Leadership has no gender

By CURTIS J. PHILLIPS, Connect Contributor

Keyano Huskies men's hockey coach Nate Bedford (left) has added Paige Pyett (right) to the coaching staff for the 2015-2016 season. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Keyano Huskies men’s hockey coach Nate Bedford (left) has added Paige Pyett (right) to the coaching staff for the 2015-2016 season. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Keyano Huskies men’s hockey team is carrying four assistant coaches heading into the 2015-2016 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season. One of them is named Paige Pyett.

“To my knowledge, she may be the only women coaching in collegiate or university hockey in Canada and it takes a special person to step into that role,” said Keyano Huskies men’s hockey head coach Nate Bedford of Pyett, 25, who last coached mixed atom hockey in 2012-2103 back in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

“We had a number of resumes for the assistant coaching positions and we were looking for people right here in our community,” said Bedford, with Tommy Fitzpatrick and Jordan Hebert returning to assistant coaching roles and Rob Lacroix along with Payett added.

“We had a number of resumes for the assistant coaching positions and we were looking for people right here in our community,” said Bedford, with Tommy Fitzpatrick and Jordan Hebert returning to assistant coaching roles and Rob Lacroix along with Payett added. “To be honest, I printed off all of the resumes and we went through credentials and background and hers jumped off the page.

“She is going to be at all practices and on the bench during games with us, helping with time shifts and looking for matchups and watching the ice and play when I am dealing with the players… vice versa.  She will jump into a role and be active right away.”

It is not hard to spot Payett at a Huskies men’s hockey practise session. Standing at five-foot-seven, a long blonde ponytail cascades out of the back of her helmet. She is not scared to speak up and coach the young men, men around the same age as her. Men in a league featuring former Junior A all-stars and even a few retired semi-professionals.

“She is tough and that is what we expected,” said Bedford. “I grew up with three sisters and I know how mentally and physically tough women can be.”

Her playing background is solid. A high school graduate of the prestigious Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, where she earned two letters as a defenseman, she would also represent Team Saskatchewan at various competitions including 18-under Nationals and Canada Winter Games.

Named to the Presidents List of Academics,  Pyett would continue her post-secondary education and hockey at Brown University in the Ivy League playing NCAA Division I  for the Bears from 2008-2012. In their rookie season, she would make ECAC Hockey All-Rookie team status and in her final year be named co-captain.

Relocating to Fort McMurray in 2013 for a year and then returning this fall, Pyett said the Huskies organization has allowed her to get back into “the sport I love.”

She continued: “When I saw the position posted on the Keyano website in the careers section, I thought why not. They do not have a women’s hockey program, so why not get involved in the men’s program? At first, I thought, it was a long shot, but I thought I had the experience, so I went for it.”

Of the transition on ice to men’s hockey, she replied.

“The change has a little bit to do with mindset. You have to be able to adapt to your sport.”

Of what she brings to the ice: “I’m just going to go out there and do what I am comfortable doing. I will bring some experience in terms of being a student athlete and I am hoping to be an outlet for the players to help them maintain balance between academics and athletics on the hockey side. Plus some of my experience of playing high-calibre hockey.”

Noted that there are few women coaches in men’s hockey, “I am hoping that if it is an ice breaker for other women, I hope it kind of lets them have no fear about it. Do not let their gender hold them back.”

For further advice, she will look to her brother Logan Pyett, who was drafted in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, 212th overall by the Detroit Red Wings and also played on Canada’s gold medal winning 2008 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships team. After playing a few seasons in Russia he is now with the American Hockey League’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Huskies play their first exhibition home game on September 14, 2015 at 7:15 p.m. in Anzac – at the Anzac Recreational Centre – against the Portage Voyageurs.

Catch you on the rebound.

– Connect Weekly –