After all the hours on the ice and in the gym, playing and training, Micah Hart says she still loves the game she grew up with on the Saanich Peninsula.
The 16-year-old Saanichton resident who will be going into her Grade 11 year this September, has turned that love of hockey into opportunities to play overseas and at a very high level. Last week, Hart was in Rockland, Ontario for a National Women’s Under-18 team selection camp — another step on her path to play for her country.
“I’m hoping to be able to make the team,” she said, “and the experience and the exposure is always good.”
Back in May, Hart attended a U18 national team strength and conditioning camp. It was mostly off-ice fitness training, she explained, and saw a large group of players cut down to 40 who have been invited to Ontario from Aug. 10 to 18. Hart is one of 12 defensemen on the list and one of only six from B.C.
Hart is competing for one of 22 slots on the team. Once formed, the team will travel to Lake Placid, New York to take on their U.S.A. counterparts in a three-game series. At that series, Hockey Canada scouts will work with the team’s coaching staff to select a final roster for Team Canada before it competes in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship.
Hart brings some international experience with her to the camp. She spent seven days in London, England earlier this summer at a U18 international hockey federation development camp. There, she worked with players from 18 countries, acting as both a mentor and ambassador.
“It was an honour to go and represent Canada,” she said.
Hart added the camp in London was part of the effort to raise the level of skill among female hockey players in the world.
“It was a mentorship program,” she continued. “There were players, coaches, trainers and managers there. The biggest challenge was trying to communicate, but it was also the fun part. Having hockey in common makes it easier.”
While she was there, Hart said she learned how to take herself out of her comfort zone.
“I learned to take myself a little less seriously and meet new people.”
Hart said she fell in love with hockey when she was around five years old. Her brother Ben, now 22, was playing (he played for the Peninsula Panthers Junior B team) and she fell right in behind him.
“I played with the Peninsula Minor Hockey Association with all the boys, starting at the Initiation level when I was four or five.”
As she became more and more involved and her skills improved, Hart took hockey to the next level. She spent her Grade 10 year at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton and plans to be back there this school year.
She plays defense for the school’s team, which played in an under-19 league with opponents from along the east coast of the United States and Canada. Balancing a full schedule of hockey and homework is another challenge for Hart, but she said the academy has a lot of people to help support her and the other players.
From there, Hart said she hopes to work her way into a U.S. hockey scholarship and attend one of the NCAA Division 1 hockey universities there.
“It can be a lot of pressure,” Hart said. “But you can’t worry about it until the time comes.”
So, it’s back to her typical work week of sorts — five workouts each week in the gym and another two or three sessions on the ice during the summer. Hart said she’s working on her defenseman skills which calls on her to be quick on her skates and confident along the blue line.
“In the girls game, you have to be confident to hold and pass the puck, know the plays and be able to start the plays and make the passes.”
Hart has always been a defenseman and said she enjoys it.
“I’ve always been the player who wanted to protect their own net, rather than score goals.”
Hart said she hopes to be able to represent Canada some day, but in the meantime, she said she will always remember why she plays hockey — for the simple joy it brings.