When roughly a third of the Griffins come from a similar background in hockey, one’s left to wonder what they did so right.
The MacEwan women’s hockey is home to five former midget AAA St. Albert Slash players, all with extensive experience in the sport.
“All the girls are close from Slash,” admitted Danielle Baxter, who has been playing hockey and ringette since she was four. “Going onto play for the Griffins after playing Slash is the natural next move, especially if you’re not interested in playing down in the States.”
Baxter is a fourth year student of psychology, who admits hockey has become her lifestyle.
“When you’ve been playing so long, hockey becomes your social life,” Baxter joked, adding that she was captain of the AAA Slash team her first year out of high school.
Michelle Tassone, a first year student studying sciences, can confirm that Slash influenced her decision to play for MacEwan.
“Though, I never played ringette,” Tassone poked fun, “I have a big family and we were all actively involved with hockey. I played with (the AAA Slash) since the 11th grade.”
Tassone’s older brother Matt had a successful career with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League. In 187 games, he had 73 goals and 46 assists.
Terry Sydor, coach of the AAA Slash is praised by his former players as being an influence in their love of the sport.
“Terry is great! I still talk to him quite regularly, my sister plays for Slash now,” forward Jayden Skoye mentioned. Skoye has been known to encourage other Slash players, like defenceman Erin Blake to play and she hopes to convince her sister as well. It seems Sydor’s team is creating many future Griffins.
“He was a really good coach, he offered helpful critiques and knew how to talk and relate to girls,” noted Tassone. “He has two girls playing hockey abroad, so it’s a sport close to his family’s heart as well.”
Tassone went on to brag about the team’s physical condition. Being on the ice five or six times a week, the Griffins practice from Monday to Thursday, with a dry land training session as a team. They also play a game or two — at home or away — and are required by their coach Lindsay MacAlpine to log a couple individual workout sessions each week. It’s this kind of commitment that has been contributing to the success of the women’s team.
“I’ve never been in better shape,” admitted Skoye, who got her start at hockey playing in a boys’ league at the age of four. “It takes up a lot more of my time, but it’s worth it.”
Blake also mentioned she got her start playing with the boys, eleven years ago.
“My parents made me play ringette. They didn’t think I’d actually like hockey. I quit after one season and switched to hockey. By playing ‘guy’ hockey, I ended up experiencing that competitive and aggressive element. I was taller than the guys. I liked the hitting, I liked the aggression of it” boasted Blake.
As for the transition in coaches from last year to this year, the girls seem pretty happy with coach MacAlpine. Skoye noted the difference in coaching styles since her days with Sydor.
“[It’s] so different, but a good different. They understand what we feel and what we’re going through. It’s hard to explain, but we’re so comfortable together,” Skoye said of the new coaching staff.
Another part of Griffin hockey all the girls seem to be proud of is the elimination of cliques right when the season starts. “Any cliques are gone by day one,” explained Baxter, who added the benefits of being a close-knit group both on and off the ice.
The girls’ support for one another is quite remarkable. Blake being an education student and Skoye in the arts, all the girls balance a heavy course load along with practices.
Where the girls feel they could gain more support is with their MacEwan fan base and the way the school fosters the hockey programs.
“We don’t have our own arena, we don’t have our own change room., Blake explained. “We put our equipment in a pool room! Compared to the other schools, both the men’s and women’s teams aren’t measuring up in terms of facilities. I love MacEwan as a school, but the hockey program could definitely be better supported.”
It seems the women’s team shares this complaint with the men’s hockey team, though they are doing much better in their division.
“We want our teammates to do well,” admitted Baxter, who assured the men’s team has its share of talented players. “They do deserve better support.”
The Griffin gals are set to play SAIT, Friday, Jan. 7 and they have high hopes. At their first practice in nearly a month on Monday, Jan. 3, the team met with anticipation and a certain excitement to get back on the ice.
“I’m definitely feeling confident about Friday’s game, “ Tassone said; with all of the other four Slash alumni agreeing, including Katelyn Epp, former Sturgeon Composite High School student and fourth-year Griffin.
It seems the Slash has set the foundation for five very talented players and fostered a sense of team spirit since the start. The lifestyle of the Griffins girls, no matter what background, is one to be respected. They are dedicated as players and students alike.