What is a girl from Irma, Alberta, Canada doing in Schenectady, New York at Union College? That is a question that has crossed my mind more often than I would like to admit. I am a long way from Kitscoty High School and home. With my family and friends on my mind and in my heart but thousands of kilometres away, I go through my day.
The day of a NCAA Division 1 athlete is an interesting one. You have to schedule classes around practices and lifts and fit meetings in there too. It is funny how many meals you can miss and not realize it until it’s 11 pm and you’re laying in bed! Somehow, even your off days fill up with the things you did not have time to fit in during the week, like your work study job or meetings with a professor.
I have quickly learned the value of a 20 minute power nap and the quickest ways to get across campus. Although Starbucks is no substitute to Tim Horton’s for a Canadian, it is a helpful push for your day as well. This has all been a part of the change that I never really took into account when I was chasing my dream to be exactly where I stand now.
Union College is a small Liberal Arts school in Schenectady, New York. The class size and campus size were both big pluses for me when I made my decision to commit to play for the Dutchwomen. Hockey is the only Division 1 sport at Union College and this gives us a bit more respect. Our schedules are demanding and the staff and professors realize this and most will do their best to help us however they can. A very small percentage of women get the opportunity to play college hockey and an even smaller amount are lucky enough to play NCAA Division 1 hockey.
Hockey has always been a part of my identity and I want to play the best, most competitive hockey I can while I receive an education. So, my dream of playing NCAA Division 1 hockey was formed. I set myself on track to reach this goal by playing Midget AAA hockey with the Lloydminster Steelers and by striving to make Team Alberta. Both of these teams gave me exposure and sure enough, scouts noticed me and reached out. Fast forward 3-4 years and in September 2019 I stepped onto the ice at Union, achieving my goal.
Like in a relationship, I experience “honeymoon” stages just like many other people. The adrenaline and excitement of all the new things like my new room, people, team, gear and coaches kept me riding a high. And then I hit week four and I began to feel like I was not really present and I was just moving through the motions.
The full effect of the major life change I had gone through was sinking in. I miss my family, friends, The Steelers, Kitscoty High School, the Bantam Blazers team I used to help coach. Everything that was my normal is far far away. But then, as a Freshman goaltender I got to start back to back games, facing 90 shots in a weekend and I got honoured with the ECAC Goalie Of The Week. Another huge achievement! All the texts and messages I received after this was announced was a much needed reminder of the support that I have all around me.
Today, I was doing an interview and something clicked in my mind—I realized that the dream I proudly spoke to my friend, leaning against her door in grade 10, became not only my dream, but the dream of all of the people who supported me as well. The least I can do for these people is to make them proud, and every win or accolade is for them.
To all of those people who happen to read this: thank you. That dream of mine, of ours, was not possible without every person in my life. Every family member, friend, teacher, coach, teammate, bus driver, manager, billet and fan.
Next time I ask myself what a girl from Irma, Alberta, Canada is doing in Schenectady, New York I will say that I am fulfilling my dream, and most of all, I am making everyone who ever supported me proud. Thank you all.
Want to follow along for a day in Bella’s life?
She’ll be doing an Instagram takeover on WHL Academy on Friday November 1, 2019!
Click here to follow along!