A Nova Scotia teenager is the first female from the Maritimes to make it to training camp in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Rhyah Stewart of Antigonish, N.S., is only 16 years and also a goaltender who recently represented Nova Scotia in hockey at the Canada Games. She played last season with the Cape Breton West Islanders of the Nova Scotia U18 Major Hockey League.
She will be the first woman ever to try out for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles although there have been female players on Quebec teams.
"This is a tremendous experience for her in the development of her game and in her career," said Joe Murphy, head scout of the Eagles.
Stewart hit the ice for training camp for the first time Wednesday morning. After goalie training, she joined the team for on ice drills.
"Some of the players here, some of the young prospects, they know her, they play against her and they certainly respect her abilities," said Murphy.
Head Coach Louis Robitaille says recruitment is based entirely on the player's skills.
Stewart had an outstanding tournament in goal at the 2023 Canada Winter Games when she led Nova Scotia's team to a silver medal. (Len Wagg/Communications Nova Scotia)
"For us it is not about gender, it is about the way you play the game. And if we feel that you can help the team, you're a boy, you're a female, it doesn't matter for us, we want you," he said.
Despite her age, Stewart's talent as a goalkeeper has opened doors that she says can prepare her for a future in the game.
"I think this training camp is just going to make me better because I'll be challenged by faster-pace and better players. So I think it'll just elevate my game," she said.
Robitaille says that the skills she has now are enough to turn recruiters' heads.
"She's not the biggest, but she's really quick. She's agile, she has a good glove. I was impressed by that," he said. "You can tell she is a student of the game."
Robitaille says he hopes that she stays focused on the camp and takes the time to savour the opportunity.
"I don't want her to add pressure on the fact that she's here. [I want her to] come here, have some fun, ignore the noise, and we'll get to see what she's made of," he said.
Stewart says joining the training camp is a big break for her.
"I'm pretty excited for this opportunity. Not everyone gets to have this chance, so I'm just grateful to be here."
Robitaille says her time on the ice at camp was a result of her hard work.
"It's pretty unique to be in this position to be a female coming in the queue. She deserves it."
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