Representing Canada at Pan American hockey event
Band and the Sudbury Senior A Lady Wolves were recently selected to represent Canada at the first ever Pan American Ice Hockey Games, taking place from March 2-8 in Mexico City.
Run under the auspices of the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation (how many even knew that such a group existed?) and endorsed by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the event turned to the OWHA (Ontario Women's Hockey Association) for some help in finding a suitable Canadian team to participate.
"The first thing I saw on the email from the OWHA was 'time sensitive',” said Band after practice last week. "My first thought was that we must be in trouble."
Quite the opposite. The senior A squad, the first of its kind on a local level, was among a small contingent of Ontario teams approached by the OWHA to indicate what, if any, interest they might have in attending the international competition.
"I don't believe we thought we had much of a chance to be selected, but it was very clear that if we proceeded with the application, we had to be committed," Band continued. "I talked to the girls and everybody was in."
Still, receiving the phone call just a week later confirming the Lady Wolves would be going south came as quite a shock.
"I'm blown away that we got picked, but I'm thrilled," Band said.
Having little if any indication as to exactly what the level of opposition will be, the coach and staff have tried to strike a balance.
"You want to go there and have fun, but these girls like to compete, they like to win — and so does their coach."
The local entry includes several young ladies who have suited up for the Lady Wolves or other rep hockey organizations for many years, a large core of whom formed the Sudbury Intermediate team that Band guided the past few years.
Most are very much like newcomer Chantale Archambault from Orleans, a 23-year-old student at Collège Boréal, who moved to Sudbury a couple of years back.
"I wanted to continue with hockey after high school, but I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do for school," said the accounting major.
She admits she and her teammates were as taken aback as their coach by the initial news of even being approached to take part in this inaugural event.
"We were all pretty excited," Archambault noted.
In fact, there are currently about 23 indoor rinks in the home of the pinata and burrito, including the primary facility that will play host to teams from Canada, the USA, Argentina, Brazil and Columbia as well as the host nation.
"We're playing on an Olympic-size ice surface in Mexico City," said Band. "It's a big event."
A fact that is no lost on his troops.
"Most of us have competed at provincials and gone pretty far, but this is competing against teams from around the world," said Archambault. "There is no way that we're ever going to do this again."