Legacy of girls' Hawks hockey will be foundation for its future
By Darren Lum
Published March 12, 2019
There was more value to the Red Hawks girls’ hockey return season than winning and losing, said their captain Senna Marra.
After close to four years without a girls’ hockey team, the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School returned to competitive play this past year being the best ambassadors for the game and for the area.
Captain Marra is an experienced player, having started playing hockey at 10 and ringette at close to five. The return for the team was also a return for Marra, who hadn’t played competitively for two years since she was in the Oshawa area playing for rep teams.
She said there wasn’t necessarily on-ice success for the Hawks this season, but there was something more important than wins and losses.
“Everyone was just having fun all the time. That’s really what I feel sports are about. It’s about having fun. Not so much the winning. It’s fun to win. But, honestly, just developing relationships with people who you normally wouldn’t have. I made many friendships, which is important to me. I enjoy having friendships that are made in a different way. I’m bonding with people over sports and athletics ... rather than in a classroom environment,” she said.
The Hawks hockey team competed in two tournaments outside of Haliburton County, the Bowmanville Winter Classic in Oshawa and York Canlan Tournament at York University in the Toronto area.
The return for girls’ hockey was due to strong interest by students and support from the community and the school, said team manager Alexis David.
“We started the team up this year because of a large interest! We decided for this year we will be a tournament team, with hopes of building the program. We have played in two tournaments and have just been having fun, and getting used to playing together. As of right now we do not have any other games this year, but we are trying to organize a home exhibition game. Next year we are hoping to join a league,” she wrote in an email.
She said there were “generous donors in our community,” which enabled the team to start. Being a tournament team, the Hawks could operate with a smaller budget made possible because of volunteer drivers for the tournaments.
David said there is a plan to have a team again, but scheduling and costs will need to be examined.
The team attracted 20 hopefuls to tryouts, but ended up with a final roster of 16 players, including Marra and assistant captain, Jaylin Frost.
The team was coached by HHSS teacher Courtney Cook, who said this was a memorable year for everyone involved.
“My favourite memory was being stuck at the Canlan Tournament at York University due to inclement weather. Many teams were unable to make it to their games and other teams simply went home. This freed up some ice time and the girls enjoyed a game of shinny with the girls from Gravenhurst High School. It was really touching to see the two teams get on so well with one another,” she said.
Cook is a rookie coach for the school, but has coached the Huntsville High School’s girls’ hockey team and currently plays in the Muskoka Women’s Hockey League in Baysville.
She also agreed with David and said this season was possible because of hard work and dedication by parents, community sponsors and coaches.
The last time the team iced a girls’ hockey team was in 2015 when the team earned an all-provincial berth with a COSSA silver medal.
Cook said she and David chose Marra as the team’s captain because she displayed all the ideal qualities a captain should have.
“She attended every practice, and went out and gave it her all every time she was on the ice. In addition, she was always eager to try new plays and and willing to take her coaches’ advice to improve her game. Off ice, she is an academically strong student, who takes leadership roles within the school and community,” she said.
Being named captain was an honour for Marra. She said it is an opportunity to give back and mentor just as other captains she’s had, who fostered a love for sport.
“I just always want to be that captain I once had to other girls as well,” she said. “I just have always gained an appreciation for coaches. It’s great what they’re doing for us. Captains as well. They’re just another set of leaders. I appreciate them so I always try and live up to that standard.”
She started to skate at three, and then played hockey for rep and house league teams in the Oshawa area. Her older sister played hockey and her younger brother played for a time as well. Hockey was a family affair, she said.
Marra, who fast-tracked her last high school courses necessary to graduate and finished school recently, wants the team to continue next year.
The prevailing team characteristic was its positive nature, she said.
“We all had a very positive outlook on how each game went. Even though we did lose every single game we continued and played the next with even more enthusiasm and excitement and went out and tried to win the next game. That’s what we would always do,” she said.
She adds the loss didn’t change their attitude. Instead the team used the loss to learn and improve for the next one.
“That will help us move on,” she said.
She said having a school hockey team enriched the school experience for some girls, who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to compete for the Hawks.
“For many girls they only [play] hockey because sometimes their coaches don’t want them to get hurt playing other sports,” she said.
She hopes her team this season will be remembered for its attitude and how they always exhibited the qualities that are relevant to long-term success.
“A group of girls who tried our hardest and never gave up. That’s important to me. I think that as long as you have determination and perseverance you’re going to go a long way,” she said.