Hockey has taught a Springdale woman a lot about life.
Abby Clarke, 22, is completing a social work degree at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where she is coming off her fifth and final season as goaltender for the women’s hockey team, the St. Thomas Tommies.
“I always used to say that hockey taught me things I couldn’t learn in a classroom,” said Clarke.
“It taught me a lot about friendships, leadership, and relationships, and how important all those things are… it’s given me a lot. It’s given me most of the things I have in my life.”
That includes her team's first-ever Atlantic University Sport (AUS) women's hockey championship. According to an AUS press release, Clarke was instrumental in helping her team to gold, stopping 39 of 40 shots by their opponent, St. Francis Xavier University. She was named this season’s AUS Championship MVP, as well as an AUS second team all-star after achieving the highest win and save percentages in the conference.
Additionally, Clarke was also this year’s recipient of the prestigious James Bayer Memorial Scholarship Award, which recognizes students for their athletics, academics, and community leadership.
Passion for playing
Clarke was introduced to the sport 17 years ago as a novice within the Springdale Minor Hockey Association. After reaching bantam level, Clarke moved to Rothesay, New Brunswick at the age of 14, where she attended prep school. After graduating high school in Calgary, Alberta, she enrolled at St. Thomas University.
There, she has found success both athletically and academically. She has also been an avid community volunteer, having led hockey clinics and camp programs for aspiring athletes.
She attributes her success to the support of family, which includes her parents and younger brother living back home on the rock.
“I have a very supportive family, and a very supportive group of friends here in Fredericton,” says Clarke. “My partner as well, and my coaches throughout the years have been a huge support to me and I would never have been able to get through my journey in hockey without any of them. I truly believe that.”
Although her eligibility with the St. Thomas Tommies has ended, she plans to continue as an active member of the Fredericton community.
“I’m getting use to retired life, I guess,” chuckled Clarke. “But I plan on being heavily involved in the community with hockey in any way I can.”
She has plenty of wisdom to share with young athletes.
“I would say that if they want to achieve an education through sport, whether it be hockey or any sport for that matter, that it’s not going to be easy,” says Clarke. “But take pride in the hard work that it requires, and you’ll have some of the best experiences of your life."
But, she adds, it's about more than the sport or the education.
“I’ll never remember all the bagged skates or the early morning workouts, but I remember the experiences, the laughs, and the fun I had with my teammates and the people that I got to meet through the sport,” she said.
“It’s worth a lot more than getting an education and all of that, it’s the people that you meet, as well.”
Abby Clarke’s athletic and academic achievements:
• Named AUS Championship MVP for the 2018-2019 season.
• Assisted the St. Thomas Tommies in winning their first-ever AUS women’s hockey title in program history.
• Stopped 39 of 40 shots in St. Thomas’s 2-1 victory against StFx during Game 3 of the series.
• In regular season play, backstopped the Tommies to a 22-5-1 regular season record, a first-place finish in the conference standings, and a bye through to the playoff semi-final round.
• Starting in 23 games, Clarke finished the season with the highest win percentage (.739) and the second highest save percentage (.943) in the AUS conference
• Named an AUS second team all-star.
• Earned AUS and U SPORTS athlete of the week honours for the week ending Jan. 6, 2019.
• Named a U SPORT Academic All Canadian
• Received the 33rd annual James Bayer Memorial Scholarship Award of $1,000, which recognizes athletics, academics, and citizenship.