Jessica Forcey was only 11 years old when her mom, Pam, died of breast
cancer in April 2012.
“She took me to all my games, all my practices – everything – she was
always cheering me on,” says Forcey, now 17 and a forward with Canada’s
National Women’s Under-18 Team. “She didn’t know a ton about hockey – she
was a track star – but she helped me when she could and did her best with
the hockey skills. The support was the biggest thing.”
Pam may not have understood the intricacies of her daughter’s sport, but
being a competitor herself, she knew what notes to strike to balance
motivating Jessica while keeping fun at the forefront.
“She would always get me super pumped up for games,” says Forcey. ”She knew
I loved my music. We would put on some pump-up jams, like a lot of
‘Thunderstruck,’ and sing in the car.”
Mother and daughter also shared a love of running – Pam was a sprinter;
Jessica has competed in sprint, hurdles and relay – and jogs along the path
behind their home allowed more time for just the two of them.
Pam had first been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, but appeared to
beat the disease. But three years later, when Jessica walked into the
kitchen and saw Pam and dad Andy in tears, she just knew.
Even while sick, Pam continued to be a constant presence at the rink for
her two older daughters, cheering on Jessica (Peewee AA) and Emma (Bantam
AA) at their London Devilettes games.
The girls hockey association, in turn, supported the family. During the
2011-12 season, the Devilettes wore breast cancer tape on their socks. The
following season, the Peewee AA and Bantam AA teams introduced an alternate
pink jersey to both honour Pam and raise breast cancer awareness.
“It meant the world to see how much she meant to everyone and how much
we’re supported,” says Forcey. “Actions say a lot more than words, and that
was a big action to show how much everyone loves us and supports us through
tough times. We still have the pink jerseys at our house.”
The support of her teammates and hockey community provided Forcey with
comfort. They were understanding any time she missed a practice; when she
was there, they cheered her up and helped get her mind elsewhere, if only
for a short while.
Support came from outside the rink as well.
In Grade 8, she did One Run, a fundraising initiative of Theresa Carriere,
a breast cancer survivor. Carriere ran 100 kilometres from Sarnia to London
in one day. Donors buy a kilometre, and each kilometre costs $1,000. “My
elementary school at the time raised that $1,000 and chose me to run with
her for that kilometre of the run,” says Forcey.
All along, Forcey has provided her support to cancer and breast cancer
awareness initiatives. She’s done Run for the Cure and Relay for Life to
raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. As a member of student council
this year, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, she helped
organize a powderpuff game, a flag football tournament that required a
minimum donation in order to play and had almost every girl at the high
It’s important to Forcey to continuing this fight even as her on-ice
schedule gets busier. Now in her third season in the Provincial Women’s
Hockey League, Forcey is the captain of the Bluewater Hawks. In November,
she won a silver medal with Ontario Blue at the 2017 National Women’s
Under-18 Championship. And during the summer, she played with Canada’s
National Women’s Under-18 Team in a three-game series against the United
While Pam sadly never saw Jessica achieve these milestones, she knew what
her daughter had in her.
“She always reminded me of what I can do and what hard work can do,” says
Forcey. “Whenever I was feeling down or a coach was being hard on me, she
would remind me just to be the player that I am. She didn’t have huge
hockey insight, but the encouragement and the confidence she had in me gave
me confidence in myself.”
Forcey now wears the Maple Leaf again, this time at the 2018 IIHF U18
Women’s World Championship. Representing her country is the fulfillment of
a dream that began when she started playing hockey 14 years ago. She knows
her mom would’ve been just as thrilled.
“I think she would be really proud of me, seeing all the hard work I’ve
done in order to get to this point,” says Forcey. “I think she would just
give me big hugs and send me off with love.”