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Chasing her hockey dream: Clarenville girl heading to Ontario Hockey Association prep school

Paige Fleming has worn the jerseys of several different teams during her years in minor hockey.
Paige Fleming has worn the jerseys of several different teams during her years in minor hockey. - Jonathan Parsons
CLARENVILLE, N.L. —

They call her the Bulldozer.

A peculiar nickname for a 14-year-old who’s just 5 feet 3 inches tall and wears a size six shoe.

But watch her on the ice and it’s easy to see why Paige Fleming earned that nickname.

A piece of video from a game this season shows how the Clarenville hockey player lets nothing stand in her way.

Her father, Doug, hits the play button on his iPhone.

It’s not the first time he’s watched this video.

Paige takes the face-off then races down the ice, speeding around other, bigger, players; weaving and picking up the puck to move in on the opposing team’s goalie.

“Just look at the forechecking,” says her dad.

This time the play by Paige — one of the few girls playing in this Bantam game — and her teammates don’t get the goal.

The shot eventually gets covered by the netminder.

With her trademark smile, Paige Fleming celebrates a goal during the Atlantic AAA tournament in Clarenville on the April 6 weekend.
With her trademark smile, Paige Fleming celebrates a goal during the Atlantic AAA tournament in Clarenville on the April 6 weekend.

And one of the big players from the rival teams shoves her teammate.

Paige reacts. She skates over to the big guy and shoves him back — even though he’s twice her size.

She’s relentless. And gritty.

“I like the physical part of it a lot,” Paige tells The Packet, in an interview at her Clarenville home.

And she’s played a lot of hockey in the past seven years.

The jerseys in her bedroom and the medals hanging off hockey sticks on the wall tell the story so far.

Paige has played on AAA female teams, with the Clarenville Area Minor Hockey U15 female squad, at the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games, and on the Bantam A team as one of only a couple girls on the roster.

She played defense on that team, rather than her usual position at centre. It was “fun and challenging” she says.

She’s used to being one of the smallest players on the ice but doesn’t let that stop her.

“I don’t find it bothers me,” she says. “I don’t think of it that way.”

Her Dad adds it’s not about stature, but how much heart you put into the game.

“She’s had (heart) since day one,” says Doug.

Mom Tracey adds while Paige is intense on the ice, she is also always smiling.

It’s clear she’s doing what she loves.

Along with her speed and agility, it’s easy to see why she caught the eye of hockey scouts

at a recent showcase in P.E.I.

She caught the eye of Pete Montana, coach with the Ontario Hockey Academy (OHA).

Soon after he asked her to sign a contract to play for the Cornwall, Ont., prep school.

She’s set to leave home this August.

The school is an elite academic and AAA hockey academy. In addition to offering a high level of academic training — students live in residence — the training centre has produced many future national team players and CIS and NCAA champions.

While she’s nervous about being away from home, Paige says she’s also excited.

“I think it’s going to be a good opportunity,” she says.

“I would like to see how far I can go and how good I can get with it.”

Her ultimate goal is to play at the highest level of female hockey.

She wants to represent her country by playing on Team Canada.

She dreams of the Olympics.

It will be difficult for Tracey and Doug to see their daughter go away for the entire school year, back only for Christmas and other breaks.

Paige is the youngest of their three daughters; two of have already left the nest and are attending post-secondary school in St. John’s.

And as Doug plays another video —  one of Paige rhyming puck after puck bar down in the backyard net and another of her penalty shot that clinched the team a place in the bronze medal match at last weekend’s Atlantic tournament — he admits that if Paige wasn’t so driven, he doesn’t know if he’d let her go to Ontario.

He says her new coach has helped put their minds at ease.

And reflecting on the fact that he wasn’t much older when he left home for the first time himself, he says this is an opportunity not many players get.

Besides, “You can’t hold her back,” he smiles.

That’s the way it is with the Bulldozer.

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