Local Girls Hockey Players Learn From Idols

Hokey Langan - Coaching - CKSS Hockey

Hokey Langan, a former NCAA and Canadian National hockey player, gives instructions to CKSS’ Alexa Pugh and her linemates during a January 2015 game – Photo by Kelsey Vermeersch/ CKSN.ca

For a young hockey player, it isn’t easy getting feedback about your weaknesses, and the steps to take to make the next level. That is however, unless that feedback is coming from one of your hockey heroes, who not long ago stood where you were, and achieved the dreams you aspire to.

This is exactly the case with Chatham-Kent Secondary School’s girls hockey program, as the team’s coaching staff features three of the areas top women’s players from the last decade, all CKSS hockey alumni, in Hokey Langan, Katrina Protopapas, and Destiny Pailey.

“I wanted to give back to an athletic program that gave me so much during my athletic career at CKSS,” says Protopapas, who played NCAA Division I hockey with Wayne State University, being named the school’s MVP in her senior year, of coaching.

“I saw it as an opportunity to share my experiences from an elite level of hockey to help the development of the girls and take their game to the next level.”

Katrina Protopapas - Coaching - CKSS Girls Hockey

Katrina Protopapas, a CKSS graduate, who played NCAA hockey at Wayne State, has been coaching with the CKSS girls team this season – Photo by Kelsey Vermeersch/ CKSN.ca

“Hockey is my number one passion. I love everything to do with the sport. I’ve been fortunate enough to play a high level of hockey where I have been educated about the game. There is nothing I want more than pass this knowledge as well as my experiences on to those who share the same passion as me,” says Hokey Langan, who captained the NCAA’s Ohio State Buckeyes, and also played for Team Canada’s U18 team.

According to head coach Ian Kennedy, who is in his first season with the program as well, and also teaches CKSS’ Hockey Focus course, he jumped at the opportunity to have these coaches on the bench.

“Each of these women bring a wealth of knowledge to our team,” says Kennedy. “I think it’s important for young girls to have strong female role models teaching and motivating them. Our team can look at the success Katrina, Hokey, and Destiny had as players, and see that it is possible. Our girls have gained a lot of confidence from them as coaches.”

That opportunity, to learn from women’s hockey players who have already lived their dreams, is a point that isn’t lost on the coaches themselves.

“Not only are our new coaches CKSS alumni and solid hockey players, we too are females that were in the same spot as the players not that long ago,” says Pailey, who played last season with the University of Windsor Lancers. “I think this shared understanding allows the girls to connect with us and make a different bond than other players and coaches would have.”

“Throughout my hockey career, there was never a women’s hockey role model that I could look to for instruction, all my coaches were always males,” says Protopapas. “I think it’s very beneficial for the girls to have that perspective from us, because they can relate to us better.”

While CKSS’ team, which is made up almost entirely of grade 9 and 10 players, has had their ups and downs this season, including two silvers and a bronze in their three tournaments this year, the coaching staff is continuing to focus their efforts on helping each player reach their full potential.

“We try to individualize every single player’s experience with us, by providing one-on-one instruction to improve the weaker areas of their game, so that they become complete players,” says Protopapas.
That improvement, according to Langan is already evident.

“There is a big difference in our compete level from the first day that I stepped on the ice with the girls compared to where they are at today. The future is really bright and promising for the hockey program. The girls have a lot of potential, and that’s why we are here, to maximize their growth as hockey players and hopefully equip the girls with the tools necessary to play university or NCAA hockey.”

While the CKSS players are lucky to have a coaching staff like they do, the coaches also feel lucky for the experience they’re gaining, and opportunity to coach this team.

“Our coaching staff is one of kind, I have already learned so much that I will take on to coach other teams in the future,” says Pailey.

“This program is extremely lucky to have such a dedicated coaching staff, but we are even luckier to have a great group of girls. “

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