A local First Nations hockey player continues to lead the way as one of the top female scorers in the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association.
Bree-Anna Henderson, from Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation, scored 35 goals in 35 games last season for the Tri-Port Midget Wild, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down much this year, as she has already notched three goals and one assist in four games at a tournament in Nanaimo. She will continue to compete in tournaments and league play across Vancouver Island this season.
Henderson is the Tri-Port Wild’s sniper, also known as “Ovie-Hands” (courtesy of her coach Mike Bell), because of her thunderous slapshot and how she always seems to find the back of the net.
She said that she originally wasn’t too interested in playing ice hockey, but because of her brother Evan encouraging her to try it out, she ended up joining a Port Hardy hockey team.
Henderson has also played ball hockey in her community at the Wakas Hall for nearly her whole life, which is where she first started to hone her shooting skills.
She picked up ice hockey early on, around the age of nine, and ended up playing rep hockey for the North Island Bantam Eagles before moving on to join the first ever all female minor hockey team on the North Island, the Tri-Port Midget Wild, where she has been a fixture for the last four years. During her time spent with the team, she’s usually played on the same line with Jessica Wadhams, from Alert Bay, and Sonja Walkus, who she grew up with in her community.
At the Oct. 5-7 Nanaimo tournament, the Wild tied their first game 3-3 against the Cowichan Valley Capitals (Henderson scored the game tying goal in the third period), before going on to win three straight games to lay claim to the gold medals.
Henderson mentioned her practices usually consist of shooting at the net and passing the puck to her teammates. If the whole team is at practice, the coaches will hold what’s known as a scrimmage game.
Her aggressive slapshots, from years of practice during her early years of ball and ice hockey, have continually allowed her to help lead her team to countless victories, including numerous gold medals at tournaments and winning last year’s Female Midget C league banner.
She said that her success has come from “working hard with my teammates and scoring – It’s about going hard for the puck,” she added.
She modestly commented that the only time she’s been excited over any of her hockey games was when one of her teammates scored her very first goal. “I was on a line with her, set her up for the goal,” she mentioned. “I yelled really loud and went out to hug her. That’s the only time I’ve ever celebrated.”
During the interview, Henderson stated that it’s not all about scoring goals. Rather, for her, it is about working with her team to secure the win. She emphasized that without her teammates to set up her shots, she wouldn’t have had such an impressive performance last season.
Mandy Foldy, who’s playing forward with Henderson this season, also noted that this particular team is very strong on offence. Foldy currently plays the centre position with Henderson at her side, which results in the two assisting on each other’s goals.
Foldy stated that this season’s team is fairly new, but they “work well together” with an emphasis on strong attacking. “We’ve been winning gold all the time,” she said, mainly in part because of the team’s scoring capabilities, strong defence from Madison Van Will and Chloe Noel, and excellent goaltending from Avary Miller.
Henderson concluded that she’s nearly at the point of finishing her minor hockey career, but is hopeful to keep playing after.
Since it’s her last season, she’s now more focused on assisting her teammates and less so on scoring.
“Mostly now I try to set up people to score, because the last three years I’ve been the top scorer on the team,” she said with a smile.
Henderson also noted that after finishing her final season she plans on “coaching the younger Tri-Port Wild team.”
The Tri-Port Midget Wild won 21 games straight last season, only losing in the very final game of the playoffs with the Female Midget C playoff banner on the line.
The Wild also won the Ross Cup in Shawnigan Lake and the Ice Classic tournament in Richmond.
– With files from Tyson Whitney