Haylee Bouchard finding hockey success south of the border
Tim Brody - Editor
Sioux Lookout’s Haylee Bouchard is having a big impact south of the border as she pursues her hockey dream.
A product of the Sioux Lookout Minor Hockey Association and later the Sioux North High School Warriors girls hockey team, the 18-year-old Gull Bay First Nation band member has twice this season been named Rookie of the Week for the UCHC (United Collegiate Hockey Conference) playing in her first season with the Wilkes University Colonels.
Bouchard also recorded her first hat trick at the collegiate level on November 17 to give her team a 5-2 win over the Arcadia University Knights. Her hat trick proved to be the first in team history for the Wilkes Women’s Ice Hockey program.
Bouchard has been a force for her team this season, racking up 11 points in 11 games, six goals and five assists, to lead her team in points.
“I think it’s pretty cool to have these accomplishments as somebody from up north,” Bouchard commented. She said it feels good to show that being from a small town, you can do big things.
“I think it’s pretty cool knowing I’m able to compete at this level and to stay caught up with players who are four or five years older than me,” she said.
Bouchard, who is attending Wilkes University in Pennsylvania on a full scholarship, is currently enrolled in a business program.
She said she’s enjoying her time at the school but said it’s certainly a busy schedule balancing schoolwork and hockey.
“I also find that showing my culture here, because I’m so far away from up north that not a lot of people know about know about Indigenous life. Embracing and showing my culture and just educating people around me has been pretty cool to do,” she shared.
“I’d like to say thank you to (former Warriors girls hockey team coach) Jason Murphy for teaching me hockey and leadership and everything else because it’s paying off over here,” she added.
Wilkes Women’s Ice Hockey program Head Coach Dave LaBaff said it’s been great having Bouchard play for the Colonels.
“She’s been doing great,” he said. “She just kind of caught on fire. She single-handedly won us a really important game. I know she would definitely say her teammates were big factor, which I’d agree with, but she’s just such a great teammate. I think overall, as much as she’s putting up points and that’s been great, the kind of teammate she is, the kind of energy she brings to the rink every day and the kind of person she is, I think that’s the most important thing that I see every day.”
LaBaff said it has been a pleasure to coach Bouchard and said he looks forward to seeing her progress.
The Colonels have a record this season of 6-4-1.
LaBaff said Bouchard has been a big factor in that.
“She’s been an absolute workhorse. We have her on the penalty kill now, so she’s doing power play, penalty kill, she’s been on the ice for overtime. She’s kind of done it all. She plays a really big role. If you think about it, she’s only been here since August. It’s pretty cool to see that going on for her.”
“I believe she’s the first Indigenous player to ever play hockey at Wilkes and our school takes a lot of pride in Haylee being here and I think she’s really opened doors,” LaBaff said. “We have, I think, another Indigenous player that’s about to commit here and she actually played against Haylee in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships over the summer. I think if not for Haylee, we don’t get some of this interest from some of these great hockey players out there that wouldn’t know what Wilkes is, but Haylee is kind of helping put it on the map with the Indigenous community. We’re really hoping that we can keep representing more and more provinces with Indigenous players throughout the years here.”
“We’re really excited to see what the next four years hold for Haylee,” he said, adding, “I think she’s definitely a team leader. She gets along with everyone. She wants the best for everyone. She’s everybody’s biggest cheerleader, which is why I think everybody loves to see the success she’s had so far. She leads by example, and she leads by encouraging her teammates to do their best every day.”
Bouchard attended the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall this past year, where she received her diploma. She returned to Sioux North High School in June where she was allowed to cross the graduation ceremony stage with her friends.
Bouchard won a gold medal as a member of Team Ontario at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship in Winnipeg, which ran May 7 – 13 earlier this year.
One day, she said, she would love to play for Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team.