KENTVILLE, NS – Ellen Laurence may adore hockey now, but she used to hate skating.
After starting to skate at the age of four, Laurence nearly quit the sport until she discovered the world of hockey.
With a stick in her hands and a puck at her skates, Laurence quickly took the game in stride and has played competitively since the age of seven. She’s found her love, and isn’t looking back.
“I enjoy hockey now more than I ever have before. I’m so glad I didn’t quit,” she says.
Crossing over into Halifax
Laurence’s former hatred of skating makes the fact that she now plays and practices in Halifax five times a week all the more amazing.
The 16-year-old is currently in her second season with the Metro Boston Pizza team in the Nova Scotia Female Midget AAA Hockey League, and plays the right wing offensive position.
After her first season last year, she was crowned Rookie of the Year for the entire league, an award which had her pretty excited.
“That was huge. It really showed me how much I’ve grown, and that this is something I’m good at,” says Laurence.
Dedication pays off, and Laurence is a prime example of this, committing hours per week to improving her game.
She practices three times per week and plays two games, meaning her parents, Victoria and Terry, drive her to Halifax five nights per week, leaving right after Laurence gets home from school.
Managing both hockey and school means the schedule can get pretty tight, and to compensate, Laurence says she sometimes eats supper and does homework during the drive to Halifax.
After arriving in Halifax and suiting up in all her gear, Laurence says she focuses mainly on stick handling and shooting, and trying to best last year’s skill level.
“I’ve been able to get more points this year, and have changed my skating stride a bit, making it a lot stronger,” says Laurence.
And with hockey being a team sport, Laurence’s favourite part of playing and practicing is having her teammates on the ice with her.
“It’s always fun when you’re doing a one-on-one drill up against someone,” she says.
“I think that’s why I love hockey so much – I get to be competitive, and to spend time with my closest friends.”
Over the Christmas break, she had the opportunity to play on her high school hockey team, the Northeast Kings Educational Centre Titans, and helped lead the team to its first victories of the year in a regional tournament hosted by Central Kings in at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick.
A leading stride
Now in her second season on the Metro team, Laurence has become a leader for the younger players and is now an assistant captain.
She says the change is minimal, since being part of a team and helping others out never changes, but that being a leader makes the game feel different.
And with Halifax set to host this year’s nationals, Laurence feels it matters more than ever, and feels excited at this new challenge of hers.
She’s also set her eye on making the Canada Games team next year, her biggest goal yet.
“Making the Canada Games team would mean a lot, and would show that I’ve been able to accomplish something really huge and show my potential,” she said.
“I realize people are watching me now, so what I do matters more. I have to set an example, and be there to lead my teammates.”
Laurence is only 16, but has already received offers to play hockey at several universities.
The same schools scouted her close friend and fellow player Madison Gray, and the two are deciding on which school to pick together.
“Once I finish next year, my hope is to pick a school with my friend. It would be so cool to have her on my team again,” says Laurence.
Her parents couldn’t be more proud of their daughter, whose ambition, drive and hard work are clearly paying off.
“(Ellen) loves hockey, and while she plays five days a week, would play every minute of every day, if she could,” says Victoria.
And Laurence, in turn, feels proud to have parents who support her, and feels she owes them a lot.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay them for everything they’ve done for me,” she says.
When she thinks back on what she’d tell her four-year-old self who thought so hard about quitting skating, she knows exactly what she’d tell her.
“I’d just tell her to stick with it, and to see it out, because I can’t imagine how different my life would be today if I hadn’t discovered my love for hockey,” she says.