When you come from a place as far north as Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, you are pretty isolated as a hockey player and a lot of players have had to play elsewhere in Canada. SAIT Women’s hockey rookie goaltender, and Yellowknife product, Tehnille Gard, experienced playing hockey in her home environment as well as other places.
“I started playing hockey when I was 9 years old and we didn’t have a team for girls, we weren’t able to play with guys, so I played ringette,” said Gard.
Gard played hockey in Yellowknife until Grade 11 and then moved away to play in her Grade 12 year.
“I played up until my Grade 12 year and then went and played girls ‘AAA’ hockey in Saskatchewan,” she said.
There are a lot of hockey players that grew up playing in Yellowknife, and there will always be memorable moments in a player’s career as a lot of people played on the same team every year.
“Underdogs is the best thing to have, we went to St. Patrick’s high school and most of the team went to Sir John. We were overshadowed by them but went to overtime and lost 2-1, but that was a proud moment,” Gard said.
SAIT Trojans bench boss, Terry Larson, had nothing but phrase for his goaltender.
“I thought she had confidence in the first half of the season and in the second half and she got a lot more confident as she played more,” said Coach Larson.
“Gard always fit in with the team and she was always upbeat and had a great attitude.
“She has an outgoing personality. Away from the rink she gets along with everyone,” said Larson.
Female hockey programs have grown across the country, and in Yellowknife it has been steadily rising.
“In Yellowknife, our group of girls started female hockey and it has a long ways to go as we don’t have a female league,” Gard said.
“Definitely this is where I grew my love for hockey. We were just happy to be there.”
Life in Yellowknife is something that Gard became accustomed with, but for hockey there were long days of traveling.
“Honestly I didn’t really know living anywhere else. It was isolated and really close knitted, but you had to travel 16 hours to get anywhere,” she said.
Players always have idols that they look up to as its every kid’s dream to make the big leagues even for female hockey players.
“I’m really inspired by Jordan Tootoo as you don’t know how isolated you are until you’re there. Jordan worked hard and I admired his work ethic,” says Gard.
The experience playing for the SAIT Trojans is always going to stick with Gard as it has been a monumental year. The Trojans swept their cross-town rival, the Mount Royal Cougars, in the ACAC finals to become provincial champions.
“It was a good experience as I didn’t know really what to expect in college hockey,” she said. “As a team, we really grew and deep down we really knew we could win, but we didn’t want to jinx it.”
Story by: Justin Seward