Considering part of the remarkable growth that women’s hockey in Atlantic Canada has experienced, Julianne Bruce is honing her skills at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport with the Carleton University Ravens. Having grown up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, she is part of a remarkable number of Atlantic-raised players making their mark on CIS play.
Her sojourn towards competing in the CIS began with participation at Trinity College, a school near Port Hope, Ontario. Competing there provided her with familiarity concerning hockey in Southern and Eastern Ontario. Majoring in journalism, it was another factor in making the decision to suit up for the Ravens squad, as the Ottawa-based University is renowned for its journalism program.
Beaming with Atlantic pride, she reflects on the excitement of competing with Team Nova Scotia at the 2011 edition of the Canada Winter Games. As the event was held on home soil in Nova Scotia, it provided Bruce with several highlights in her young career,
“That was awesome. The event was held in Halifax. Our first game was against Prince Edward Island in front of 4,000 fans. I scored a goal against Yukon. My grandparents, parents, brothers and friends saw me play. Everyone was there for every game.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Bruce’s career is her resiliency. A concussion not only sidelined her for most of her freshman season, it nearly derailed her hockey career. During the third period of a November 24, 2012 contest against the McGill Martlets, Bruce lost an edge on her skate behind the Ravens net. Crashing head first into the boards, her neck and jaw had hit the ledge; it was a terrifying moment for Bruce and her teammates.
Unconscious on the ice, she was removed from the arena in a stretcher. Fortunately, she did not suffer any neck or spinal-related injuries. Although she was released from the hospital the same day, she would return in January 2013 as she suffered nausea and dizziness after a run.
One of the most difficult aspects of recovering from an injury, especially the struggle with post-concussion syndrome is the mental strain. With the problems that concussions can cause with dizziness and concentration, which can hamper the performance of a student-athlete in the classroom, one’s self-esteem can easily suffer in the process. Considering this was the third concussion in Bruce’s career, it took some soul searching and the consultation of friends and family to decide whether to keep playing hockey.
“The concussion happened after the first two periods of a game in November 2012. I was hospitalized. I feel fine now but sometimes I get tired and there headaches. You learn to take it in stride. Sometimes I get them (headaches) in class but you learn to deal with it. I could not imagine not playing hockey after 11 years.”
Although she was still recovering from her concussion when the Ravens played against Team Germany in an exhibition contest prior to the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Ottawa, Bruce managed to attend the game and show her support. Although she would have preferred to participate in the contest, it was an enjoyable event,
”I was one of the fans. I was amazed to see them play Germany. Truly a neat perspective on the game.”
Of note, one of the players on Team Germany was a former team captain with the Ravens, Sara Seiler. Still involved with the Ravens as a Fitness Coach, Bruce has benefited from Seiler’s insights on the game. Knowing that Seiler had the opportunity to suit up for the German contingent at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games was a great point of pride for Bruce and the Ravens program,
“We were super excited for her. Everyone messaged her. It is great that she still has ties on this team. It reflects well on her and she deserved it.”
To call Bruce an inspiration is an understatement. Her return to the ice in her sophomore season represented a significant personal victory for her. Testament to her character and determination is the ability to deal with post-concussion syndrome while balancing her studies.
On October 19, 2013, those involved with the game were happy to see Bruce donning the red and black Ravens jersey once again. Adding to the jubilation was the fact that the Ravens prevailed in the contest by a 2-1 tally over the Concordia Stingers. Her first point of the season would come in a November 10 road match versus the McGill Martlets.
In a 2013-14 season that saw the 11 freshmen and 5 sophomores suit up for the rebuilding program, Bruce is one of those players that hold the promise of better days ahead. While there were some difficult losses, Bruce points out how the chemistry represented some positive aspects.
“The team is pretty nice. At the start of the year, the team was bonding actually. It is nice to get to know the new girls. We trained with the girls five days a week. Coming into the regular season, we knew each other very well.”
Despite having had a few battles with her health early in the season, her character and toughness help to set a positive example. Through it all, Bruce still managed to play a highly disciplined game during the season, accumulating only four penalty minutes, while keeping her team competitive for a postseason spot. With ambitions to improve her game next season, Bruce is definitely dedicated to her team and her love of the game.
“There were sort of concerns health wise. I had stomach issues and was hospitalized in November (2013). I am concerning on improving my game even more. I have been a very offensive defender type player and I have lost a bit of that. It is an aspect I am focusing on. Now that I am back, I am hoping to start scoring some more goals.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Carleton Ravens athletics