Donning the maple leaf is nothing more than a dream for most young hockey players.
But for Prince Albert’s Kaitlin Willoughby, that dream has become reality.
Willoughby is one of 2,000 international athletes from 55 countries between the ages of 17 and 28 headed to Almaty, Kazakhstan for the 2017 Universiade Winter Games.
The Universiade is held by the International University Sports Federation (FISU), and is hosted every two years. A total of 171 countries from five continents are members of the FISU.
Willoughby, who plays with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, is representing Canada as a member of the women’s hockey team. The team’s faith in her is high, as she’s been chosen as one of the assistant captains.
“It means a lot to me,” Willoughby said Wednesday from Kazakhstan when reached by Skype. “Ever since I was a kid it’s been a dream to wear a maple leaf and play for the Canadian Women’s team. That’s always been a goal of mine, and a second goal is to bring home a gold medal. That’s what we’re here to do.”
Team Canada coach Rachel Flanagan said Willoughby was chosen as an assistant captain for the leadership she showed at selection camp.
“We were able to get to know Kaitlin a little bit this summer in Calgary. She brings a lot of energy to our room,” Flanagan said.
“She’s very good at what she does on the ice, but off the ice we feel she’s a vocal leader and she’s really good at keeping the group together.”
For more on this story, please see the Jan. 26 print or e-edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald.