By Scott Taylor
Photos by Dylan Asmundson
Kate Nechwediuk is a hockey player. There is no doubt about that. In her second season with RINK Hockey Academy's U18 Female Prep, she's an on-ice leader and one of her team's top scorers. Last year, the playmaking forward had nine goals and 26 points in 26 Canadian Sport School Hockey League games and added two assists in three playoff games. Under new head coach Megan Price, she's already off to a solid start this year. However, there is a lot more to Nechwediuk than just hockey.
Three years ago, when she was only 13, she was featured on these pages by Sport Manitoba as a young athlete who not only focuses on hockey but tries to play as many other sports as she can. And while her attention turns to hockey more every year, she hasn't given up on many of the other sports that helped carry her along the way. "I still love playing multiple sports," she said bluntly. "I've definitely focused more on hockey since I've come to the RINK, but I play school soccer and school volleyball. That's actually another nice thing about playing RHA; most days, we are done training by 4:30 p.m., so our evenings are open for other activities. I played club volleyball up to this point too, but I'm going to play indoor soccer instead this winter season. I love the feeling of doing multiple sports in a day or night and actually tend to play better on days where I've been running around from sport to sport. "I also picked up ball hockey last spring. My best friend, Emma Pow, plays ball hockey and she kept telling me how much fun it was. I thought it would be a good year to try it out because Nationals were in Winnipeg." She obviously had no problem picking up the game. "I played for Team Manitoba U16 and we won Nationals," she said proudly. "That was an awesome experience."
Nechwediuk was named top forward and won MVP of Nationals, which was a big accomplishment. "I was really proud of myself and my teammates. We had a really good team. Everyone was so kind and supportive, and our team dynamic was so good; that's what helped us be successful." She won't argue that playing other sports has helped her become a better hockey player. She's an outstanding playmaker who sees the ice well and pays attention to details. Nechwediuk gets herlove for all sports quite naturally. Her mom, Anndrea (O'Connor), won four provincial high school basketball and volleyball championships at Glenlawn and was the 1992 MHSAA Winnipeg Jets high school athlete of the year. Her dad, Brad, played AAA hockey and was a multisport athlete as well and loves to remind the family he was Glenlawn's 1991 male athlete of the year. "Nechy has so many good qualities that she brings to the team, both on-ice and off-ice skills," said Coach Price. "The biggest thing is her ability to make plays and find her teammates. I think that she's proven that she's one of the hardest workers on the team and she has a never-quit attitude. That's something that the rest of the team can learn from, and they follow her lead."
A TEAM-FIRST APPROACH
Nechwediuk wants to be known as a player who thinks team first, herself a distant second. "I love seeing my teammates do well and I care as much about the team's success in a game as I do my own. I try to stay positive and set a good example for the girls that are new to the program and just be the best teammate I can be. My parents were both leaders on their teams and I think that has rubbed off on me; they've been great role models for me and my brother. "I think for our team to succeed we need to be a family and be there for each other. There's no one on the team I wouldn't feel comfortable 16 going to and I hope my teammates would feel comfortable coming to me."
A FOCUS ON MENTAL HEALTH
This year the RINK focused on sports psychology and mental health. A number of different speakers and programs were introduced to monitor the well-being of the athletes in the RHA program. "The RINK and Testify coaches hold the athletes to a high and elite standard," she said. "This allows the athletes to get the most out of every on-ice and gym session. They are focused on the details and will make you push yourself to be the best you can. "Something I really value with Testify is how much each trainer cares. Everyone wants what's best for you and is focused on what you specifically can do better. We have multiple trainers watching over our group to ensure we are making the most out of our time in the gym."
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC LED NECHWEDIUK TO THE RINK
"The end of my first U15 year was cut off and we didn't even get a second season, thanks to COVID," she said. She's definitely a veteran at the RINK. Now a Grade 11 student at Shaftesbury High School, she's in her second full season with the U18 Prep team. She previously trained with the RINK's R-1 program in Grade 8. "I'd been training here off and on for years so I knew it was going to be great!" "I love the RINK," she said. "I chose the RINK because it's a great facility and the training is very personalized.
It's specific to what I need to work on and I think that's really special. The equipment we have is very technologically advanced and I don't believe there is a Prep team in our league with the same resources available all day every day." "I like the staff at Shaftesbury," she added. "I find that if you communicate well with your teachers, you can create a good relationship. If you're honest and forward with them, they are understanding with due dates and tests."
CLEARLY DEFINED GOALS
Although only 16, she has clearly defined goals. "My goal with the RINK is to just keep improving. to be the best that I can be," she said. "Both as a person and as a hockey player. "For the future, I'd like to play university hockey. My preference is to stay in Canada, preferably someplace close to home because I'm really close with my family." Meanwhile, Coach Price is pleased with Nechwediuk's skills and development. "She has the ability to see the ice, make plays and is so smart when it comes to the plays that she makes," said the coach. "She leads by example every single shift and she's completely selfless. She's a really good player to have on our team."
Scott Taylor | Game On Magazine https://gameonhockey.ca/