Maddy Niesh is aiming high. After watching NHL superstar Sidney Crosby score the goal of the year against the Buffalo Sabres on March 21 where he split the defence, fought off one defenceman, and scored backhanded top-shelf, with only one hand on his stick, Niesh knew that’s what she wanted to do.
“I’m trying to work on what I saw Sidney Crosby do,” said Niesh, as casually as if she could accomplish tying her shoelaces with as much effort.
“I have a hockey net at my house and I always use it [to practice my shot],” the nine-year-old said in late May.
The Grade 3 student is well on her way. She just wrapped up playing in the Novice division with Prince Rupert Minor Hockey, with mixed boys and girls teams.
Right from the get-go, Niesh knew she wanted to skate. Whether it be in hockey, or in figure skating, the young Rupertite knew she wanted to lace ‘em up and get on the ice as soon as she could.
“I watch [hockey] on TV all the time and my dad always watches it,” she said, adding that she wanted to enter figure skating as well from seeing it on Olympic broadcasts.
“I just watch any [figure skater] who’s on the TV,” she said.
In the fall of 2014, her parents enrolled her in the CanSkate program at the civic centre and she won the trophy for Under-8 Most Improved CanSkater of the Year. The next season, she was enrolled in minor hockey’s Initiation A program, where she only lasted two weeks before she was bumped up to Initiation B. By Christmas, she was skating in the Novice division.
Niesh was one of only a few girls in the division, and she enjoyed playing with one friend on her ‘green team.’ Another of her friends opposed her on the ‘blue team,’ and boys made up the rest of the pack. She won five MVP titles on five different occasions throughout the season with minor hockey during tournaments and home games.
She still has a bit of adjusting to do switching back and forth between hockey and figure skating.
“It felt different to have toe picks [on my skates],” she said. With head coach Sheri Pringle and the Prince Rupert Figure Skating Club, she’s already learning new moves.
“I learned an axel, which is where you go on one leg and then spin around a bunch of times in the air and land on one foot,” she said. This year, Niesh won Most Improved Junior Test Figure Skater with the club and also takes part in the power-skating program.
“Maddy is one of the quickest learners I have experienced in a long time,” said Pringle last week. “Her work ethic is pretty fantastic so that probably helps. She just seems to ‘get it’ when you explain things to her.”
Pringle and the coaches even have to halt Niesh in the middle of training, she works so hard.
“If I give her a new element, she will work on it over and over. Sometimes I actually have to tell her to stop working on a certain element and move on.”
Niesh recently played at a Prince George Aboriginal Hockey Tournament, where she played on the North Coast Nations. The team came in first — and Niesh was one of three girls on the team.
From May 12-14, Niesh competed on the all-girls Northern Wolfpack team made up of U8 players across northern B.C at the Canada Cup West select hockey tournament in Kelowna. She won MVP of Game 2 in a 6-4 win and the team went 4-0-1, claiming first overall after a 3-2 win over U8 Prospects.
Niesh scored the first two goals in that final game by lifting a shot high over the goalie’s glove. That first goal put her team up 1-0.
“It was really weird because I didn’t think it was going to go in or go upstairs. The goalie was just standing there and didn’t do anything. It went right over her head,” she said.
Video that her dad shot of the game shows Niesh skating around numerous defenders and wristing a shot even Crosby would be proud to score. The second goal, tying the game 2-2, was more circumstantial, she explained.
“I was just skating randomly and the puck just randomly came to me, so I just shot it and it went in,” she said. She’s modest. The Grade 3 student actually stole the puck, deked a defender and broke in alone on the opposing netminder and wired one home.
Her team then scored with 11 seconds left in the game in to win the cup.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen, I thought we were going to go to overtime. I was on the bench when the last goal went in,” Niesh said.
Next year, Niesh will move up to the Atoms division in minor hockey and up a division with the skating club as well. She wants to learn something else she sees on TV.
“I want to learn how to stop with lots of snow, so I can do that to my friends,” she said.