Proudly donning the red colors of the York Lions, Renata Bastos Gottgtroy is part of a growing trend in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s ice hockey. The last several seasons has seen a growing number of international players don the ice in CIS rinks, gaining a unique perspective on the game while being part of an exceptional level of competition.
The last few seasons of CIS hockey has seen players from France, Germany, Japan, Norway and Russia take to the ice. Such an impact is also evident on the score sheet and in the box scores. Russian native Iya Gavrilova captured the Canada West scoring title, also earning All-Canadian honors, while Marion Allemoz became the first player from France to serve as a captain in CIS play, leading Les Carabins de Montreal to the 2016 national championship.
Raised in New Zealand, where her love of the sport at Western Springs College was also fulfilled with inline hockey, rugby, soccer, softball, track and field, plus volleyball, Gottgtroy is also making her mark on the ice. Having only first played at the age of 16, Gottgtroy also played in Sweden with LHC Dam Junior to help refine her game.
Although Gottgtroy is not from a typical hockey background, it has not deterred her from helping usher in a new era for the sport there. Taking into account that the sport in New Zealand may still be in its development stages, Gottgtroy is undoubtedly one of its ambassadors. Playing for the national team, the chance to don her homeland’s colors is a tremendous point of pride. With nearby Australia featuring Alivia Del Basso, the first player from that nation to compete in NCAA hockey, there is also a competitive league (one that saw Canadians Liz Knox and Christine Bestland spend a season there), signifying that the sport is definitely on the rise in Oceania.
Gracing the ice at the forward position with the Lions, Gottgtroy’s efforts towards fitness and improving her playmaking skills have also complemented her desire to live up to the responsibility of being a student-athlete. Employing a solid work ethic in everything that she does, it yielded tremendous results, providing the Lions hockey program with a point of pride.
“One of the things that I have enjoyed the most about playing for York is seeing myself grow as a player. I came to Canada playing based of instinct, but playing at York has added tactics, systems and specific skills that I didn’t have to my game. Outside of the ice, team mates, their families and the York Lions community have become part of what I call my Canadian family and without them my time at York would not be the same.
Through crazy Canadian winters, late night studying, away bus trips, and all other crazy moments, my Canadian and New Zealand family have always put a smile on my face. The challenges that have come with being an international varsity athlete have been very tough at times, but they are also central to my enjoyment in Canada as they have enabled me to grow as a person and overcome barriers that didn’t seem possible.”
Having joined the Lions in the autumn of 2013, Gottgtroy would see action in 15 games, while recording the second highest total of points among freshmen players. The following season, she would suit up for 17 games while earning her first CIS Academic All-Canadian recognition. Along with four of Gottgtroy’s teammates, goaltender Megan Lee, twin sisters Caitlin and Erran Lee along with Lisa Stathopoulos, they posted the five highest Grade Point Averages among the Lions’ female student athletes.
Gottgtroy has equally gained an impressive education on the ice. Excelling under the tutelage of head coach Dan Church, who also served two seasons as the helm for Canada’s national women’s ice hockey team, she has also learned from fellow coach Jen Rawson. A former head coach for UBC, Rawson’s greatest hockey legacy involved leading the University of Toronto Lady Blues to a CIS national title.
Although the gruelling winters were unlike anything that she had experienced in her native New Zealand, it has resulted in a pleasant adjustment, helping her truly get in touch with the spiritual and emotional meaning of the game in Canada. Hearing the Canadian national anthem prior to her Lions debut served as a seminal moment in her promising career,
“While I have many favourite moments in my career as a Lion, the moment that stands out the most to me was the national anthem of my first game as a Lion. Standing on the blue line looking up at the Canada flag, at my team mates on the bench and up to the camera to my family back home, the rush of excitement, pride and feeling of accomplishment was indescribable.
Shedding a tear and feeling the blood rush through my body I was ready to start my career as a Lion. Until this day the national anthem before a game is one of the most important moments for me during a game, and one of my team mates has even taught me the words so that I can sing a long too.”
Having donned the colors of her native New Zealand for international play from 2012-15, it has resulted in another remarkable series of seminal moments. Known affectionately as the Ice Fernz, the team enjoyed a first place finish in Division IV play at the 2011 IIHF Women’s World Championships.
Travelling to Seoul, South Korea in 2012, Gottgtroy gained the opportunity to contribute to a strong showing by New Zealand, gaining two wins in their debut in IIHF Division IIA hockey. Competing against Croatia in their Division IIA debut, Gottgtroy contributed with a pair of assists in a 4-1 win, including an assist on the first goal of the game, logged by Jasmine Horner-Pascoe. In New Zealand’s other tournament win, a 4-3 triumph against Slovenia, Gottgtroy would win five faceoffs. In the aftermath of the event, the Ice Fernz were ranked among the Top 25 countries in the world.
In 2013,Gottgtroy had the chance to compete on home ice in what proved to be a breakthrough moment for women’s ice hockey in New Zealand. Serving as the host country for the IIHF Women’s Division IIA World Championships, which hosted Hungary (the eventual first place winner), Italy, Australia, Poland and Slovenia, who were relegated to Division IIB. With all games hosted in the city of Auckland, it held a strong emotional component for Gottgtroy. Of note, she was one of 11 players from the Auckland Ice Hockey Association that were named to the Ice Fernz.
“Having the opportunity to play for my national team is a huge privilege and honour. Wearing the black jersey while representing my country, puts more pressure on my shoulders but also makes playing the game even more exciting, fun and rewarding!”
Finishing the tournament with two wins, two losses and an overtime loss, New Zealand placed a respectable fourth as Kiri Langford emerged as the team’s leading scorer. Of note, Langford is a very familiar face. Not only did Gottgtroy and New Zealand captain Sheree Haselmore play on a line with her, she was Gottgtroy’s teammate with the York Lions. Having also served as a strength coach at the 2013 IIHF High Performance Camp in Sheffield, England, the New Zealand-born Langford was raised in Collingwood, Ontario.
Among the highlights of the tournament, New Zealand enjoyed a 4-3 win against archrival Australia, which saw Tara Tissink log the game-winning tally in the third period. A 5-3 triumph against Slovenia consisted of Gottgtroy breaking a 2-2 tie with the first goal of the third period. Said goal led to a strong run of momentum for the Ice Fernz, as Langford scored twice, to put the game out of reach for their opponents.
The following year, Gottgtroy was bestowed the honor of the assistant captaincy for the Ice Fernz, as New Zealand traveled to Asiago, Italy for the 2014 edition of the IIHF Women’s Division IIA World Championships. A 4-3 win against Poland, their only win at the event, would prevent relegation to Division IIB.
With a wealth of international experience, and another exciting season of York Lions hockey ahead, which also sees fellow Lions teammates Sarah Power and Dana Sommerville having helped Canada to gold at the 2016 World Inline Hockey Championships, Gottgtroy’s love of the game is undoubtedly strong. Discussing the benefits of being able to play with the Lions, honing her skills in one of Canada’s great hockey cities, it is truly a win-win situation, one destined to bring her to greater heights,
“It is an amazing experience to play all over the world against so many different nations and players with such a good group of girls as team mates. Ice Hockey in New Zealand is a minor sport and while the sport is growing with support, we have a small number of girls and coaches that have a lot of experience and knowledge of ice hockey.
Therefore, playing for York has increased my understanding of the game, giving me the tactical and technical knowledge to grow as a player. On top of this, practicing on the ice 4-5 times a week and playing two games a weekend is unheard of in New Zealand and the time on the ice has enabled me to become a better player. Passing on what I have learnt to players back home also helps the hockey in New Zealand grow and helps more girls to have the opportunity to pursuit their dreams as a hockey player.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from yorku.ca