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AMBASSADOR SPOTLIGHT: Jessica Lafrenière | Ontario

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Jessica Lafrenière, I am 28 years old and shocked to say that I have already been playing hockey for the past 18 years! I’ve dealt with a lot of ups and downs in life and hockey has always been my escape. It doesn’t matter what the day brings, the second I step onto the ice nothing else matters.

Growing up with two older sisters, hand-me-downs were always dresses and Barbies but who knew what I was really cut out for were skates and hockey pants! When my stepdad, Pops, came into our lives it truly changed everything. Not only did he commit to helping raise three girls, he was the catalyst I needed to ignite this powerful fire inside me. For each of four years, I wished that was the year my mum would tell me I could play hockey. Then finally, 2001 was the new beginning I had been waiting for. Upon moving to Aurora, my mum asked if I wanted to join the hockey league! I have found something that I am so passionate about, and can turn to on the good days, bad days and every day in between.

Eighteen years later, I am the Alternate Captain and Team Manager of our traveling women’s hockey team, the Wandering Misfits. I continue to play every chance I get and feel it is part of my life journey, and hopefully one day career, to continue to grow the women’s hockey game, our game, my game. Being an ambassador for the WHL is a great match for these goals.

What made you want to be a WHL Ambassador?

Fostering the growth of women’s hockey is one of my life missions and what better brand to be an ambassador for than Women’s Hockey Life? The values of WHL to grow the women’s game and community are very much aligned with my own.

As a Team Manager, I am always on the lookout for recreational tournaments to enter our team into. But we are often faced with one of two common scenarios: either the women’s division gets cancelled due to poor registration or only enough teams enter to host a single division, and we get a thorough shellacking from competitive level teams. This last point is particularly disheartening because we have witnessed firsthand how it discourages some teams from ever returning. So, as an ambassador, I want to join forces with others to bring more visibility to women’s hockey and create more opportunities for those who want to play or learn.

What are you most looking forward to as a #WHLAmbassador?

I am most looking forward to making new connections with women who are looking to play for the first time and those who share my passion for the game, both locally and internationally. I can’t wait to collaborate with and create new opportunities with players from around the world and see what we can do to grow awareness together. Talking about hockey usually puts a smile on my face, and I’d love to spark the fire in others.

What’s something not a lot of people know about you?

I was born with a congenital right-hand amputation. Most people would never know while I’m out there on the ice. I have worked with War Amps and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital since I was a child. They developed a prosthetic that fits right into my glove which allows me to hold onto my stick. Currently, my prosthetist Neal Ready, is working with me to create a new prosthetic to allow me to fulfill a life long dream of being a goalie. Of course, I will still play out, but I’ve always wanted to play net and hey, this just means more ice time!!

If you could sit down and have dinner with one female hockey player, who would it be and why?

This question definitely had me sitting back in my chair to think. Growing up, my hockey heroes were all men in the NHL. Outside of the Olympics, I’d never been exposed to elite women’s hockey and it wasn’t so long ago that I first learned of the CWHL, sad right!?

But I think I would sit down with Lady Isobel Stanley, daughter of Lord Stanley. What was it like for her to play the game so long ago? What was it was like growing up with parents who supported women playing hockey? What did she think about the Stanley Cup then and what it may represent in the future of hockey? And what would she think of the state of professional women’s hockey today? Would she be surprised that 130 years later, we still have so much work to do?

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in hockey or in life?

“Keep your feet moving, Jessie!” – Jennie Henderson-Callaghan, Teammate

Little does she know this advice has helped me on and off the ice. Each stride counts and you’re not going to get anywhere fast if you’re just coasting.

What’s your dream for women’s hockey?

To see women’s professional hockey receive the same recognition and financial backing as the men’s game. The young players coming up in the game deserve to have players and role models they can relate to and aspire to be like.

Plus, I’d like to see a significant growth in the women’s recreational level as well. I want the mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers of the world to know that it is possible for them to come out and enjoy playing hockey.

Imagine, women’s recreational teams from around the world convening in one central location to participate in the world’s single largest recreational tournament for women. I certainly do.


 

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