Currently in her sixth campaign with the Brampton Thunder, Jennifer (Jenny) Kirk embodies the ambition and determination of CWHL hockey. Having qualified for Brampton’s roster in 2009 as a 26-year-old rookie, it would not take long for Kirk to capture the hearts and minds of the Brampton fan base.
On a team that began the campaign while missing the likes of Gillian Apps, Molly Engstrom, Jayna Hefford and Cherie Piper (due to their participation in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games), Kirk’s determination and pride at being part of such a strong franchise would provide tremendous inspiration for fans and teammates alike. Proving that one can never give up, and that it is never too late to follow your dreams, every time that Kirk would grace the ice, it was testament to such values.
Having grown up in Brampton, the chance to play for the Thunder was certainly a proud moment in Kirk’s career. As a side note, her hockey roots date back to playing boys hockey for the Brampton Maroons AA team. An added bonus for Kirk was the fact that she got to play alongside one of her favorite players growing up, two-time Winter Games participant Lori Dupuis.
“I was definitely a fan of Lori Dupuis growing up, so it was an absolute honor to play with her. I must say I was pretty nervous at first, Lori is a real intense player but I am so thankful for the experience. I have learned so much from her, she is probably one of the best players and best leaders I have ever played with.
Lori has turned out to be one of my best friends and I’m really happy that she is still around now as GM/Coach of the Thunder, it would not be the same without her!”
While Kirk has blossomed into a remarkable teammate and strong leader, she reflects proudly on the chance to be part of the roster at an advanced age. Akin to the 30-year old rookie in baseball, the chance to break in at an advanced age is a badge of honor.
It signifies a great character and a willingness to persevere in adversity. Representing a great personal victory, the most gratifying moment in Kirk’s inaugural campaign with the Thunder was discovering that she had qualified for the roster,
“I was obviously really happy and excited. I worked really hard in the off season that year to give myself a good shot at making the team. It was different coming into the league at 26 years old, you do not see that too often, but I took a few years off and went back to school and secured a good job.
I always wanted to play for the Brampton Thunder, I grew up in Brampton. I am glad that it all worked out, it has been a privilege and honor to play on this team and in this league with and against some of the best players in the world.”
Her rookie season with the Thunder would culminate in the opportunity to play for the second-ever Clarkson Cup championship game. Despite a heartbreaking loss to WWHL champion Minnesota Whitecaps (marking the first time that an American-based franchise would claim the Cup), it was a remarkable opportunity for Kirk to display her skills on a much larger scale.
Two years later, Kirk would have the opportunity to play for the hallowed Cup again. Competing against the Montreal Stars, it would prove to be another historic contest as Brampton goalie Liz Knox became the first rookie goalie to start a championship game. While Kirk’s goal is to eventually hoist the Cup over her shoulders, she fondly reflects on her postseason experiences,
“It is an incredible experience playing for the Clarkson Cup. It is such a great atmosphere for all the teams, players and fans. The Clarkson Cup is like our Stanley Cup, so the passion and emotions you get playing in that tournament are unreal.
I am looking forward to hopefully playing for the Clarkson Cup again this season. Hopefully we can play some good hockey down this last stretch and make a push for it, obviously that is our goal.”
While the last two seasons has seen the Thunder build for the future, an exciting rookie crop still requires players to look up to and emulate. It is a role that Kirk takes on with great pride. Kirk’s early years with the Thunder saw her play with a remarkable who’s who in women’s hockey. Those players would set the example that Kirk plays by today,
“I try my best to be a leader on and off the ice. We have a pretty young team so it is definitely good to have some vets on the team that can provide that leadership role.
Fortunately my first few years on the team I got to play with some amazing leaders – Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps, Ally Fox, Cherie Piper. I learned a lot from them, and again I am thankful for that experience and just hope that I can provide that same positive leadership for our younger players as they once did.”
"All quotes provided first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Jess Bazal