Ness returns to bolster Queens' defence
What started off as a bit of joke has turned into a positive for the RDC Queens hockey team.
During the off season Queens head coach Trevor Keeper was kidding, yet still serious, about Red Deer native Carlee Ness coming out of “retirement” and joining the Alberta Colleges Women’s Hockey League team.
The more Ness thought about it the more it appealed to the 24-year-old defenceman, who spent four years with Yale after graduating from the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs.
Ness returned to Red Deer with a degree in economics from Yale and worked a year, but there was something missing.
“I thought about nursing when I graduated from Yale,” she said. “I had a passion for nursing, and RDC has one of the top nursing programs in the country and I get to do it at home.”
One of the attractions of RDC was getting to play with the Queens.
“I had unfinished business. I wanted to finish off my (hockey) career on my terms, instead of being injured and this was a perfect fit. And this is home. My parents and family get a chance to watch me play, something that wasn’t available to them before.”
Plus last year she helped coach the major midget Chiefs, which helped sway her decision to return to the ice.
“It was a good experience . . . my first as a coach and you see the game in a different perspective,” she said.
“But I also realized how much I missed playing and I wanted the game to be part of my life again. That was a huge turning point (in joining the Queens).”
Ness has up to three years of eligibility available after missing most of two full seasons because of concussions at Yale.
“I played my first year, then was injured late that season and missed the entire second season,” she explained.
“I played the third year and then early in the fourth was clipped by an opposing player in front of the net and was out again.”
Her first injury was a fluke when she lost an edge in practice, collided with a teammate and hit the ice.
She’s been symptom-free since the middle of 2009.
“There are still some issues, and I’ve been told there always will be, but physically I’m 100 per cent,” she said.
Ness even got into competing in a half ironman competition in 2011.
“I’ve always been an elite athlete and I wanted something to do,” she said. “As well one of my teammates, Mandy Schwartz, passed away in 2010 (from leukemia) and it had a big impact on me. It was my way of grieving and it was something she would have wanted me to do.”
Ness joined the Queens after being away from the game for two years.
“It’s getting better . . . I’m starting to get my game back,” she said prior to practice Monday at the Arena.
The Queens are preparing to open their regular season Thursday when they entertain the Grant MacEwan University Griffins at 7 p.m. at the Arena.
Ness is the veteran on the RDC blueline, but not the oldest player on the team.
“No that’s Laura (Salomons),” she said with a laugh.
But Ness enjoys being a role model for the young RDC defence.
“It’s cool to be a role model and have the experience to draw on,” she said. “I try to teach and help the other girls, but I learn from them as well, so it’s a good relationship.”
Coming into the ACAC after playing at Yale, which is in possibly the premier women’s hockey league in the NCAA, isn’t a step down, stresses Ness.
“Playing at Yale was a fantastic experience. I grew as a player and as a person. But this is definitely a high level of female hockey. I’ve seen the game grow so much over the last several years. It’s continuing to grow, which is exciting.”
And Ness will continue to help the game grow as she is not only playing with the Queens, but helping coach the peewee girls.
As well the Queens will benefit by having Ness around as along as possible.
“My plan is to be here as long as my body holds up, after all I am getting older,” she said laughing.
The Queens visit Grant MacEwan Saturday,
• RDC soccer has a pair of important matches this weekend as they face Medicine Hat Saturday and Lethbridge Sunday at RDC.
The Queens can secure first place in the South Division with a pair of wins while the Kings can secure second with two victories.
The women kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday with the men to follow.
• Soccer dominated the Boston Pizza RDC athlete of the week voting.
Logan Grenier, a second-year centre back from Olds, received the top male award with first-year defender Cori Van der Voort of Red Deer receiving the female award.