UBC’s Thunderbirds achieve CIS record turnaround thanks to Sooke’s Emily Grainger
The female hockey team at University of BC (UBC) has just pulled off the greatest turnaround in Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) women’s hockey history.
According to the UBC’s goThunderbirds.ca website, the Thunderbirds’ women’s hockey team has turned a record bad year (one win, 21 losses and two ties) into a record good year (17 wins, seven losses and four ties). And to boot, they did this turn-around in a matter of only one year.
Yes, this is Sooke’s community newspaper.
Yes, we’re covering this incredible turn-around of UBC women’s hockey team.
Because their success is in part due to the contribution and skills brought to the team by one Emily Grainger, assistant captain, number 8. Grainger is a Sooke native currently on a hockey scholarship at UBC, studying kinesthesiology.
At 22 years, Grainger is startled to notice that she had being doing something for 17 years.
She started playing hockey at five years old, influenced by two older siblings, a brother and a sister, who both played hockey.
She was further influenced — and significantly supported — by her parents, Ann and Richard Grainger, who also played. In fact, Grainger reflects, there was a point in her life where her entire nuclear family of five was playing for various teams, all in Sooke.
Emily Grainger has always been attracted to the competitive side of hockey.
She began playing with the Initiation boys’ team at five and continued playing on the boys’ league through Bantam. Not because of a lack of girls’ teams — Sooke did have all-girls teams at the time — but rather because she preferred to play with her peers that she has known her entire life. It was, Grainger indicates, the natural place for her to be.
She has a long history of wins: According to the UBC team roster, Grainger “played for the South Vancouver Island Breakers, won a gold, silver, and bronze with the Breakers at various Western Shield Championships, played in the Sooke Minor Hockey Association, played ‘A’ boys hockey growing [up] and won a provincial title in PeeWee and a bronze in Bantam.”
Besides being a consistently good hockey player, Grainger seeks out leadership roles. From 2010 to 2012, Grainger served as the president of the athletes’ council.
“My highlight from that position was when I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Trevor Linden,” she reflects.
Her integrity as a team leader as well as a team player shines through when she recognizes the tremendous support she has received over the years: her siblings who initially inspired her; her parents who supported her; and, her coaches who guided and mentored her.
“I also want to mention that I participated in the hockey academy at EMCS in Sooke for my four years of high school. Mr. [Mark] Barrie has always stood out as one of my favorite coaches and teachers from my minor hockey career.”
Grainger aspires to continue playing professional hockey, perhaps with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She is also planning to continue academically and pursue a future as a physiotherapist. She’s graduating from UBC this year, and has applied for post-graduate studies at physio school.
In the meantime, there is the present — this moment — to cherish.
“Her team has just completed one of the greatest turnaround seasons ever in Canadian sports,” Wilson Wong, the manager of Sport Information for the UBC Thunderbirds said.
He adds, “Emily’s UBC team played their playoff series this past weekend and they won, beating Manitoba in two games. Emily got two points. It is the first time ever that a UBC women’s hockey team has won a playoff series. They will advance to the conference semi-finals in Regina this weekend. If they win two games there, UBC will go to the league finals and clinch a spot at the national championships.”
Emily Grainger, Sooke is watching you and cheering you along your way. You’ve made us proud.