The youngest face of Hay River women’s hockey

Reanna Cross can’t share the dressing room with most of her teammates, but that’s not because her skills are not on par. 

It’s because she’s 11, and she’s playing on the women’s hockey team. 

On Saturday night, after a long day at the speed skating workshop, Cross was entering her second season playing with the ladies as the youngest member of the team, and the only full-time goalie.

The 11-year-old was asked to play as a second goalie last year to sub for the full-time, of-age goalie, Sophie Call.

This year, Call is on hiatus, and Cross has stepped up to the plate, or into the net as it were, to be a more permanent fixture this season.

While she’s happier not to be playing with the boys, her entrance into the women’s league brought a few surprises.

“I thought they were going to go easier on me,” she said.

“But some of the shots were kind of hard. Sometimes you get shots to the head and that doesn’t always feel good, but it’s alright. I used to be kind of scared of the puck.”

Along with her spot on the ladies team is a later practice schedule, and some nights, breaking the regular school-night curfew. Practice on Tuesday nights begins at 8:30 p.m.

But Cross and her teammates have to prepare for a tournament coming up in November.

She feels the need to get as much practice in beforehand to support her team and alleviate some of her own nervousness with preparedness.

“I guess when we go to tournaments it might be a lot of pressure,” said Cross. “If I get hurt, what’s going to happen.”

Last year, Cross was asked, last minute, to serve as goalie for a Fort Simpson ladies team during a tournament in Hay River.

“In the women’s hockey association you have to be 14,” said Cross.

“At first they told me I wasn’t allowed to play because it could be dangerous, but an hour before the game they called and asked if I wanted to play. I think we lost but we had a lot of fun I got to meet some pretty cool new people.”

On Saturday night, following a two hour practice where she was in constant guard after a gruelling day of skating, Cross served again for an hour-long game.

At 10:15 p.m. she was still going strong, holding her ground in the net.

When asked what it’s like to play in the women’s league, Cross answered with a non-descript, “it’s fun,” and then, a more sneaky, “I have fun beating people who are older than me.”

Given that there’s no girls dedicated hockey team in Hay River, this is Cross’s only chance to play on a dedicated female team.

As their ice time ran out and the team glided off the ice surface, Cross received a few encouraging taps on the back, a few encouraging comments.

“Great job,” and “good work out there,” said her teammates.

Cross headed to her separate ladies changing room, green goalie stick in hand, just like her dad, except of course for the ladies changing room part.

In fact, it was her dad who inspired her to try her hand at tending to goal posts in the first place.

“My whole family pretty much plays hockey,” said the 11-year-old.

“We’re a hockey family. But I wanted to be a goalie like my dad because he’s a really good goalie. And I think it’s fun stopping pucks. I’m just hoping to get better and win a few games.”