A Grade 8 student-athlete at École Airdrie Middle School is now the youngest member of the national women's para-ice hockey team, after successfully trying out for the squad last month.
Fourteen-year-old Hailey King was recently named to Team Canada following a five-day tryout in Montreal in late February. The local teen said it was amazing to make the national squad, adding it will be the first time she's played for an all-women's team.
“I loved the environment and I loved seeing all the women involved,” King said. “It’s just overall a great program.”
King said she was invited to attend the tryout after excelling for her local para hockey team, which competes in the Calgary Sledge Hockey Association. She said she's played the sport for four years.
“The main thing I love about it is the environment and getting to know people with the same disabilities and challenges we share,” King said. “Overall, I have a great time making friends.”
According to wphcanada.com, Canada's national women's para hockey team first formed in 2007. The squad's inaugural game was an exhibition that same year in Ottawa against the United States – an event wphcanada.com claims was the first ever all-female para hockey game.
Since then, women's para hockey (commonly referred to as sledge or sled hockey) has grown both in Canada and worldwide. The national women's team hosts multiple training camps a year, and competes in various tournaments as well.
King mostly plays as a forward, and said the Team Canada coaches have informed her she'll likely be playing right wing when the team travels to Ontario next month to compete at the Ottawa Invitational Tournament – the new-look national team's first games together.
While she's the youngest member of the squad at just 14 years old and will be playing with and against full-fledged adults, King said she's not fazed by that.
“That’s really nothing new – I’ve played with diverse age groups before,” she said.
King is also one of just three Albertans on the squad, alongside Red Deer player Alicia Souveny and Edmonton's Alanna Mah.
Also excited for King is her mother, Maureen Feenstra. She called the chance for her daughter to wear the Maple Leaf “an amazing opportunity.”
“I’m so happy for her to have found a sport she’s so good at and loves,” Feenstra said. “To be able to play it at that level and that young is super exciting.”
Feenstra added King travelled to Montreal on her own for the tryout in February, highlighting the athlete's independence at a young age.
“I’m super proud of what she’s accomplished so far and we’re excited for what the future brings, for sure,” she said.