3 PPCLI hosts women’s hockey team

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Article / October 19, 2016

By Grant Cree

Soldiers of the Third Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI) hosted 27 hockey players on Oct. 1 at 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton. Excited athletes from the University of Alberta (U of A) Pandas Women’s Hockey Team gathered at 3 PPCLI headquarters that morning to experience military life for a few hours.

The Pandas participated in the Soldier for a Day (SFAD) program, a community relations activity conducted by the Third Battalion. Based on the players’ enthusiastic feedback after doing SFAD in 2015, the coaches asked if they could return.

SFAD is designed to expose civilians to military culture, demonstrate soldier’s capabilities, and create an environment to build team esprit de corps.

 “They're the type of people we want in this regiment,” said Master Warrant Officer (MWO) George Parrott, Company Sergeant Major for 3 PPCLI Administration Company.   “They're athletic, they know about teamwork, and are good against adversity. They're all smart individuals and have the type of personalities that we want in the regiment.” 

MWO Parrott noted that SFAD is about connecting with the civilian community to give them a glimpse of military life.   “I find that with the Canadian military, we're behind gates and the public doesn't see what we do on a day-to-day basis,” said MWO Parrott.   “This way they connect with us and see that we're people just like them, but we just have a different profession.” 

Despite the blustery weather of eight degrees Celsius with cold rain and a strong breeze, the women’s team soldiered on. Activities included rappelling, jumping off the 10-metre mock tower, and participating in urban operations. After the athletes were organized into two groups, they clambered in the back of a heavy lift truck that drove them to locations hosted by experienced soldiers.

 “I really enjoyed the shooting, it was fun,”  said Lindsey Post, the Pandas goalie. She’s a fifth year U of A student in Bachelor of Arts in Recreation, Sport and Tourism. Her favourite SFAD activity was the Urban Operations building.  “Clearing those rooms, getting to know the commands the soldiers say, and trying that with our team was fun because we were pretty terrible at it,” she laughed.  “But the soldiers were supportive and said we did a good job, even though we probably didn't.” 

Pandas forward Amy Boucher recently joined the team after returning home from a hockey scholarship in the United States. An Edmonton resident, Boucher played with the University of New Hampshire for the past two years, and plans to become a doctor. She felt challenged by the imposing mock tower.

 “I'd never done anything like it before, so it was pretty cool jumping into free air,” said Boucher. She recalled standing in the door and looking down.  “I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty far but you know what? Whatever. So a soldier said, ‘3-2-1, go!’ and I just jumped. The free fall was super weird because you're just falling and then you zip line to the bottom. After that, height doesn't matter.”   

Boucher noticed a few striking parallels between hockey and the urban operations activity.   “When we were doing sweeps of the rooms and there's four people standing at the door, there was lots of communication. So you've got to communicate with your whole team, you can't just do what you want,”  said Boucher.   “It's great that they let us come here and show us how they train. I had a lot of fun.” 

Howie Draper is Head Coach of the Pandas Women’s Hockey Team; this is his 20th year as coach. Draper recalled the positive feedback from the SFAD last year and was determined to let them do it again. He wanted to enable his players, aged 18 to 23, to start the hockey year with a unique team building experience.

Draper appreciated talking to soldiers who shared their insights. He understood the importance of doing specific exercises on a routine basis.  “It all becomes second nature so you don't really have to think about it,”  he said. During the urban operations activity, Draper observed soldiers demonstrating constant communications as they depended on each other to clear a room.

 “You can apply all that stuff to hockey. You've got to communicate, you've got to work as a team,” said Draper.   “If you want to be successful, you've got to be focused and practice diligently. It's the agony of repetition, you've go to repeat, repeat, repeat, so when you get into a game hopefully things go well.” 

Leading by example, Draper participated in all the SFAD activities – including the mock tower.   “As I was standing in the door, I tried not to think of the impending doom,” he laughed.   “But all the girls went before me, so being the coach I've got to put on a brave face and I just did it. It was a neat experience.” 

When asked about similarities between hockey and the army, Draper replied:  “They’re both physically and mentally demanding. It's a good message for us to be tough, and no matter the circumstances, you've got to push through.” 

The head coach also mentioned he was impressed with the soldiers.

 “They're so willing to share their experiences and talk about how they came to be here with the Patricia’s. They're very respectful young men, and that's been the biggest impact on me today.” 

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