By Sam Laskaris
GARDEN RIVER FIRST NATION—Another member from Garden River First Nation will soon be off to the collegiate hockey ranks.
Jana Headrick is gearing up for her first year of varsity hockey, which is the university level hockey. She chose to stay in Canada and will represent the University of Toronto (U of T) Varsity Blues.
Headrick also generated interest from American schools, but she chose to remain on Canadian soil and play in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) league.
“I realized the CIS and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) are getting very close to each other in women’s hockey,” she said, “and I wanted to stay in Canada for the schooling.”
While sister Jana is getting ready for her career start, Owen Headrick, an 18-year-old defenceman is gearing up for his second season with Michigan’s Lake Superior State Lakers, a varsity team in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, United States.
There’s some speculation Headrick, who starred with the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL)’s Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds before joining the Lakers, might be selected in the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft, set for June 24-25 in Buffalo, New York.
Regardless of whether he gets drafted or not, Headrick will return to the Lakers, an NCAA Division I squad.
Owen Headrick is fortunate that he can play in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, as it is only about a 20-minute drive from his home in Garden River First Nation. As for his sister, who was also keen on remaining relatively close to home, was disappointed when she discovered that there are no women’s NCAA Division 1 hockey programs in Michigan; thus swaying her decision to play for the University of Toronto, over a six hour drive from Garden River First Nation.
Headrick believes choosing U of T is a very wise decision, both athletically and academically. She said that there were several reasons she decided to join the Varsity Blues, but two determining factors include: Vicky Sunohara, a three-time Canadian Olympian and two-time gold medallist (2002 and ’06) who head coaches the team, and an excellent education from a reputable institute.
“They showed a lot of interest in me right from the start,” Headrick said of the U of T program, “and education is key. It’s a prestigious school. And to be coached by Vicky Sunohara is going to be pretty amazing.”
U of T’s coaching staff also includes assistant coach Jayna Hefford, a five-time Olympian (four gold medals and one silver) who was also a member of six world championship Canadian teams.
Headrick is hoping to see her share of ice time with the Varsity Blues right from the beginning. The club lost two defence players due to graduation and another one who was eligible to return but is not coming back. This means that the team will have just four returnees on the blueline. And Headrick is one of just two recruits that will play defence.
“She has high hopes that I’ll play a lot,” Headrick said of Sunohara.
Headrick spent this past hockey season living away from home. She moved away so she could play for the North Bay Ice Boltz, a girls’ Midget AA team, located over three hours away from her home.
Headrick moved back home after the Ice Boltz’ season concluded in March, but she believes the experience will benefit her when she makes the move to Toronto to continue her academic and athletic careers, respectively.
“I think it will help me a lot,” she said. “It will make things easier for me.”
Headrick will be studying Kinesiology at U of T.