By Daniella Lopez
After initially coming to Ryerson for the school’s impressive business program, Rams women’s hockey forward Saije Catcheway spontaneously tried out for the women’s hockey team.
“What the hell, I’m gonna just hope for the best,” said Catcheway.
She met with the head coach Lisa Haley, toured the rink and facilities, before practicing with the team a week before tryouts, eventually making the team.
Catcheway said coach Haley told her she made the team because of her positive attitude.
“It was a dream come true,” said Catcheway.
Catcheway came to Ryerson after an unusual start to her university athletic career. She was initially on a hockey scholarship at Adrian College in Michigan, however, she moved back home to Winnipeg due to COVID-19 halfway through her first year.
“What the hell, I’m gonna just hope for the best”
She started playing hockey at 10 years old—a late age compared to the majority of players who enter the sport at age four or five. Catcheway credits her dad’s love for hockey as the main reason she played and fell in love with it.
She remembers her dad taking her out on an outdoor rink in her hometown and practicing for hours, even when her fingers and toes were freezing.
Yet, she didn’t experience playing girls’ hockey until she was a teenager, as her early hockey days were spent playing in the boys’ league.
Catcheway said “it was strange,” being the only girl on her team. While her male teammates trusted her, opposing teams never treated her the same as her male counterparts, often taking it easy on her or, in extreme cases, purposely trying to injure her because she was a girl.
Sexism in the sport is something Catcheway said she was never taught about and instead, she experienced it first-hand. She points to it as the reason she switched to girls’ hockey.
However, she notes that the game is changing, as well as the attitude in male players’ minds.
“It’s really interesting how I personally have been able to experience the shift and the change of girls’ hockey.”
Catcheway played in the Junior Women’s Hockey League for her school, Balmoral Hall, in Winnipeg for three seasons. She had attended the school since she was in kindergarten.
“They would consider me a lifer,” she joked.
In Grade 10, she joined the team and immediately got a taste of the student athlete life. From constant travelling to late nights and early mornings, balancing school work at the airport and being a full-time student, Catcheway was always busy.
“You feel like you’re a real athlete,” she said.
It also helped her learn time management skills and prioritize her body.
“I felt like it helped me grow up a lot quicker.”
She also said it helped her balance being a student athlete at the university level better. She was used to that level of stress, while her teammates at Adrian College struggled with it. Overall, it made the transition into college and university easier for her.
“It makes me feel as though this is a community I belong in”
While most of Catcheway’s life revolves around hockey, she still enjoys leisure activities by either listening to alternative music, journaling or drawing. Her passion for art transfers onto the tattoos on her body; she has hand-drawn all of her own tattoos.
So far, Catcheway said her experience at Ryerson has been nothing but positive. While she may be considered a walk-on, Catcheway told The Eyeopener that coach Haley believes she’s the missing puzzle piece. “You’re one of us now,” she was told.
According to Catcheway, everyone she’s met at Ryerson has been willing to help—from the people working in the facilities to those in general who have reached out.
“It makes me feel as though this is a community I belong in.”