For Samantha Wiley, travelling to Toronto to participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Girls’ Global Game was a chance for her to meet passionate players from across the country, and be inspired by some of her hockey heroes.
“This was a pretty awesome experience,” she said. “I got to meet some pretty amazing people, and see some amazing things.”
Wiley, 13, was one of a select group of young Canadian female hockey players chosen to participate in the global game, which took place March 11 on hockey rinks around the world. Over two-and-a-half days, 40 countries hosted one-hour hockey games between teams made up of players from that country.
The goal is to grow female hockey internationally by providing a platform for young women to meet, play and receive mentorship from prominent players in those countries.
To be selected as a participant, Wiley submitted an essay in December 2017, which highlighted some of her experiences both on and off the ice.
The on-ice portion of the essay was easy for Wiley to complete. The defenceman has played hockey for nine years, including a recent stint in Calgary with the newly-formed northwest rep team, Northern Eagles, where she was a first year bantam player going up against girls two to four years older than her.
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Off the ice, Wiley’s love for sports shines through as she plays soccer, was named MVP of the junior volleyball team at Prince Rupert Middle School and was an all star for the school’s basketball team at this year’s zones competition.
Wiley was notified at the end of February that she had been chosen to play on the IIHF team. Along with her mother Valerie, Wiley made the trip to Ontario on March 9 where she and the other players went on a tour that, in addition to the global game, included visits to Niagara Falls and the CN Tower.
It was Wiley’s first time visiting the Greater Toronto Area, and she said getting used to being in a different environment with an unfamiliar group of people was unsettling at first.
“I was nervous at the beginning,” Wiley said. “But by the second day we were amazing friends and got along well.”
Leading the tour was Angela James, who was the first woman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and was one of the pioneers of the women’s game. Dubbed the Wayne Gretzky of female hockey, she led Canada to gold at four of the first IIHF World Women’s Championships.
Wiley said James had a great sense of humour on the bus, playing the role of tour guide, engaging with all of the players and sharing her experience with them. Wiley also met Fran Rider — one of the founders of the Ontario Women’s Hockey
“It was so inspiring to hear the history of what these amazing ladies had accomplished in their years playing hockey,” Wiley said.
Another highlight for Wiley was visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame where she got to see the Stanley Cup in person for the first time.
“We were walking past it, and I told everyone that I just needed a moment with it,” she said. “It was like it was glowing.”
On March 11, the puck was dropped for the global game. Wiley played defence for the black team, which won 3-2. Wiley finished the game with one assist.
“It was pretty evenly matched,” she said. “The girls are all amazing hockey players.”
Aside from winning the game, Wiley said she really enjoyed meeting and playing with so many other women who share her passion.
“It was amazing getting to experience that,” she said. “It’s definitely encouraged me to continue pursuing my hockey dreams.”