Meet Laura Mark!
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Laura Mark and I currently live in Sudbury, Ontario and work for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). My hockey story started 23 years ago when I was about nine years old in the village of Coldwater, Ontario where I grew up.
I was born with multiple eye conditions that resulted in me being legally blind and created obstacles for me to participate in activities with my peers. However, that never stopped me from pursuing my desire to play hockey. Thankfully I had great support from my family and my parents saw my ability and not my disability. My dad knew that in order for me to be able to successfully play hockey with my vision loss and not being able to see the puck I would need to know the game inside and out. So he made a tactile ice surface using our deep freezer, coloured masking tape, checkers pieces, and a penny to show me what every position does, where every player should be during any possible play, and all the rules.
Once I understood the game and the movement of the game it was time to put my learning to practice on the ice. I started participating in a try hockey program put on by one of my teachers and a few volunteer parents. Once I learned how to skate on hockey skates and was getting the hang of playing the game, my parents signed me up for a local community girls hockey team. For the next 15 years I successfully played hockey as a visually impaired player on fully sighted community girls teams, my high school team, local women’s teams, co-ed pick up hockey and a few fun tournaments, even improving my skill enough to play center on some of the teams.
In 2013, after struggling to continue playing sighted hockey due to my deteriorating vision, I discovered Courage Canada, now known as the Canadian Blind Hockey Association. A not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for children, youth, and adults who are visually impaired and blind to learn how to skate and play hockey.
In 2014 I played my first blind hockey game when I attended the Canadian National Blind Hockey Tournament in Toronto, Ontario and I have been playing blind hockey ever since. I am a member of the Toronto Ice Owls Blind Hockey Team and the Canadian Blind Hockey Association.
What are you most looking forward to as a #WHLAMBASSADOR?
I want to be a WHL Brand Ambassador and am looking forward to being one to be able to encourage, empower, and motivate all girls and women from all walks of life to play the sport we all love. To show them that even if obstacles get put in our way we can still overcome them to play hockey. We need to be there to support each other and give the next generations the opportunities to not only play hockey but to help promote, grow and cheer on one another. We need to show our fellow female hockey players to embrace our abilities and strength no matter what our abilities are and to teach them that with practicing, hard work, dedication, and passion we can achieve our goals.
If you could sit down and have dinner with one female hockey player, who would it be and why?
If I could sit down and have dinner with one female hockey player it would be Hayley Wickenheiser. She is one of the first female hockey players I met when I first started playing hockey, at a time when female hockey was not popular. She was and continues to be a great role model showing that females could and should be able to play hockey. If it wasn’t for her, Laura Schuler, Cassie Campbell and other female hockey players showing us that females could and should play hockey, I may not have continued playing.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in hockey or in life?
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
“You don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.”
What’s your dream for women’s hockey?
My dream for women’s hockey is to grow, to give more opportunities for female players to play hockey at all skill levels. To see professional female hockey players get paid like their male counterparts. And for more female blind hockey players to play hockey. I would love to see a Canadian Female National Blind Hockey Team. I want there to be equality in hockey, after all hockey is for everyone!
Want to be a #WHLAmbassador?
Get more details and apply here!