Four alumni from the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton took to the Olympic stage; two playing on Team Canada, and two on Team China.
For Canada, returning Olympian Emily Clark and Olympic rookie Micah Zandee-Hart both came through the Penticton program. Hannah Miller, also known in China as Mi Le, is a graduate of Pen Hi and OHA and played for China. Kassy Betinol, also known in China as Kang Mulan, was in the program for a couple of years but didn’t graduate from Penticton.
It’s a strong showing from a community that is well known to many in Canada as a major Hockey Town.
Many times it seems that the women’s hockey and program in Penticton can be overshadowed by the men’s side. Not this year, with the Canadian women’s team picking up the gold medal while the men were knocked out in the quarter-finals.
“It’s great to see all four of the girls making their way to the Olympics and being able to achieve their dreams of playing at the highest level,” said Andy Oakes, the president of the OHA. “We’re very fortunate that we’ve been able to work with amazing young student-athletes who are very passionate about their sport and their education, and have been willing to put in the time and energy to be able to play at the highest level in their game. It’s just outstanding.”
Hannah Miller drew international headlines with the first goal for China in 12 years during the team’s first game against the Czech Republic.
Playing for Canada in her second Winter Olympics as a forward, Clark picked up two goals during the tournament, while defender Zandee-Hart picked up four assists in her first time on the Olympic stage.
The women, when they come to the program have already gone through their local minor hockey programs, such as the Lower Mainland for Hannah Miller or Saskatoon for Emily Clarke, and then the OHA takes over before they graduate and move on to the college levels. It’s only for a few years at a time, but’s during that time that
“We’re a part of their journey, we’re not the whole journey but a part, and we hope to impact them in a positive way,” said Oakes.
It’s having strong players like Clarke, Zandee-Hart, Miller and Betinol who encourage other young girls to go out and give hockey a try. With the women taking the gold medal at the Olympics for Canada, it’s a good sign for the OHA and women’s hockey in general.
“The notoriety of the Olympics, the World Championships; every time these women go out and show the world what they can do it encourages younger generations to participate, and we just need to find more ways to get women’s hockey to the front so people can see it,” said Oakes. “Once people see it, they can believe it, and they think they can do it.”
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