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I am now a retired varsity athlete. I graduated from the University of Calgary in June 2015 after completing my Bachelor of Arts degree and finishing up my 5 years of eligibility in the CIS. What a ride it was. I cannot put into words how amazing my University experience was, and although I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life, I cannot help but reminisce on how truly fortunate I was to have called myself a varsity athlete.

In my last year of CIS hockey, the season did not finish on the note the team and myself had hoped; we came in last place at the 2015 CIS Women’s Hockey Nationals tournament, after losing both of our games on home ice here in Calgary, Alberta. It was not at all how I imagined my last games would go; my hopes of having a CIS gold medal placed around my neck was replaced with tears in the change room, and the bitter reminder that I really am finished my University hockey career.

But my experience this past season at Nationals was also more special and spectacular than I could have hoped for. As a Calgary native, hosting Nationals meant an opportunity for my family and friends to watch me play my final games representing my school.

The past 5 years and countless hours in the weight-room and rink all came down to this final tournament. How I felt skating onto the ice for the big showcase game the tournament-opening night against McGill, trying to take everything all in, is a feeling I will never forget.  The entire team played our hearts out that game. “Leave everything on the ice, because this is it.” And we did. I saw this game as the last opportunity to show my family my growth as an athlete over my entire hockey career. This was the last time I would have an experience like this.  

The scoreboard was not reflective of our efforts that game, but the pride we felt being cheered on by fellow U of C students, friends, family and fans is indescribable, and although I received the MVP award for the game, it could have easily been awarded to any single one of my teammates. The outcome was not what we hoped, but we stood by each other and supported one another through the whole thing; an invaluable lesson learned that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

My University career was filled with countless memorable moments and experiences. The best moment was in 2012, when we won our first-ever CIS Gold medal at Nationals in Edmonton, Alberta. The following year in 2013, we won silver in Toronto. The team has also been fortunate enough to participate in the Crowchild Classic games. Every year since 2012, the Calgary Flames Organization has hosted both the men’s and women’s teams at the Saddledome for back-to-back games against the Mount Royal University Cougars. Even Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi makes an appearance. This year, the event set a new CIS attendance record with over 8,880 fans attending the women’s and men’s games. As a female hockey player, playing in a venue as big as the Saddledome with that many fans watching, is experience I am so fortunate to have had and will remember for the rest of my life.

The University of Calgary Dinos will be hosting Nationals again next season in Calgary, and although I will not be suiting up with the team, you can bet I will be in the stands screaming my heart out for the girls.

So, I am now moving on from being a varsity athlete to a retired varsity athlete; I am moving on from the Dinos, and will be suiting up with fellow Dinos WHKY alumni members on the programs alumni team: the Fossils!

Take care, and best of luck to all returning athletes this season. Don’t take a single moment for granted, as it really does go by fast.

Erika Mitschke

Photo credit: 

CIS Nationals: David Moll

Crowchild Classic: Mount Royal Cougars 

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