End of an era
Fifth-year forward Paige Wheeler is coming to the end of her last season with the Cougars women’s hockey team, and the team’s success this year has come as a surprise.
“I didn’t think we’d do as well as we did,” she said. “It was a great last season.”
The girls made the playoffs this year, for the first time since Wheeler’s second year as a Cougar. Unfortunately, they lost the Canada-West semi-final series 2-1 against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds last weekend.
It was a very strong effort by the Cougars, who made CIS history in their second game after playing three overtime periods for over 94 minutes before a winner was crowned.
Wheeler has had a very long career in hockey starting when she was just five years old. She has played at all levels over the years, even getting the chance to play with her older brother, Dalan, for two years.
Wheeler worked her way up to playing AA boys hockey until body contact came into the league, when Dacon, Wheeler’s dad, decided he didn’t want her playing contact, and moved her to girl’s hockey.
Soon she was picked up by the Weyburn Gold Wings (AAA) and played there until she made her final step to the Regina Cougars.
Wheeler says that playing hockey and going to university has been a great life experience for her.
“When I first came to university I thought ‘Oh I’ll just go to hockey and go to school’. I never wrote out anything on my calendar,” she said. “This has taught me to be mature and independent.”
One of the toughest things about playing hockey and going to university is the fact that a player can’t skip practice just because they have a lot of homework or a midterm the next day. Wheeler said she had to learn to balance everything, including homework, hockey and making healthy meals.
“When you’re away from home its ok because you have another family at the rink and anyone and everyone is there with open arms … I’m going to miss seeing everyone everyday." – Paige Wheeler
But there are some up sides to playing hockey and going to school.
“It’s also a stress reliever because you’re not just going to school; you’re having fun as well,” she said.
When asked about her family and what they thought about her hockey career, Wheeler couldn’t give them enough praise.
“I’m grateful my family has supported me over the years,” she said. “My mom and dad love watching my games and my grandma Virginia is always there. I also have so many friends that come to support me. And my dog, Nala, is always there for me and keeps me going when I’ve had a hard day.”
Wheeler’s five years with the Cougars and has helped the team make the playoffs twice – including this year. When she looks back to her favourite memory with the girls, one stuck out more than the others.
“[In my third year] we would play soccer at the old rink for warm up, it was really intense we would come two hours before the game,” Wheeler said. “We would kick the second-year’s butts. [Now fourth-years, Katelyn Kennedy, Kaitlin Sherven, and Kendra Finch].
“When you’re away from home its ok because you have another family at the rink and anyone and everyone is there with open arms … I’m going to miss seeing everyone everyday [next year],” she said.
Looking into next year and her post-Cougars hockey career, Wheeler will be continuing with her schooling as she has two more years in her program. After that she is looking into travelling and, of course, teaching.
Photo courtesy of facebook.com