Jenelle Manitowabi, Lac Seul First Nation band member, sets her sights on playing goalie in NHL


First Nations teen goalie sets her sights on Stanley Cup

Jenelle Manitowabi, 13-year-old Habs fan whose role model is Carey Price, intends to play in NHL

By Jenelle Manitowabi, Posted: May 27, 2014

Jenelle Manitowabi, right, and her brother Samuel hold the trophy they won with the Lac Seul Jr. Eagles at the Northern lil'Bands tournament in Sioux Lookout, Ont., this past February.

Jenelle Manitowabi, right, and her brother Samuel hold the trophy they won with the Lac Seul Jr. Eagles at the Northern lil'Bands tournament in Sioux Lookout, Ont., this past February. (Manitowabi family)

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My name is Jenelle Manitowabi. I am 13 years old and live in the Lac Seul First Nation, a northern Ontario Ojibway community.

I am a goalie and I plan to play in the NHL some day. My role model is Carey Price, a First Nations goalie for the Montreal Canadiens.

I understand girls don't usually dream of playing in the NHL. We usually aim for the Olympics, and while it would be nice to be selected to represent my country, it is the Stanley Cup I'm after.

You might wonder how this dream of mine came to be. Maybe it was staying up past my bedtime with my dad to watch the Habs game, or playing hockey with the boys and seeing them pretend to hold up the Stanley Cup after a sweet goal.

It simply might be the people telling me, "Girls don't play in the NHL."

Whichever it is, this dream of mine is set in stone, and it's pretty much all I think about.

I know there will be doubters and critics, but that just makes me all the more excited to bring the Stanley Cup to Lac Seul First Nation, and to be able to tell everyone, "I did it!" Then people will be able to remember my reserve's name.

I know I will need to work three times harder than anyone else because women aren't built like men.

But when I played in a midget boys hockey tournament, they tried to go easy on me because I'm a girl, and it didn't work well for them because I stopped over half the shots they took. Sometimes I wonder if they would treat me differently if I tucked my ponytail into my jersey.

Being a goalie requires lots of patience and muscle. The goalie really has to be the best, both physically and mentally, on the ice. Playing this position is stressful, but that is what pushes me to get better at each practice.

I would practice seven days a week if I could. Since we do not have a competitive league team locally, for the past two years I have travelled over two hours to get to every practice. My games often take me away from school, so I'm grateful for my friends who help me maintain my grades, and my supportive family.

I am also fortunate to have great goalie coaches who have helped me progress to the skill level I am at by being strict about correcting bad habits like going down with one leg before the other, or not keeping my glove open ... or resting.

Our community just opened a new indoor arena, which benefits all the young and talented skaters that live with me here.

Hockey is popular in Lac Seul but playing it hasn't been that big with young people in my community, which has been a challenge for me, but I'm proud to say that with our new indoor arena that is changing.

Being chosen recently to skate in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Montreal has been my greatest hockey accomplishment so far. Representing Ontario was fun and a tremendous honour that I will never forget, but I have much bigger plans for my hockey career.

I like to think of each accomplishment as experience on a job application. Right now I play Girls AAA hockey, but this coming season I will also start playing Boys AA. I hope to add playing with a team in Warroad, Minnesota, to my application before I finish high school. After that, maybe the Canadian junior team?

I know one thing is for sure - the National Hockey League is my ultimate destination.

This story was produced with guidance from Kimberly Stinson of Journalists for Human Rights, as part of JHR's Northern Ontario Initiative.