While the Canadian Women’s Hockey League has had athletes with backgrounds in other sports such as soccer, softball plus track and field, Julie Paetsch is challenging convention with her second sport of choice. Shattering barriers by competing in women’s tackle football, Paetsch is poised to become the most unique two-sport star in the history of the CWHL.
Having registered for the 2013 CWHL Draft, Paetsch has a unique athletic background. As a member of the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, Paetsch helped the club win three unprecedented league championships from 2011 to 2013.
Possessing an athletic background in rugby, football was a natural transition for her. Competing as a running back on offense and patrolling the backfield on defense as a linebacker, Paetsch helped the Valkyries to undefeated seasons in 2011 and 2012.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that she was playing tackle football while she was competing on the varsity women’s hockey team at the University of Saskatchewan. Wearing number 8 in both sports, Paetsch became a local celebrity for her international exploits on the football field.
Paetsch was part of the Canadian National Team that competed at the inaugural 2010 Women’s World Tackle Football Championships (held by the IFAF). While Canada had to settle for silver, she led all Canadian players in the event with 329 total rushing yards.
When Canada was fielding a team for the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds in Vantaa, Finland; Paetsch was part of the squad. Originally named to the reserve roster last winter, she missed part of the 2013 WWCFL season with a knee injury. At the time, it seemed unlikely that she would compete for Canada again.
With tenacity being one of her defining characteristics, she was able to recover and make an impression. During the 2013 WWCFL championship game, Paetsch made a great contribution that opened the eyes of many cynics. Competing in only her second game of the season, she was named Defensive Player of the Game.
Unlike her role at the 2010 IFAF Women’s Worlds, Paetsch was now relied upon for her defensive abilities. While it was a different role, she managed to contribute some great performances in 2013.
The semi-final against Finland resulted in tying among the team lead in tackles, complemented by an interception. In the gold medal game against the United States (a rematch of the 2010 final), Paetsch led all competitors with 11.5 tackles. For her efforts, she was recognized as Player of the Game for the Canadians.
Although the US emerged as world champions, the ability of Paetsch to return from a knee injury and display great athletic versatility made her one of the feel-good stories of the event. It is the type of character that she will need to display in order to excel in the ranks of the CWHL.
As tackle football kept Paetsch occupied in the off-season; the conditioning would have a positive effect on her abilities on the ice. Of note, her final season with the Huskies hockey team reflected the leadership and athleticism that made her a 2012 First-Team CIS All-Canadian selection.
While the 2011-12 did not finish with an opportunity to compete in the CIS Nationals, Paetsch had left the Huskies program on a remarkable note. Serving as one of the team captains, her 34 points (on the strength of 20 assists) not only led her team, but it resulted in a Canada West scoring title. The accolades of her stellar season would include being named to the Canada West First-Team All-Stars (she was a Second-Team selection in 2010).
With former Huskies teammate Danny Stone also part of the 2013 CWHL Draft, the thought of the two reuniting is highly possible. Both were highly skilled, consistent scorers that would add much needed grit to any CWHL lineup.
Chelsea Purcell, a competitor with Team Alberta was a former captain with the Huskies. Should Paetsch and Stone join Purcell and don the blue and gold jerseys for Alberta, it may result in the third year franchise earning its first trip to the postseason.
Julie Paetsch Football Canada image: https://www.facebook.com/FootballCanada?fref=ts
In action with Huskies hockey team: http://english.cis-sic.ca/sports/wice/2011-12/releases/20120223-cw
Portrait wearing the Huskies jersey: http://huskies.usask.ca/news/2010/July/2010-07-02-wfb/
Donning the Valkyries football jersey: http://www.saskatoonvalkyries.com/p/team.html