By John DeCoste
Kate Spooner has always been part of boys’ hockey teams, and the 14-year-old goalie admits, “I’ve always really enjoyed it.”
Spooner, a Grade 9 student at Horton High who lives in Grand Pré, is a goalie with the Kings Mutual Major Bantam Wildcats. Not only is she the only girl on the team, she is the only girl in the entire Major Bantam league.
Asked if she had always played goal, Spooner, who has played hockey for eight years, admitted, “my first year of novice, I played out.”
At the same time, at the novice level, “everyone had to take a turn playing goalie. I found I enjoyed it, and was actually pretty good at it.”
As a rule, Spooner said she has spent her first year in an age division playing at a lower level, then graduating to the higher level in her second year.
She spent the 2011-2012 season, her first in the Bantam division, with the Acadia Bantam AA Axemen.
“I tried out for Bantam AAA, and I was the final cut from the team.” At the same time, she said, “I was really happy with how I had done.”
This year, she tried out for Kings Mutual again; this time, she made the team, and was the starting goalie in the Wildcats’ home opener, which was “a real thrill.”
Spooner wasn’t totally happy with her first couple of games this season, but since then, “I’ve gotten into a rhythm, and I feel I’ve been playing pretty consistently.
“The coaches, Dan Turner and Donnie Pineo, are great, and really supportive” – as are her teammates, and especially fellow goalie Paul Janes.
“Paul and I have a great relationship,” she says. “I believe all goalies have a special bond, and understand things other players don’t. It’s worked out really well for both of us so far.”
In addition, Acadia backup goalie Christopher Holden, “who has been working with us all season, has been a big help” to both Spooner and Janes.
Moreover, as both goalies have become more comfortable both with their roles and their teammates, the team has improved accordingly.
After a 2-4 start, Kings Mutual, in its eight games previous to Nov. 18, had won three, tied four and lost just one. Spooner had a respectable 3.14 goals against average (22 goals allowed in seven games), while Janes was at 3.86.
Spooner admitted she has “always played on boys’ teams. My parents put me into boys’ hockey from the start.”
Even though she has nothing with which to compare it, she admitted, “I like the atmosphere – I find it easy-going, no real pressure.”
Spooner expects no concessions or special treatment because of her gender.
“Starting at the Peewee level, I was given my own dressing room,” she said. “I put my gear on there, but after that, I’m in with the rest of the team so I’m part of (the pre-game routine).”
Unlike other youngsters her age who play a variety of sports, Spooner admits, “I focus on hockey pretty much year-round. I take a month or two in the summer to go on vacation with my family, but otherwise, I’m pretty much focused on hockey.”
Asked the biggest difference she has found at the Bantam AAA level so far, she said, “the game is faster, most of the players are bigger, and the shots are harder. I’ve had to get all new gear,” though she admits she probably needed it anyway.
Spooner suggested she has always gotten great support from her family.
“My brother Eric plays hockey at Horton, but his second year in Bantam, he played AAA. He became my inspiration. I’ve always looked up to him as a hockey player.”
Asked where she hopes to take her hockey career, Spooner admitted this season “will probably be the last year I play on a boys’ team.”
Next season, she hopes to be playing either with the East Hants Midget AAA girls’ team, or attending a prep school somewhere, either in Canada or the U.S.
“We’ve been looking at both New Hampshire and Massachusetts,” she said, though she admitted she is not ruling out prep schools on this side of the border.
“Brette Pettet (a friend and former teammate) is at a prep school now, and I know others who have done it, though most of them have been forwards or defense. Most female goalies I know have gone the (female) Midget AAA route.”
Eventually, she says, “my goal is to get a scholarship to a university or college, on either side of the border,” and continue her education while also playing hockey.
Asked if she has any regrets at becoming a goalie, Spooner replied, “I think it’s actually helped me. Most girls don’t get to play Bantam AAA with boys because of the size and speed. Because I’m a goalie, I’ve gotten to play.”
She admitted, “my only real worry was the harder shots, but I trust my gear.”
One worry all goalies have is being run over in the crease. Asked if that has happened to her, Spooner said, “the last game I played, I got run a few times. I know it’s not because I’m a girl, though. They do it to the guys, too.”