Paige Grenier is set to take on one of the highest honours in hockey next season.
The Olds native, who played some of her minor hockey in Red Deer, has been named captain for the University of New Brunswick Reds women’s hockey program next season.
The third-year forward can’t wait to wear the “C” next season, knowing that her teammates were the ones that wanted to see her take on the title.
“It’s a huge honour and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to lead this team and help us get to the next level,” Grenier said from back home in Olds.
“It was a discussion we had with the coaching staff and our leadership group. They had all discussed the amount of confidence they have in me taking over the role as captain.
“It really means the world to me, just considering what a great group of leaders we have on the team. To have them choose me, is definitely a great honour.”
Her excitement will also need to build longer than she anticipated, as the 21-year-old is still recovering from knee surgery that she had in April.
Originally, she planned to have the surgery last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, because U Sports action had been cancelled. But the pandemic also pushed back elective surgeries, meaning Grenier was forced to wait and now has to sit for part of the season this year.
“It’s been difficult, it’s had its good and bad days. I just try and stay focused on what I can do each day to put myself in a better position than I was yesterday,” she said, adding the surgery wasn’t the result of an injury, but some long-standing wear and tear she decided to take care of now, rather than later.
“If I let myself think too far down the road, then I don’t think I’d be getting very far– mentally I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am.”
She’s aiming to be back on the ice in November and eyeing a return later in the season. So, when the season gets underway in September, she’ll need to find a way to be a leader off the ice, which will no doubt be a big challenge.
“I think the biggest thing for me will be that off-ice presence, being around the team in the dressing room, making sure spirits are up and there’s a lot of positivity flowing before practice,” said Grenier, who was the first player officially added to the Reds roster when they rejoined the Atlantic University Sport conference in 2017.
“Providing that encouragement off the ice – that accountability piece away from the rink is going to be huge for me.”
In her last full season with the Reds, Grenier was productive, with four goals and nine assists in 27 games. That helped the team book an appearance in the AUS best of three semi-finals, which they lost to the top-ranked U Sports team in the country, the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
Grenier says the goal is to finally get over the hump this season.
“This year we’re really pushing to win that AUS championship. I think that’s the expectation and that’s the standard we’re going to be setting at the beginning of the season or even now, through team meetings,” she said.
“Just trying to instil that confidence in ourselves. The last couple of seasons we lost in the semi-finals of AUS competition. So we’re really going to be pushing to get that championship.”
It was with that goal in mind that she joined the Reds three years ago and the journey to date has been one she won’t soon forget, even if there’s some unfinished business left for this season and next.
“It was a leap of faith at the time, a brand new program and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. It’s incredible out there,” she said.
“The university has given our team all the support we’ve needed to be successful. The coaching staff has pushed us every single year to be better, faster and stronger. The group of girls that have come together has made the experience all that much more enjoyable.”
Her advice to young players hoping to carve out a similar path follows three simple rules.
“You have to enjoy going to the rink every day – if going to the rink, playing hockey isn’t something that you consistently enjoy, the university can be a grind to balance the student-athlete portion and all the time you have to spend training,” she said.
“The other two, you can never beat a great work ethic and a great attitude. If you have those things, any coach will be hardpressed not to take you. Those are some things that really make a big difference.”