Enjoying her inaugural season with the University of New Brunswick Reds, Jana Headrick provides a combination of championship experience and strong leadership, poised to make her an essential component for a program aiming for a place in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship picture.
Having spent her first four seasons with the revered University of Toronto Varsity Blues, playing for head coach Vicky Sunohara, Headrick’s final season (2019-20) involved winning the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) postseason tournament. Hoisting the McCaw Cup, it represented a celebrated swan song for Headrick, providing a glorious finale to her time with the proud program.
Undeniably, Headrick’s arrival with UNB is most welcomed by Sarah Hilworth. The head coach integral in propelling the Reds into conference contenders since the program’s rebirth, Hilworth has quickly become one of the most admired leaders in AUS hockey.
Since the Reds have enjoyed the contributions of numerous star players, including Jenna MacLean, Ashley Stratton and Kendra Woodland, among others, the presence of Headrick, wearing the number 27, makes her an ideal mentor for first and second year players on the program. Proud to have such an accomplished player on a highly talented roster, which may promise to be the finest yet, Hilworth regards Headrick as an impact player for the Reds,
“Jana came from the University of Toronto, where she did a four-year degree. Last year, she was with us. Due to Covid, she did not get to play. We are fortunate to have her. I cannot think of a better person to (help) lead our program. The goal is to push our team forward and get as many people involved as possible.”
Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sports Recreation Studies at UNB, Headrick was prepared to wear the Reds jersey in the autumn of 2020. With an entire season of USports ice hockey shelved due to a pandemic, the 2021-22 season is one met with cheerful relief and a joyous eagerness.
Just as relevant in Headrick’s hockey journey involves her roots. Raised in the Garden River First Nation, located near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, her reflections on growing up involved more than just a stick in hand. With hockey as a key driver in fostering a sense of community, helping to transform her core values, there was no shortage of heroes during such formative years,
“I am super fortunate to be from a place where hockey is a huge part of the community. Everyone here shares a huge love of the game. Some of the most notable are Ted and Jordan Nolan. When Jordan brought back the Stanley Cup, our community held a parade, and it was great to see people support that.
Players from our community also play in Sault Ste. Marie at all different levels. Every March, there is the Little NHL, which stands for Native Hockey League, tournaments. You play for your own community and I played every year that I grew up. To see everyone come together. The support from the community is magical. Hockey is our community and to know how important it is, it sticks out in my mind.”
Making her Reds debut on October 8, 2021, a 4-3 win versus the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers, Headrick has also used this season to honor her Indigenous roots. Among the highlights has involved participation as one of the key figures for UNB’s Indigenous Camp for Young Girls. Held for six Sundays throughout October and November, an event fully booked, the admirable effort is one that embodies Headrick’s goal of paying it forward.
Becoming the type of role model that was just as influential in her youth, perhaps Headrick’s most admirable quality remains her humility. Having worked with Brigette Lacquette, a Winter Games silver medalist and INDspire Award winner, at a hockey camp near her community, Headrick continues to find role models, propelling her towards attaining her own commendable objectives.
“A couple of years ago, Brigette Lacquette paid a visit to my community. She helped run a hockey camp in Sault Ste Marie and I worked with her. She talked about her experience at the Olympics. Seeing how she enjoyed the process, it was super inspiring and very meaningful. I could not imagine how impactful it was for girls aged 7, 8 or 9.”
Adding an element of joy for Headrick’s UNB experience involves the presence of a familiar face in her inaugural season of AUS play. Returning for his third season of play with the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers, the presence of older brother Owen Headrick provides an inspiration that is destined to bring family closer together.
With gleeful jubilation, Headrick already has her calendar circled for key dates in the season. As several dates line up for the Reds and Panthers, opportunities exist for a proud show of support. Excited at the prospect of family in attendance, the feeling of motivation and achievement shall shine brightly for both Jana and Owen, a season poised to be highly memorable,
“This is his third year in AUS now. It has super nice to know he is only a couple of hours away. A couple of times this season, our schedules align, and to be able to play in the same league and show my support at some of his games is awesome. Our family is coming this season and catching some of our games.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Varsity Blues image obtained from Facebook
Other images: UNB Reds varsity athletics