B.C. coach recalls her London roots

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

As a 12-year-old kid who loved sports, Nancy Wilson was determined to play hockey.

She hooked up with the only female hockey team in London in the late 1960s -- the Sportettes -- and was playing with much older women, including some 25-year-olds.

"My parents were horrified," Wilson said yesterday.

But hockey has taken her places she never could have imagined as a pre-teen playing with the Sportettes ("What a dumb name," she said.)

The Langley, B.C., resident is back in the area this week for the national women's hockey championship at the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre.

Wilson is head coach of the B.C. team, which lost its opening game yesterday 4-3 to Quebec.

"It's been an exciting life through hockey."

Wilson represented Canada at international events, including a tour in Finland, has helped coach the national under-22 team and is head coach and general manager of the B.C. Breakers of the new Western Women's Hockey League.

The Oakridge grad is also the high-performance co-ordinator for B.C. amateur hockey and runs a skills academy.

Somehow, she still finds time to work full-time as an RCMP officer.

This week, Wilson's thoughts have been with the families of the four officers slain in Alberta.

"When we found out . . . there were so many questions and we wanted to know who. It was shocking. We had people crying at their desks and the rest of us were just numb."

Wilson said when she puts on her uniform she knows the dangers but any officer's death is still a shock.

Her RCMP uniform is the only one she wears these days.

She misses playing but she's enjoying the opportunities that coaching affords.

"I just love coaching; it's an exciting place to be," said Wilson, who also played hockey for the Western Mustangs.

And the plus of this coaching stint is she gets to come home and see her parents and friends.

"It's been really nice."

Current Mustang Erin Gray is playing in the national event. She's a member of the Alberta squad that lost 13-0 to Ontario yesterday.

The Calgary native's mom found out about tryouts for the Alberta team and encouraged Gray to get involved.

Although Gray didn't participate in tryouts due to exams at Western, she was chosen based on recommendations and her hockey experience.

"I had good references and people knew me," she said.

Despite yesterday's blowout, Gray said the championship has been a good opportunity for her to play with and against talented players.

And some of those players are big, she said.

"They're fast and they're huge," Gray, a five-foot-seven defenceman, said about the Ontario team. "I don't think I've ever seen . . . or played girls that big.

"It was a really good experience being up against national team players, like Vicky Sunohara," who plays for Ontario.

Wilson's team plays Ontario this morning at 9:15 a.m., then faces Alberta at 3:15 p.m.

WOMEN'S SCHEDULE

When: Today until Sunday

Where: Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre

Tickets: $59 tournament pass; $12 today and tomorrow; $15 Saturday and Sunday

Information: www.hockeycanada.ca


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