream to put on their country’s jersey and represent them in International competition.  After realizing that the odds of making it to the NHL and getting paid to play professionally were slim to none, wearing the Red and White was my dream; it was the dream of many before me and will continue to be the dream of many after me.  So, when I got a phone call in the summer of 2005 that I had been selected and given a try-out with the Canadian National U-22 team, words could not describe the emotions that filled my entire body.  This was it!  This was my stepping stone to get to where I wanted to be.  To wear that Canadian jersey with pride!  Opportunity had knocked and I was ready to answer!

Off to Calgary I went for the try-outs.  I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I would have to fight my way on to that team and earn my spot.  I practiced hard, played harder, ran faster than I ever thought possible, pushed as much weight as my body would allow and left nothing in me.  I had trained so hard leading up to that camp and I was determined to make the best case possible for myself.  I did everything I could to perform at my best and I felt great at try outs!

Judgment day arrived.  They were calling us in one at a time throughout the entire night.  I was the last one they called in at 5am.  I walked in feeling confident, sat down and waited.  The three words that came out of the coaches mouth evoked such a strong emotion, I didn’t know how to react … “we are sorry …”  To this day the only other words I remember them saying were, “your skating just isn’t up to par”.  Other than that, I have no idea what was said.  I was crushed.  Heartbroken.  Trying to fight back the tears, I grabbed my bags and headed out to the bus where all of the others who had been cut were waiting to take off to the airport.

I sat in my seat replaying what I could have done better or should have done differently and I was beyond frustrated.  Not because I thought of a million things I could or should have done differently, but because I could not think of one single thing.  I had left everything out on that ice and had put my best foot forward, but it just was not enough.  There is so much talent in Canada that to have even been selected as one of the top 40 in the country, was an honour.  I beat myself up for a long time afterwards because that was it.  That was my one chance to live my dream, to wear the Red and White and represent my country and I failed.  I was so caught up in being cut and the disappointment of all my hard work, sweat, tears and blood, that I had lost sight of all that I had accomplished.

In the summer of 2009 I signed a contract to go play on a professional women’s hockey team over in Zurich, Switzerland.  There, I spent the next 8 months living a dream.  I found myself in a foreign country getting paid to play the game I love while traveling in and around Europe.  It wasn’t until I went overseas to Switzerland that I realized that I had already achieved and lived my dream and was in fact living my initial dream of being paid to play hockey.  You see, at the U-22 Canadian try-outs we competed against Sweden and Finland’s National team and when you compete internationally, you wear your respective country’s jersey.  I wore the Red and WhiteCanadian jersey!  I wore it with pride, I played my heart out and I did it!  I represented my country back in 2005 and then got paid to play professionally overseas in Switzerland in 2009-2010.

The game of hockey has presented me with unlimited experiences and possibilities.  I lived in Connecticut for three years while attending The Taft School.  I spent another four years living in Connecticut, this time in Storrs at the University of Connecticut.  I saw the Northern Lights on a flight to Alaska for Nationals when I was 16.  I saw the Nut Cracker on Broadway in NYC, I have taken a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Vermont.  I have been to Detroit and seen the Red Wings play.  I have gotten lost in the Mall of America in Minnesota with my teammates and have skated in Central Park in NYC.  I have flown to Ohio and seen the stadium where the Buckeyes play.  I have friends who live in the United States, China, India, Brazil, Switzerland and Finland to name a few.  I have been in 21 of the 50 states in the United States.  I had a flight to Calgary, accommodations, food and clothing paid for where I got to experience life on the Canadian National Under 22 team for one week.  I had four years of a University education paid for in its entirety.  I lived in Zurich, Switzerland for 8 months where I herded cows down from the Swiss Alps, learned enough Swiss German to get by and got paid to play the game I love – hockey.  I have swum in the hot springs in Iceland, toured around the Prague Castle in the Czech Republic, laid on the beaches and swam in the Mediterranean in Mykonos, Greece.  I drove across the Tower Bridge in London, England and saw the city from the London Eye.  I ate pizza from a small Italian restaurant on the streets of Milan, Italy and took part in the festivities at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.  I have been to the top of the Eiffel tower, inside the Louvre and walked up and down the streets of Paris, France.  I tasted Guinness for the first time in Dublin, Ireland and walked through the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

I left the comforts of home and the stability of family and friends and took a risk when I was just 15, to live MY dream.

Tracey Rummell says:
18 August, 2010 at 17:21 PM
Jaclyn, I loved reading your success story and I enjoyed hearing of all of your accomplishments as they were unfolding over the years. Your story is heartwarming and inspiring. We are so proud of you!! May your happiness and success continue always. Love, Randy, Muffin, Will and Tait

Bob Clarke says:
20 August, 2010 at 22:11 PM
Jaclyn - A super story and a source of inspiration to lots of younger girls who would love to live the dream! Congratulations on a beautiful and comprehensive site which was much needed and I know will be very much appreciated by many young ladies involved in their own 'dream'. All the best. Bob and Judy Clarke

Celest Stang says:
26 August, 2010 at 14:09 PM
The website turned out great Jaclyn! Congrats!

Darlene Gourgon says:
30 August, 2010 at 13:25 PM
I agree with the comments above, a truly inspirational website. I know this site pertains to women's hockey but it is true for most athletes in any sport. You may not realize it at the time, but the accomplishments achieved are through both the highs and the lows of sport. Good job!

Glenda Carwardine says:
21 August, 2010 at 19:57 PM
Congratulations Jaclyn on ALL of your accomplishments, including this creative website. I have forwarded the link to a couple of my friends (younger!) who play hockey and have asked them to forward to their friends. All the best! Glenda

Carol Padolak says:
17 October, 2010 at 13:25 PM
Sharing your joy, your passion, and the highs and lows of your journey with others who have just started to dream will prove to be an amazing gift. You are an amazing woman and an inspiration.

Kelly Weiser says:
28 October, 2010 at 17:52 PM
You're an amazing person Jaclyn. One of the few in fact, who truly leads by example. You've demonstrated on so many levels that the definition of 'success' is doing what you love to do and sharing it with others. Looking forward to hearing about the next leg of your journey. Love from all, Kel

An inspired hockey player says:
11 November, 2010 at 22:27 PM
Your story about realizing and accomplishing your true dreams has really inspired me I've only been playing since I was 15 (and I'm 16 now) and even though Ive come a long way sometimes it feels like nothing could ever go right. When I saw your story though it just helps me realize that things will get better if I work really hard so thank you!! I hope to wear my country's colors with pride one day.

Graeme 44 says:
25 November, 2010 at 10:22 AM
Jaclyn, I am often asked what the secret of success is and my simple response is always I do what you love to do and you will be very successful. I am thrilled to see that in approximately one year, you have created a great forum for young women in hockey to have the spotlight put on them. Your transition from a leader and example to other young women on the ice has now moved off the ice as well. Your groundbreaking website is just the beginning of many successful things to come

Don Simmons says:
02 March, 2011 at 04:53 AM
Jaclyn, You clearly demonstrate what I admire about women's hockey. Your website is brimming with what makes the women's game, in some respects, superior to the men's game. That is the passion. There is passion in every phrase turned and every word written. I marvel at the love for the game shown by all women who play it. Keep up the good work, especially the information available to other women who wish pursue a life in hockey. I am definitely bookmarking the site.

Mark Staffieri says:
03 August, 2012 at 13:19 PM
Great story. You are making other players' lives better through your hard work.

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