Hailing from Creston, British Columbia, Ottawa Gee Gees skater Carling Chown sought different scenery for her university career. The decision to go cross-country and compete in Canada’s capital city was based out of change, “I wanted to get away from the West Coast. I had never been to Ottawa. I flew down and fell in love with it.”
Prior to joining the Gee Gees, Chown competed for the Okanagan Hockey Academy, based out of Penticton, British Columbia. “We had a big rivalry with the Pursuit of Excellence. Our coaches were former Team Canada members Gina Kingsbury (who won a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games) and Rebecca Russell.”
After the Winter Games, Kingsbury had retired from active competition with the Canadian National Team. The coaching position with Okanagan was her first position after retiring. For Chown, the opportunity to play for a gold medalist like Kingsbury was a remarkable experience. “It was really cool. You could tell that coaching was a different experience for her, but it was a great experience.”
Chown is quick to acknowledge the influence that Kingsbury and Russell have had on her playing career. “Gina and Rebecca have definitely been a big influence on me. Just from them being at that high a level of hockey.” Ironically, Kingsbury once played for current Gee Gees head coach Yanick Evola, when the two were part of the Montreal Axion (pronounced Action) in the former National Women’s Hockey League.
Having started the season tied for tenth place in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport National Polls, the Gee Gees endured a very difficult losing streak prior to Christmas. Although a young Gee Gees squad (including seven freshmen and 11 sophomores) struggled with expectation, Chown is confident that the adversity will only make the team stronger for 2013-14. “For sure. Just knowing we could get out of that losing streak and overcome it. Going into it next year, the experience will help.”
With the graduation of team captain Fannie Desforges and alternate captain Alicia Blomberg, Chown is quick to acknowledge that their presence will be missed. “Oh, definitely! Just having their leadership is a big thing. The team will be looking up to Carley Porcellato, who has been here for so long.”
As Chown is entering her fourth season with the Gee Gees, she understands that she will be one of the veterans that the squad’s younger players will look to for answers and guidance. “It is kind of scary knowing how fast it is going by, but I am excited.”
Part of the playing experience for Chown has involved the commitment of the university towards assembling a strong coaching staff. Led by Yanick Evola (who was a former head coach of the Montreal Axion in the NWHL), Steve Seguin (former Los Angeles Kings player) and former team captain Erika Pouliot (also a member of the Canadian women’s ball hockey team), the coaching staff also features many other notable women’s hockey contributors.
Former St. Lawrence Skating Saints player Marianna Locke is a mental skills coach for the Gee Gees. Kayla Hottot (a former Gee Gees player) works in strength and conditioning, and former Concordia Stingers skater Veronique Audet also assists. In addition, two former Ottawa CWHL competitors Robyn Rittmaster, and Isabelle Aube also loan their support to the squad.
Such a commitment holds great value for Chown, “We have quality coaching and we see the impact with Robyn and MJ (Marianna Locke). It is a good experience and they always provide tips for us. They have been where we were.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”