If there is a Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League season in 2020-21, Silvertips defender Bryn Schmidt will be back for a fifth time. She’s pretty pumped about it, too.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down all sports (and all large gatherings) in Canada at least until the end of August, there is hope that the 2020-21 hockey season will return in some form. For a player like Schmidt, a 22-year-old who just completed here final undergraduate exam at the University of Manitoba, it could be the last chance to play the game at a highly competitive level.
Although she has “aged-out” of junior hockey, the MWJHL has a special rule, sanctioned by Hockey Manitoba, that each team can dress three overaged players. When the season starts this season, it’s likely Schmidt, Lorice Pilling and All-Star Game participant Autumn DeGrave will be the Silvertips’ three overagers.
It’s an opportunity that Schmidt cherishes.
“I can still play next season and I will definitely take advantage of that opportunity,” she said, the day after writing her final undergrad degree exam in the Kinesiology faculty at the University of Manitoba. “I’ve talked to Ryan (Coach Hrankowski) and I think he wants me back. I’ve really enjoyed myself for the four years. I think coming back for a fifth year says something about how much I love the league.”
If there was any hesitation that Coach Hrankowski wants his veteran defender too return, he quashed that doubt with one statement.
“Bryn is one of those special players who brings it 100 per cent of the time no matter what the situation is,” said Hrankowski. “Bryn is, in my opinion, the best defenseman in the MWJHL hands down and one of the most talented players in the whole league. She is that gamebreaker every coach wants to have. She’s one of those players who can score a big goal or protect the lead in the last minute of a game.
“She never gets outworked and is always working to get better at her game and is very coachable and one of our team leaders that everyone looks up to.”
Schmidt started her hockey career at the ripe old age of 12, after four years of ringette.
“I started in ringette, she said and then, at 12, I decided I wanted to try hockey so I played both hockey and ringette at 12 and 13 and then when I was 14 my parents said you have to decide which one you’re going to play,” she recalled. “I chose hockey and played at River Heights Community Club and with the Rangers. Then I played a year of Midget AAA with the Ice.”
At the end of that year, the Ice folded, so Schmidt tried out for the Avros. However, she was cut and thought her hockey life might be over.
That’s when she and her parents got in touch with the legendary Softball Hall of Famer and hockey coach, Ferdi Nelissen in Portage.
“After getting cut from the Avros, I got the chance to play for the Central Plains Capitals,” Schmidt said. “In my Grade 11 year (2014-15), we won the province and got to play at the AAA Midget Nationals. That team had four players who had been cut by the Avros — me, our two goalies, Lauren Taraschuk (who led the University of Manitoba Bisons to a national championship) and Kathleen Kozior and a forward named Haley Proteau.
“Ferdi gave me a chance to play two more seasons and that’s something I didn’t see happening after the Avros cut me.”
She played for the Capitals again in 2016-16 and then, after graduating from Grant Park High School, she entered and the Kinesiology program at the U of M and tried out for the MWJHL. She wound up on the Silvertips and will start her fifth season with the same team — whenever that start occurs.
In the meantime, she’s taking some well-deserved self-isolation rest and says “I will have as good a summer as I can.” This fall, she’ll enter the Occupational Therapy Program at the U of M and continue her education.
“She’s definitely one of the top players in the MWJHL,” said Hrankowski. “She’s the best D-man hands down and one of the nicest and most coachable players I have had play for me in my 18-years of coaching.”
Yep, she’s definitely being invited back for a fifth season.