Lloydminster PWM midget AAA Steelers defenceman Tianna Yaremko fires a shot on the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs net during a home game at Wainwright’s Peace Memorial Multiplex on Sunday. Yaremko, from Spirit River, is one of 10 girls on the Steelers that hail from some where other than Lloydminster. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO
Being a member of the Lloydminster PWM midget AAA Steelers isn’t easy.
The Steelers count 18 girls between the ages of 16 and 17 among its troops.
These hockey players take to the ice at 7 a.m. for practice most weekday mornings in an effort to be ready to face the best Alberta has to offer in various locations across the province each weekend.
Ten of these 18 girls have uprooted their lives for this opportunity. The kids from Northern Alberta communities including Irma, Wainwright, Spirit River, Gordondale, High Level, St. Paul and Glendon bid goodbye to their family and friends shortly before the season began to move in with a billet family in Lloydminster for the chance to play with the Steelers.
“It’s not too far away,” said Steelers left wing Jade Sandberg, shortly after the club played a home-away-from-home game at Wainwright’s Peace Memorial Multiplex on Sunday.
“I played hockey in previous years (in Lloydminster) and I really did enjoy it, so I decided it would be a great opportunity to come out here and try out for the team. I was happy that I made it.”
Sandberg, who calls Wainwright home, is staying with a billet family in Lloydminster during her first year as a member of the Steelers. She noted her new guardians have provided incredible support to help the adjustment, but the experience of moving away to play the game she loves can still be described as a bit different.
“I’m used to being with my family, but my billet family makes it easier for me,’ she said. “And my teammates (too, because) we’re all so close.”
Todd Thorpe, assistant coach of the Steelers, said the club hosted the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs in Wainwright as a way to support the four girls from the community who are playing with the team this season as well as inspire young girls from Lloydminster’s surroundings to try for a spot in future years. He said the commitment the 10 out-of-town girls made to play with the Steelers this season is incredible and the gesture was just a way to give back.
“We wouldn’t be competing for the top (of the Alberta Female Hockey League) if we didn’t have them,” said Thorpe. “We don’t have as good of a draw area as Calgary and Edmonton for example where the population is big. We only had 30 kids come out to camp where those teams had 80 or 100. So, we need those out-of-town kids and we need that commitment to keep a team in Lloyd.”
Sandberg said all of the girls have put in an effort to represent the Steelers and Lloydminster well this season by working hard during dry-land and on-ice practices, as well as in their many league and tournament games. She said they didn’t get the result they hoped for in a 2-1 loss to the Chiefs at the Peace Memorial Multiplex, but the chance she had to present her new team before family and friends in Wainwright made the experience unforgettable.
“It was awesome,” said Sandberg. “I was glad that a lot of my family was able to make it out so (I could) show them where I’m playing this year. I’m proud to be a part of this team.”