It was close to midnight on March 24, and 14-year-old Mackenzie Leverrier’s Bantam A Girls Rep team had been on and off the ice at Vancouver’s Trout Lake Community Centre since 7:15 p.m. The Langley team was battling the North Shore for a provincial win and were in their fourth over time period.
The Harrison-based hockey player was drained, exhausted. She fell down, and for a moment, her mother Melissa, watching from the stands, wasn’t sure her daughter could get back up.
But Leverrier slowly peeled herself from the ice, and with a look of pure determination and grit, faced the North Shore Avalanche for a final overtime period.
Finally, the Langley Lightning scored the winning goal. After a season of intense training and a rivalry with their North Shore opponents, Leverrier’s team had won the B.C. Hockey provincial championship 2-1.
The Agassiz Elementary Secondary School (AESS) student had earned the highest achievement possible for her age level.
“At first the refs called it a ‘no goal,’” Leverrier recalled. “But something changed and then they called it a goal! It was just crazy, I had tears rolling down my face and I didn’t even realize it.”
The defense star began playing hockey as a kid, when her dad brought home a bag of hockey gear. Soon she was out on the ice, playing on the Hope’s co-ed minor league. After six years, Leverrier was ready to move up. She tried out for Abbotsford’s Girls Rep team in 2016, but a devastating equipment malfunction cost her a spot on the team.
“Something was wrong with her skates so she was pretty much Bambi on ice,” recalled Melissa. “I think it made it more nerve-racking to go in this time.”
In September, Leverrier came back strong during try outs for the Langley Bantam Girls Rep team. With nearly 60 young athletes trying out for the team, the young hockey player worked hard to contain her nerves.
“You go out and they skate you until you feel like puking, and then they do some passing drills. It’s really chaotic.”
Despite the chaos, Leverrier’s skills shone through and she made the team.
“I didn’t know anyone so it was really awkward and nerve racking,” she recalled. “So many good hockey players and I’d never been in that level of hockey before.”
Leverrier laughed recalling how working at Chantilly – an ice cream shop in Harrison – the summer before her most competitive season may not have been the best idea.
“You know how that turns out.. there’s lot of um.. sampling,” she said. “So I won’t be doing that this year, cause I know how I felt at the beginning of last season. I was really behind the other girls.”
Behind or not, the team battled it out with the league for a spot in the playoffs, losing to North Shore for the League banner, but earning a spot in Provincials. In a divine twist of fate, the team ended up playing North Shore again for the final game of the tournament and beat their rivals for a B.C.-wide win.
“It’s amazing. I never thought that I could do something like that. From playing tournaments in Kelowna, Kamloops and on a house league to going into this extreme rep team.”
Over the final months of the season, Leverrier earned herself a spot as one of the top five skaters on her team, and said she loves playing an aggressive defense, something she’s had to tone down since leaving the co-ed minor league in Hope. She mentions how ‘hits and checks’ in boys hockey are often overlooked, but result in calls for female players.
Mom Melissa said watching her daughter grow as an athlete has been inspiring.
“I like to see her aggressive out there, because it takes courage,” she said. “…She’s taught me so much, watching her as a player. How she pushes herself. I’m constantly impressed. When she makes big plays, its just like, ‘Thats my daughter!’”
Since September, Leverrier’s dad – also her former coach – has been driving her to Langley four to six times a week for practice. So it’s no surprise that, as a teenager, Leverrier makes sacrifices to pursue her hockey dreams. Her friends have become accustomed to hearing, ‘I can’t, I have hockey,’ when they ask her to join for shopping trips or sleep overs. And even after being awarded the top female athlete award at AESS last year, Leverrier had to drop school sports for hockey.
But she said it’s all worth it. Next year Leverrier will be in the midget age group and plans to try out for a spot on the Abbotsford team and with a Provincials win under her belt, there’s no doubt that Leverrier will keep doing great things in hockey.
“I want to succeed and go further. There’s a lot of great hockey players my age and it will be really hard. But it would be dumb not to do it.”