When Hayley Schaefer was two and a half years old she hiked the Diamond head trail in Hawaii, stubbornly refusing any help from her parents. So they weren’t much surprised when her friend Marlene invited her to a Lace Em Up session at the Panorama Ice Rink and she came off the ice saying, “I want to do this!”
Like many girls, Schaefer found limited opportunities on the Island hockey scene so decided to rise to the challenge of playing her way onto boys teams.
Schaefer, who plays centre, said that her skills did the talking and any misgivings from her new team-mates quickly turned to respect.
“Luckily I knew the guys from school so it wasn’t too awkward and the guys accepted me, which was pretty neat,” she says.
She started as the only girl on the Peninsula Eagles boys’ Novice team and played for them through Atom, Peewee and Bantam levels. At Atom level, she also joined a newly formed girls team, which swept almost all the competition giving Schaefer a taste for winning banners and tournaments.
When it was time to join the Bantam division, Schaefer realized she would have to also try out for the rough and tumble boys’ Rep team if she was to continue her development. She was placed on the C Major team before progressing to the Rep B team in her second year. Shaefer says she grew in confidence and, as the only girl, enjoyed winning spots on the teams ahead of other competitive boys.
After playing in hard-hitting Rep boys hockey for two years, she discovered Spring Hockey and was selected for the South Island Royals A team. In her three years with the Royals, the team achieved great runs in the provincial championships, coming away with gold and silver medals. Another successful tournament run was at “WickFest”, winning a silver medal at the Hayley Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival.
Schaefer says she just loves hockey and would play it any time she could, often hitting the ice six times a week.
“I’m a super energetic person, I love skating as it’s an enclosed area to get out all your energy and when you’re skating down the ice with the puck on your stick it’s such a rush,” she says.
While at the Parkland hockey academy, her coach helped her secure a $1,500 bursary from the Sidney Retreads old-timer hockey team in recognition of her commitment to the sport.
Schaefer has now aged out of the Royals but leaves behind a legacy for other girls to follow. She hopes that opportunities for girls will increase in the next few years.
“I know there are some girls who don’t feel comfortable playing with the guys, so for their sake it would be super nice to have more options, rather than just the house team and the really competitive team. There should really be an in between for those girls who don’t want to be super super competitive but still want to play up a level.”
For now, Schaefer plans to explore her love of climbing and outdoor pursuits. One thing’s for sure though, she says laughing, hockey will always remain a part of her life.
“I’ll definitely go back to hockey in the future. Drop hockey after this year? No, I don’t think I could ever do that.”