mikayla capelle
© Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images

Déjà vu, all anew

Once a junior ambassador for Quebec, Mikayla Capelle returns to the U18 nationals to represent British Columbia

Wendy Graves
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November 10, 2016
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How’s this for coincidence?

On Nov. 9, 2012, Mikayla Capelle took to the ice with Team Atlantic for its pre-game warm-up against British Columbia at the National Women’s Under-18 Championship. Then 12 years old, she was part of the tournament’s program that allowed local female minor hockey players to skate with one of the competing teams.

On Nov. 9, 2016, Capelle, now 16, took to the ice as a member of British Columbia, her first time representing her province on the national stage.

“It’s such an unbelievable feeling,” says Capelle. “Back then I wasn’t educated in girls’ hockey. I was still playing boys’ and I hadn’t participated in any provincial things. It didn’t really come into consideration that one day that would be me ’til I started to get into the U14 and U16 with BC Hockey. When I got the invite for U18 then it started to hit me that it could be me one day.”

Capelle volunteered the entire time the event was in her hometown of Dawson Creek, B.C. A French immersion student, she was paired with Quebec as a junior ambassador. She filled water bottles at the rink, joined the team for meals and other activities and joined the players at their hotel, everyone diligently doing their homework.

In between Capelle took in as much of the event as she could, seeing all the games and soaking in the atmosphere. “Every dressing room had different quotes [displayed]; every team had different intentions on what they were going to do, but they all knew they wanted to be in that gold medal game. Everyone having that passion – you could feel it in the room.”

For her experience with Team Atlantic, Capelle changed with the players before joining them for their on-ice warm-up. A defenceman at the time, she took her turn defending three-on-twos and two-on-ones. She returned to the ice one more time to join the starters on the blue-line for the national anthem. During intermissions she’d rejoin the team in the dressing room.

“Atlantic was short a couple of players with injuries,” she says, “and I remember wanting to ask the coach if I could just play.”

Four years later she gets her chance.

Perhaps the most lasting impression from that experience is the friendships she made with the Quebec players. She’s still in contact with some of them and has talked with them about what the tournament is like to play in.

As fate would have it British Columbia faces off against Quebec on the second day of this year’s tournament.

Uncanny, right?

“Sort of,” says Capelle, laughing. “When I talk to these girls that I was an ambassador for, I joke, ‘Well, we’re going to beat your guys.’ Get them a little riled up with that.”

This week the tables have turned, and Capelle appreciates even more how she was welcomed in as just another member of Quebec and Team Atlantic.

“When I was with those girls [in 2012] I thought maybe they wouldn’t include me as much because they were so focused, but they made me feel like a part of the team,” says Capelle.

There’s a photo of Capelle on the ice in an Atlantic jersey with B.C. players in the background. Among them Micah Hart, a future national team player and as fate – there’s that word again – would have it a future teammate for Capelle. “It was pretty cool that I actually got to play with some of those girls that were on that team.”

Capelle had played boys’ hockey until her first year of Bantam, when she regularly made the 90-minute trip to Grande Prairie, Alta. A summer camp in Penticton before her second year sent her on a new course. The camp was run by Jim Fetter, the head coach of the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s female prep team. Fetter’s roster was filled with defencemen, but impressed by what he saw he offered Capelle a spot on the team…as a forward.

One week before school started Capelle accepted the offer. She moved in with a billet family 11 hours away from home. “The responsibility of solving problems and figuring things out on your own was a huge adjustment,” she says. An under-ager, she was the youngest player on the OHA roster. She first logged fourth-line minutes but before the end of the season was seeing top-six time. Now in her third year at OHA she’s matured into one of the team’s leaders.

Over that same period her eyes opened to the possibilities ahead. And she’s had no shortage of role models/friends to guide her along. Back in 2009, Canada’s National Women’s Team came to Dawson Creek for a three-week boot camp as part of its training for the Vancouver Olympics. With players put up with local families, a nine-year-old Capelle met Tessa Bonhomme, Kim St-Pierre and Hayley Wickenheiser. In the past few years she’s been able to turn to them for advice.

One big step has been taken this week, and Capelle is determined to make the most of it.

“I’ve never been in a tournament like this before,” she says. “I don’t really know what to expect – if the nerves are going to get to me or if I’m just going to be excited – but I’m hoping for a good outcome.”

For more information:

Dominick Saillant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
514-895-9706
[email protected]

 

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
[email protected]

 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
[email protected]

 

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