As the blizzard raged outside North Toronto Memorial Arena on Feb. 7, a storm was also a brewing on the ice inside.
With painted faces and practiced cheers, hundreds of students, teachers, and alumni rooted on the Havergal Gators and Bishop Strachan Bobcats senior girls’ hockey teams as they battled to claim the Hewitt Cup — an annual battle between the two schools for over 50 years.
With the Bobcats playing Division 1 CISAA hockey, and Havergal gracing Division 1B, the contest had no league stakes, but was fiery from the drop of the puck, and it was reflected in the hundreds of Bobcat and Gator fans packing the rafters. Despite the 7–1 Bishop Strachan victory, all the girls cheered every goal, save, and breakaway chance.
“Personally, I feel a lot of pride for BSS, because I’ve been going here for such a long time,” said Carly Valentine, a grade 11 student at the school. “I would have to say that the pride and the sense of community that you get when you come with the whole school [is what I like the most].
“It’s much more than the hockey, I think. But the hockey is entertaining.”
As the centerpiece of the schools’ spirit weeks, the game was hard fought. Bishop Strachan broke the ice with two girls in the opening period, care of a wristshot from Morgan Sly — a goal that caused a rousing wave of cheers from the Bishop Strachan supporters.
However, Havergal came to play. The contest was a game of possession, and the Gators had their share of open ice chances, but to no avail. Havergal scored to open the second period, an indication they weren’t interested in being walked over by the Bobcats.
“We obviously wanted to win, but more importantly I think we wanted to come out and put up a good fight, which I think we did, and we wanted to have fun,” said Havergal forward Hilary Lloyd. “It was nice to get one back after being down, it gave our team a bunch of momentum and boosted out confidence.”
The Gators’ remained competitive despite the Bobcats production on offense. Their team, a very young squad with lots of skill, wanted to make the most of their Hewitt Cup appearance, to become a better squad under the lights.
“It’s different every year,” said Gators’ captain Tessa Buchan. “When I started, in grade 7, we had an older team, so a lot of them were in grade 12, and right now we have a pretty young team.
“It’s special in its own way. This year, we had a lot of new grade 7s, and a new backup goalie.”
The Bobcats, who sit fourth in Division 1, as nervous as they were, circled this game on their calendars.
“I think it gets more exciting each year,” said Bobcats forward Hayley Masters. “I remember in grade 9, my first time out here, I couldn’t even breathe, you’re skating around and you can’t hear yourself think.
“It’s electrifying, the crowd goes nuts. It’s Spirit Weeks at our schools, and so it’s all who has the most spirit and who can cheer the loudest. It’s a cool feeling.”
With Bishop Strachan’s junior girls’ hockey squads competing against each other during the first intermission, and an atmosphere at a fever pitch, the game can have its share of pressure to perform.
“It was really overwhelming, but it’s an amazing feeling to know you have all those girls supporting you, it’s a nice feeling,” Lloyd said. “There’s definitely more pressure, obviously want to perform at your best, all these people are watching you.
“But, I think it’s more about knowing you have that support. So, you know if you screw up, they’re still going to have your back.”
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