Maple Creek News
Taylor Kirwan was following family footsteps when she began playing hockey. Not quite a decade later however, she will set a path all of her own when she joins Team Canada for the 2018 IIHF World Women’s U18 Championships in Dmitrov, Russia.
Kirwan started playing the game at eight because not only had her older sister been playing, their dad at one time had played the game at a high level. He got the girls interested in the sport, but they took the reins from there.
And now, after a year-long process of attending camps and tournaments, the 17-year-old Gull Lake native has earned a place on the country’s national team.
“I’m kind of still in shock,” Kirwan says. “I was a little bit like, ‘What? Really?’
“But saying that, I’ve reached this goal and that has opened up so many more goals, like to actually make U22 development team, or the Olympic team.”
That confidence in her abilities is entirely homegrown though, as Kirwan has always kept a humble perspective about the sport. Like many young Canadians, she had the dream of playing the game on the biggest stages possible, but always understood just how difficult it would be to make one of the best female hockey teams on earth.
“I was alright, I guess,” Kirwan says of her skill level early on. “But I never would have guessed I’d be playing for Team Canada. I’d always said I would want to, but usually when you say things like that (to yourself), it’s a really far-fetched goal.
“So I knew I would be OK if I never made it — I would try to, obviously, but I never really thought it would actually happen.”
Kirwan, who captains the Diamond Energy Midget AAA Wildcats during club season, played last season with the U18 Saskatchewan team as a 16 year old at a tournament in Regina, where Hockey Canada was on hand to scout potential players. Five months later in April if this year, Kirwan received an email inviting her to a national camp in Hamilton.
“It was a strength and conditioning camp, so it was basically five days of fitness testing and mental training.”
Fifty athletes attended that camp, with 42 then moving onto a two-week camp in Calgary this summer, where Kirwan became one of the final 23 players selected for Team Canada. From there the team went to Lake Placid, N.Y. for a three-game series against their rival global powerhouse, the U.S.A.
“We lost two games and beat them once, but it was really close games each time.”
After that series, the top 50 athletes cam back on the radar, with scouts keeping eyes on girls across the country. Kirwan went to nationals in November with Team Sask, and two weeks after returning home was given word she was on the official national team, which will head to Russia in early January for the world championships.
Having already played those three games in New York, Kirwan already has a taste not only for the pressure that comes with a Team Canada sweater but also the pride every Canuck to ever where one has felt.
“I know it’s cheesy to say, but it actually takes your breath away,” she says. “You go into the dressing room and it’s all set up. The trainers do such a great job, they actually set up all our equipment and our jerseys hanging.
“You’re just like, ‘Oh my goodness, I get to actually put this jersey on.’”
Now that she knows the feelings that come with the Team Canada logo, in Russia she can concentrate more on her game and what she needs to do to help the team be successful. She’s yet to score with the national team, so that’s something she hopes to get out of the way as soon as possible.
“I sure hope so,” she says. “I would really like a puck that says ‘First International Goal’ on it.”
A puck like that will sure brighten up a mantle for the rest of her life. Maybe she can earn a shiny medal made from gold to sit beside it.
SUBMITTED PHOTOS COURTESY TAYLOR KIRWAN
Taylor Kirwan in her sparkling Team Canada uniform.