While the Edmonton Oilers look to a bright future with the likes of Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, there is a similar youth movement occurring in Alberta with women’s ice sledge hockey. Only 16 years of age, Geneva Coulter represents the potential that the sport offers.
Having been recognized in 2014 with an “Up and Coming Scholarship Award” from the Sarah Burke Foundation, the award is a superlative way of recognizing young athletes that have demonstrated excellence. In addition to mentoring younger players, Coulter also has ambitions to one day become a coach.
Playing on the Edmonton-based PSA Dogs with fellow teenager (and national team member) Alannah Mah, they are both the foundation for the future of women’s ice sledge hockey in Alberta and Western Canada. Despite being afflicted in childhood with the Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a form of bone disorder that takes place in the ball of the hip by a disruption of blood flow, it cannot dampen Coulter’s positive outlook on life.
While the sport is still in its grass roots in Western Canada, akin to other regions of the country, the presence of such elite youngsters as Coulter and Mah ensures that attention will be paid. Of note, the two were also part of the Alberta provincial team’s development camp roster in February 2015, the only women invited.
Along with the presence of Eri Yamamoto MacDonald, who has played alongside them at the local and national levels, they have also been trained by Adapted Physical Activity specialist Kirsti Van Dornick. There is a strong feeling of friendship and loyalty between them, making the game much more enjoyable,
“We are close. It is helpful that all three of us are from Edmonton. We have played on the same team for the past two years, the Edmonton PSA Dogs, so there is a tremendous bond. One of the members of the national team, Eri McDonald, was my defense partner for an event in Buffalo.”
Like many other athletes, Coulter tried other sports before settling on her sport of choice. With her athletic roots in sit ski, a key aspect in Coulter’s development as an elite ice sledge hockey player stems from positive encouragement,
“I started out doing sit ski. Through the involvement of other people, I started playing ice sledge hockey. When I started, an influence was my teammate Tanner. He started playing with the PSA Blades out of Edmonton. He was always talking to me and encouraging me. He was a role model.”
While the inaugural IPC Women’s Worlds in 2014 was a landmark moment in Canadian women’s sporting history, hosted in Brampton, Ontario, it represented a significant milestone in Coulter’s very young career. At the tender age of 15, it was only natural that feelings of anticipation and unease represented an amalgam of emotion heading into the event. Culminating in jubilation upon its aftermath, Coulter reflects proudly on the historic chapter for the program,
“It was never wracking, a lot of pressure. Yet, it was an amazing experience. I would not give it up for the world. Just everything about it was amazing.”
Her first goal in the event would come in the second game, a 6-1 victory against Team Europe. Scoring in the third period, the assists credited to Eri Yamamoto MacDonald and Claire Buchanan. In addition, she would gain an assist in the third period, combining with Christine Gauthier on a goal scored by Corin Metzger. Coulter would follow it up with a sensational performance in Game 4 against Europe, scoring a hat trick.
Having acquired a remarkable amount of experience in Brampton, Coulter brought an increased confidence at Team Canada’s next competition. With the IPC Men’s Worlds taking place in March 2015 in Buffalo, New York, it served as the ideal backdrop to bring the US and Canadian national women’s teams together on the ice.
As the two take to the ice in an annual exhibition series, the US team serves as the host in odd-numbered years. Heading into Buffalo, Coulter and her teammates were the recipients of two unexpected yet highly deserving surprises.
Multiple Winter Games gold medalist Sami Jo Small addressed the team, instilling confidence and providing inspiration. As a side note, her husband Billy Bridges is a member of the national men’s team. In addition, Coulter and her teammates were given the privilege of wearing official Team Canada jerseys that had been donned by the women’s stand-up team at the Sochi Winter Games. Such an honor added a sense of triumph and acknowledgement for the entire roster, a feeling of elation that made Coulter’s experience in Buffalo even more memorable,
“It was really cool to actually wear their logo. It is a step closer to recognizing us. It helps set things up so that we can look the best that we can be.”
One of the most unique aspects of the ice sledge hockey experience for Coulter is the extraordinary efforts of her mother, Janice. Having graciously given her time over the years, Janice is every bit a member of the team as the empowering women who grace the ice. In addition, Coulter possesses the remarkable maturity to understand that when events take place, there are boundaries to be respected,
“It is really cool. When my mom is not with the national team, she does all this work at home, setting up camps.
During the event, we say goodbye. She is not my mom at the event. It is interesting how at these events, she makes everything go smoothly for the entire team.”
With the 2015 edition of the national women’s team training camp bringing both of them across the country to the capital region of Ottawa, Ontario, their collective efforts were testament to the love of the game. As Janice brings high energy and dedication to the national team, it is also a source of inspiration to Coulter, who was proud of her mother’s efforts in Ottawa.
“I think it is incredible. She worked really hard for the entire team. She is a huge factor and really makes the event special for everyone.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Facebook