Among the elites to have worn the jersey of the St. Thomas University Tommies, goaltending great Abby Clarke remains prominent in women’s ice hockey for Atlantic Canada. Belonging to an empowering generation of graduates from Atlantic University Sport (AUS) competition that have made a successful leap into coaching, the most promising facet involves the exciting potential to grow the game for the next generation.
Proudly serving on the coaching staff of the Edza West Reds, Clarke, the pride of Springdale, Newfoundland, has quickly flourished into a valued asset for the organization. An exciting 2021-22 season culminated in a New Brunswick U18 AAA Female provincial title. Defeating the Moncton Subaru Rockets in four games, it signified the first title in team history. Worth noting, Isabelle Michaud finished as the leading scorer for the Reds in the postseason, while the regular season saw Audrey Clavette lead the way with 23 points.
Appearing in the Atlantic Hockey Championships, the Reds faced off versus the Northern Subway Selects in the gold medal game, the winner qualifying for the Esso Cup. As a side note, the Esso Cup featured Julianne Desjardins and Madison Pendleton, a pair of officials from New Brunswick. Although the Selects emerged victorious in a hard-fought final, the experience instilled the belief that greatness was possible for the Reds. Marking a thrilling experience for players and coaches alike, the success of the postseason served as a bridge towards a highly fulfilling milestone for Clarke.
Having garnered numerous honors during her time with the Tommies, including the 2019 Female Athlete of the Year, AUS Playoff MVP honors, plus the prestigious Atlantic University Sport James Bayer Memorial Scholarship, the opportunity to add to her haul of hockey hardware as a coach presented a combination of delight and surprise. The recipient of the 2022 Hockey Canada BFL Coach of the Year Award in the Competition Category for New Brunswick, it stands as testament to Clarke’s promise in this newest chapter of her hockey odyssey,
“I was so shocked. I thought that I was hopping on a call with some representatives from hockey Canada to talk about coaching and of course, that was not the case. It is amazing to have been recognized and I am incredibly honoured to have been selected for the award.”
Among the BFL Coach of the Year Award recipients from New Brunswick, Clarke belonged to very distinguished company. All sharing roots in the AUS, it marked a treasured milestone for the conference. Sarah Hilworth, the head coach of the 2022 Atlantic University Sport champion UNB Reds, captured the National High Performance Award.
Also from Newfoundland, Katie Peddle wore the paraphernalia of the Saint Mary’s Huskies during her AUS playing days. Currently serving as head coach of the U13 AA squad from the Central Female Hockey Association, Peddle is also a lead instructor for Total Speed Hockey. Akin to Clarke, the Provincial Community Award marked a significant milestone in her nascent coaching career.
In the same conversation as such distinguished recipients, Clarke feels exceptionally proud. With a collective goal of a greater future for the female game in Atlantic Canada, their combined acumen and enthusiasm is poised to provide outstanding results,
“Of course, they are highly accomplished women in hockey and in sport. They both work hard to develop the women’s game and to be mentioned alongside them is a proud moment for sure. I am excited to see what they continue to do moving forward.”
Looking towards the seasons to come with a tremendous optimism, the first chapter in Clarke’s coaching narrative involved reuniting with a highly familiar face. The 2019-20 season, her first with the Edza West Reds, saw fellow Tommies alum Stephanie Ford behind the bench.
Ford, raised in Cobourg, Ontario, appeared in over 120 games for the Tommies. Worth noting, both were members of the Tommies 2019 AUS championship team. Setting a highly positive tone in shaping Clarke’s coaching endeavors, her friendship with Ford took on new luster, becoming teammates in a new capacity.
Reflecting on the current experience of coaching with the Reds, the essence of key values such as commitment and teamwork takes on a more significant meaning for Clarke. Finding admiration in the tireless efforts of the club’s administration, along with the dedicated parents, it creates a collective culture, representing a strong point of pride.
With Clarke already in the role of head coach, having led the Reds to within one game of the Esso Cup, the evolution of her promising career runs parallel to the organization. With growth as a key theme in this chapter of her hockey odyssey, the objective is reciprocal. Looking to create opportunities for the game, enabling a better future for the players entrusting her to lead them, she has progressed too, finding a purpose that has transformed the coaching experience into a labour of love,
“Being a part of the Reds has been an amazing experience. When I started with them, I was an assistant coach and then moved into the head coach role and it is amazing to see how far the program has come.
Plus, that does not happen without the commitment of the athletes, the staff, the parents, and their dedication to continuing to build it. I think that my favourite part is the growth. Growth of the program, the athletes and even myself.
Working with Steph was a lot of fun; she is one of my closest friends. She is a great person and getting to coach with her at the start of my coaching career was great.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”