“Working hard now will be worth it later,” says Haylee Lecuyer, a young hockey player looking to dream big.
The 12-year-old from Espanola has an undeniable passion for Canada’s most popular sport and a work ethic unlike most of her age.
The beginning of his story is well known to the average hockey player. She started skating at age three, started playing hockey at age five, and moved to the Sault after she turned six.
Its potential, however, is anything but average.
Now in her seventh year at École Notre-Dame-Du-Sault, Lecuyer is ready to do whatever it takes to take her game to the next level.
During the winter months, Lecuyer took every opportunity to jump on the ice. Whether it’s going skating at some of the local rinks or working out with drills, she’s determined to take advantage of what’s available to her and strives to make every moment count.
“It can be hard to get me out of the ice,” she says. “I don’t even notice my feet are frozen until I come down. Even if it’s too cold outside, I’ll still go. I even had frostbite.
Lecuyer has dreams, big ones. She wants to make the women’s ice hockey team for the 2026 Olympics in Milan, which she would be eligible for when she was 16.
She recently finished the season with the U12 AAA Soo Jr Greyhounds – the highest level of hockey for her age.
Lecuyer is the only girl in a team – and a league – dominated by boys. But that doesn’t seem to discourage her.
“It’s a challenge to play against boys, but I feel like I’m on the same level as them,” she said. “I have to go to my own locker room, which I don’t like because I can’t motivate myself with the boys before I go on the ice.
The left-winger says she would like to see more contact in women’s hockey, which she currently enjoys at the AAA level.
“I get pretty physical,” she says. “They hit me in the boards, but I hit them straight away. I even made a boy cry.
Lecuyer has tried women’s teams in the past, but she says it doesn’t compare to the boys’ style.
“It’s just not the same,” she says. “The opportunities aren’t as big here for girls as they are in southern Ontario leagues. There are better training methods out there. Here, there are not so many.
Lecuyer adheres to a strict schedule when it comes to training, meals and sleeping.
She is regularly involved with TMX Athletics, a local facility that helps her improve her fitness, conditioning and strength.
In addition to his training, Lecuyer has tried virtually every sport available to him – baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, gymnastics, figure skating and track and field are all part of his repertoire.
Lecuyer says his understanding of other sports has dramatically improved his game on the ice, especially soccer.
“It helps me with my stamina, precision with the kick and coordination with my feet,” she says.
Lecuyer also played ringette for four years, but was unable to compete this season due to a conflicting hockey schedule. Instead, she dedicated her time giving back and helping young female ringette players.
“I want to help little kids to show them how to play the game well and teach them how to push themselves to keep going,” she says. “They are delighted to see me. They have older sisters who play with me.
The pandemic made it incredibly difficult for Lecuyer as she had no organized sports to participate in. But she never fell behind, finding ways to keep busy and keep improving her game.
“We built a rink in the yard so I could throw pucks,” she says. “My grandfather makes me do exercises to improve my wrist shot. I even rollerbladed at home to pass the time.
While the statistics may suggest the chances of her Olympic and professional aspirations are slim, Lecuyer is already in a position that very few girls find themselves in.
She recently returned from the Ponytail Showcase in Toronto – one of the most popular tournaments for girls in the country. His team won the gold medal after winning 3-1 in the final.
Receiving such recognition in larger markets is imperative for Lecuyer’s future in hockey.
“In the south, you can get noticed and they might ask you to be on their team,” she says. “I want to continue with AAA until bantams, then I want to move to Barrie because I know a lot of girls on their hockey team and I play well with them.”
This summer, Lecuyer and his family will travel to Boston for the Beantown Classic Tournament, considered the most sought-after elite hockey tournament series in North America.
She even got a special invite to attend the Girls Rose Appraisal Camp to qualify for War of the Roses in Edmonton next year.
The Rose Series is reserved for super-elite female athletes, and many of the participants who enter the tournament end up playing for Team Canada.
Lecuyer says it can be hard to contain the excitement thinking about this opportunity.
“I keep it inside more,” she says. “If I was younger and heard that, I probably would have screamed. I’m really happy inside, but I don’t show it that much.
Lecuyer says she counts on the unwavering support of her family and appreciates their efforts when it comes to travel and other commitments.
She gets a lot of advice from those close to her, but sometimes the advice can be a little mixed.
“My grandmother always tells me to have fun,” she says. “My grandfather tells me to raise the stick and go in front of the opponent so I can cut it.”
Although the advice may be different, his aspirations have remained constant throughout.
“I want to get noticed by the PWHPA,” she says. “I want to play for Boston, go to Harvard and build my dream house there.”
Although deeply inspired by her family, Lecuyer considers hockey phenoms like Connor McDavid, Hayley Wickenheiser and Marie-Philip-Poulin to be inspirational players.
Above all, Lecuyer’s message to other players – and to herself – has remained consistent throughout.
“Have fun – it’s okay to fail,” she says. “If the legs are burning, keep going because that’s how you get stronger. Do your best, always be kind and respect others.