THUNDER BAY – On the same day Kendra Fortin was told the truth about the Easter Bunny, she was also told she’d never make the National Hockey League – because she was a girl.
It was a double whammy, but she didn’t let the devastating news get her down.
That perseverance paid off.
On July 29, the 18-year-old from Thunder Bay joined 22 other so-called NextGen hockey players born in 2003 to take part in the eight day national women’s under-18 team summer development camp at Calgary’s Olympic Park.
It’s a do-over for the athletes, who last summer could only participate in a virtual under-18 camp, an opportunity to get national-level experience, familiarize themselves with the Team Canada way and get ready for the upcoming season.
Fortin, whose older brother Zach played parts of two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and will suit up for the Superior International Junior Hockey League’s Kam River Fighting Walleye this season, said it’s a dream come true to get the invite to Calgary.
“The biggest thing is being able to play with the top girls in the country of my age. I think that’s a pretty good opportunity to get ready for Bemidji and that’s one of my main focuses,” said Fortin, who plans to attend Bemidji State University in the fall after spending last season with the Etobicoke Dolphins of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League.
“It’s a big honour to make that team after not playing for a year-and-a-half and it definitely motivates me more to work hard to play in college for my four years.”
It’s also a chance to get seen and maybe start down the Olympic path like Thunder Bay’s own Katie Weatherston and Haley Irwin, who together have won medals at the last four Games – three of them gold.
“That’s the biggest thing for us. My next step would be playing for Bemidji State and then hopefully getting noticed for the U-22 roster, which is the next step for the Olympics. That was kind of my dream since I was little,” Fortin said.
“My dad and I always talked about stepping stones. This is just another milestone. I’m going to make my way up the mountain and do it the right way. It’s going well so far, I guess.”
Fortin, who plays defence, credited her family, her trainer, her coaches and the Thunder Bay Queens organization for helping her get to where she is today.
Her older brother has been a huge influence on her career, she added.
“I think growing up I didn’t have very many female role models. Haley Irwin was obviously one of the biggest for me, for a female, but my brother was definitely one of my biggest role models, just because I grew up around him. I’m his friend and I worked out with him since I was 11 with my trainer, Brady Fox,” Fortin said.
The camp runs from July 29 to Aug. 5 and will pit the NextGen team against a pair of under-18 teams also taking part.