Sport is a realm that helps create special bonds between those who are in it. The friendships and connections made between teammates stick with the players long after the final time they wear their jersey. Sometimes its worth celebrating these special bonds. On Jan. 19, 2019, the women's hockey program held and alumni game. The event served as a chance to host a celebration of all the relationships that have been formed and the impact it has had on its alumni.
Alumni from all years joined in on the day celebrating Gee-Gees women's hockey. From the very first year the program became varsity in 1999-2000, up until the graduating class of 2018, there were 20 years worth of alumni taking in the celebrations.
In total there were 38 alumni at the rink that day, with an expected amount over 40, making it the most attended Gee-Gees women's hockey alumni event in the program's history, a milestone they look to build off in the 2019-2020 season for the program's 20th anniversary of being a varsity program. With the program originally starting in the 1980's as a club team, there are hopes of having representation from the 1980's club team at next year's alumni event to help celebrate the program's history.
Not only were there players from all eras, but from all area's too. Alumni came from all parts of the country including one who flew in from as far away as Calgary, AB. Others embarked on long drives from Quebec City or Toronto. The distance these women traveled was a testament to how much this program has impacted their lives, and how close the alumni are as a group. This may be a young program but there is no doubting the very strong ties and friendship amongst the alumni. The aim is to continue building the program up with the incredible leaders and good characters this team has produced in the past and continues to produce year after year.
Why is the alumni network critical to the program?
The support our alumni provide to the program includes everything from annual donations, to helping with additional program costs, to important mentorship opportunities, and job opportunities. There are so many examples where alumni have helped each other, or the current team. Karina Potvin, former team captain may have said that initially, she didn't know "how to give back or contribute to the program." However, this year she did figure it out.
"I just have to offer my time and expertise, make the program aware of what I have to offer."
One quick meeting between Karina and fifth-year player Laurence Morissette this past summer proved to be worth it. Karina was able to help Laurence secure a teaching placement at Louis Riel High School, one of a few Sports-Études programs in Ottawa. She says that it has been a wonderful experience working with Morissette, and working along side Morissette has renewed her following of the team, stating she "feels like a Gee-Gee again."
Additionally, many other alumni have offered helped to the current members of the team in a variety of ways. Dr. Stefanie Kegler, co-owner of Peak Valley Active Health and many of the program's alumni showed the team their support when the team lost a valued member of the program this season, Melissa Kingsley. The alumni sent personal messages to each player about persevering through the hard times with your teammates, and sending a small gifts (thank you Dr. Stefanie Kegler) to the team expressing sympathies, these connections once again prove that the support to the current program are very loyal. The program has so many alumni who genuinely care about it and this has been shown to be critical to personal development and career success.
The significance of the Gee-Gees women's hockey team, and the role it has played in so many lives doesn't go unnoticed by those who experienced it. That's why Mandi Duhamel, an (2003-2008) alumna who now works for the National Hockey League (NHL), believes events like this game are important for reflecting back on everything.
"Your university experience plays such an integral role in shaping you as a person and a professional. Having an alumni network allows you to reach back and not only remember how you started on your journey but also understand how much you are supported in your future."
Indeed, it is a special program, and Jan. 19 was a special day for all those involved, including 1999 alumna Natasha Danschinko, who brought along a special guest with her. Danschinko's comments about her daughter's participation in the game perfectly sums up the importance of alumni events like this, and the lasting impact of being a Gee-Gee.
"Having my seven-year-old daughter Zoe experience the Gee-Gees women's hockey alumni day with me, in the locker room with the girls and on the ice as a goalie with me, is a memory that I will cherish forever. Her focus in the warmup, cheering on every play from the bench and being ready to go in the last two minutes, (they're) images that I will never forget."
"I have always said the Gee-Gees women's hockey team is a family who are forever bonded. I am proud to have my hockey sisters with me forever and I hope that one day my daughter can experience that bond on whatever team/sport she is a part of."