Posts Tagged ‘UBC Coach Graham Thomas’

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The UBC Thunderbirds celebrate a 2-1 win over the Mount Royal Cougars at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are in the driver’s seat as they head into the final Canada West weekend. UBC heads out on the road to take on the Alberta Pandas at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton. It’s a crucial matchup that will determine which team earns a coveted first round Canada West playoff bye.

UBC sits second with a an 18-8-0 record and 53 points. Alberta is third, also with an 18-8-0 record, but with 52 points. Saskatchewan holds down fourth spot with 52 points and a 17-9-0 record. All three teams will battle for the second, and final playoff bye. The Manitoba Bisons are on the verge of locking up first in the conference.

The main focus for UBC this week isn’t the Bisons, it’s all Panda, Panda, Panda.

“Yeah, it’s definitely a crucial series coming up”, said defender Madison Patrick. “We have to prepare, and we have to put the work in all week, to be ready to go next weekend. There’s a lot of advantages that come with finishing in the first two spots. It’s definitely important that we come out ready to go next weekend.”

No matter how the puck bounces this weekend. The top four teams have already secured a playoff spot. Playoff seeding, and not saying goodbye to the bye, is the top priority. There is a very good chance Manitoba, UBC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan will have to play each other at some point if they want to win the Canada West championship this season.

“We’re going to have to beat everybody if we’re going to want to win,” said Coach Graham Thomas. “Whether we get the bye, or we don’t get the bye, we’ve just got to make sure that we’re taking care of our game, and making sure that we’re playing at our best. Yeah, it’ll be right down to the wire.”

The Thunderbirds 2-1 win in regulation over Mount Royal University on Saturday afternoon is why they are in the position they are in. UBC’s first regulation win in four contests gave them that extra point to put them ahead of Alberta, and Saskatchewan in the standings.

It was a clutch performance, and an all around team effort when it was needed most.

“Yeah it’s really important,” said Patrick. “It’s a really tight race coming up with playoffs. It’s really important to be able to get that extra point, and win in regulation.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Emily Costales (Centre) celebrates her first period goal vs Mount Royal University on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

While the scoring department has produced recent hiccups, that wasn’t the case vs Mount Royal. UBC had an early jump and quickly lead 2-0. The visitors did cut the deficit, but UBC responded by out shooting Mount Royal 17-1 in the third period. A familiar tried, true, and tested formula helped get the offence going.

“Thankfully, we’re moving the lines around,” said game winning scorer, Emily Costales, “So far it’s been good, knock on wood. Hopefully, it keeps progressing from there, and we get more chemistry throughout practices.”

Ending the home schedule on a winning note is exactly what top teams do heading into the playoffs. It’s important to develop, and help create a winning mentality. That’s one of the ways championship calibre teams separate themselves from the pack in the playoffs.

“It’s huge,” admitted Costales. “We really have to dial in right now, put the work in, grind out. Going into the playoffs, we really have to try to gain the momentum.” 

Everyone loves fun, exciting fast paced playoff hockey, and that’s just around the corner. It starts this weekend, because the intensity will have a playoff feel with UBC and Alberta vying for that coveted bye to the Canada West semifinals.

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The UBC Thunderbirds following practice on Tuesday, January 16 in Vancouver, B.C. 

VANCOUVER, B.C – The fourth annual UBC Thunderbirds Winter Classic will take place on Friday night at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. The UBC men’s hockey team will host the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. and $5 tickets can be purchased at the door.

The UBC Winter Classic is a fantastic event that brings the community, campus, and fans together. It’s a great opportunity to pack ‘The Doug’ and create a tremendous playing atmosphere for athletes on both teams. A spirited crowd of 5,500 spectators is expected.

While the Winter Classic is a spotlight event for the UBC men’s hockey program, there has yet to be a Winter Classic game for the UBC women’s hockey program. There have been preliminary discussions about a possible doubleheader event in the future.

“We’ve got some plans in the works with the department on trying to do some festivals or event next year,” Coach Graham Thomas said, earlier this week. “The winter classic has been a tremendous success. I know that Calgary, Mount Royal have done a men’s and a women’s doubleheader at the Saddledome. The universities get behind it, and they pack it.”

The sixth annual Crowchild Classic features the University of Calgary vs Mount Royal University in a series of varsity sports including hockey, basketball, soccer, and volleyball. On the ice, Calgary and Mount Royal will battle at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday, January 25. Previous editions have drawn crowds of 3,000 – 5,000 for women’s hockey, and 8,000 – 12,000 for men’s hockey.

“The challenge right now,” explained, Coach Thomas, “We did sit down with our events people, and we’re trying with the men to set up and doubleheader for next year. Whether that becomes a Winter Classic or not, that’s out of my pay grade. We still want to do something. The men are wanting to do something, different and exciting around that.”

Hosting a potential joint doubleheader down the line would be a logistical obstacle. UBC is the furthest from any Canada West university. It would be challenging to have both a women’s and a men’s program travel to Vancouver to compete in a potential Winter Classic on opposition ice, with fans cheering against you.

What about the men’s hockey program? Is sharing a Winter Classic with their neighbours down the hall something that would be of interest? Having a marquee event is special, if a doubleheader came to fruition, would the men’s team support it?

“Yeah, that’d be fun,” said Coach Sven Butenschön. “Graham and I have talked a lot about getting a doubleheader going. It would be a really great experience for everybody. It would be really neat.”

Captain, and 5th year defender, Wes Vannieuwenhuizen has watched the women’s team and knows what they’re all about. He, like his coach would be all for a women’s Winter Classic.

“I think that would be great.” Vannieuwenhuizen said. “I think the women’s team deserves a lot of recognition. It would be great for them to be a part of the Winter Classic. I think all the guys would really enjoy that.”

Having the chance to lace up your skates, and play in front of a sold out crowd is an amazing opportunity. Thunderbirds forward, Kathleen Cahoon was at the 2017 UBC Winter Classic. She saw firsthand how terrific, and exciting it was.

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UBC Thunderbirds forward Kathleen Cahoon. Photo Credit: Rich Lam, UBC Athletics.

“I would love to see one,” said Cahoon. “I actually got to see the men’s one last year, because I was out with injury. It was really exciting and everything. It would be nice to see that kind of hype, and promotion coming up for the women’s side as well. I think any women’s team on campus deserves it. We’ve all proven that we’re all good teams. I think equal support is definitely something we should strive for.”

If success and achievements count for something, the women’s program has consistently been ranked among the top hockey programs in USports. The women’s team has won back to back Canada West Championships, and made a pair of trips to USports Nationals. They won bronze in 2017, and silver in 2016. Having a Winter Classic would promote the team to a never before seen level, and provide more awareness for the sport.

“I think it would definitely validate the program for the school,” Kirsten Toth said. “When you talk to people who don’t have a strong sports background. I think they don’t really even realize that there’s a women’s hockey team on campus, and if they do, they don’t realize the success we’ve had over the last five years.”

UBC does promote women’s sports. There are events, and opportunities for fans on campus to attend all sorts of activities over the course of the year. When it comes to women’s hockey specifically, there has never been a specific event organized, marketed, and planned to shine a light on the women’s hockey team.

What would it feel like to have the stands packed for a Winter Classic game?

“It would be a phenomenal feeling,” said Toth. “A feeling that a lot of these girls on the team, probably haven’t experienced before. I know I sure haven’t experienced a packed arena this size. Part of the reason why I haven’t experienced it, and we as a team haven’t experienced it. It’s because something like that’s never been organized for us. Our games are promoted minuscule compared to the other teams on campus. It’s something that we’re working towards bettering for our program in the future.”

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UBC Thunderbirds defender Kirsten Toth during practice.

Why is there no Winter Classic for the UBC women’s hockey team?

Toth shares her take.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the risk factor involved and kind of the ideas that are stereotypes surrounding women’s hockey, that we can’t get people in the seats. I think if athletics was to put the time, energy, and resources into planning a women’s winter classic, and it didn’t turn out. I think that they’d be shooting themselves in the foot for it. It’s never been attempted before. From my first year, and I’m now in my sixth year, I’ve seen tremendous growth in terms of getting people in the seats, and support for the teams.”

Finding a way to keep fans engaged and entertained throughout the course of two hockey games could be tricky. That’s where beer comes in. The Ryerson Rams lowered beer prices during their version of their Winter Classic.

Gilles Lepine, Senior Athletics Director of UBC Athletics, wants to create a memorable and special event that creates buzz, and gets people excited on campus. The Winter Classic is thought as the winter, UBC Homecoming event.

Would Lepine like to see a women’s Winter Classic at some point down the line?

“That’s definitely a possibility, but right now, we’re not there. We’re just trying to finalize this one.” Lepine said.

Everyone knows that football is the bread and butter university sport, but hockey is Canada’s most beloved and favourite pastime. Hockey is number one, and it puts people in seats.

“I think you’ve got a point there, I think you’ve got a point,” Lepine agreed. “Hockey definitely, because it’s a national Canadian sport, people love the sport, but it’s difficult to bring those people in every game. Definitely, that’s our challenge. If they come, have fun, next time they will come again, and maybe we can have more than one Winter Classic.”

UBC knows how to put on one outstanding Winter Classic, and they’ve done a great job. No challenge is ever easy, that’s why it’s a challenge. It’s 2018, and it’s time to reach for new heights. The UBC women’s hockey program should be in the next Winter Classic.

 

 

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UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas on Wednesday, March 22.

VANCOUVER, B.C – A fantastic UBC Thunderbirds season, playoffs, and national championship tournament finished up on Sunday, March 19 in Napanee, Ontario. The Thunderbirds capped off the 2016/2017 campaign with a bronze medal at USports Nationals. They defeated hosts, Queen’s in the quarterfinals before a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to McGill in the semifinals. UBC rallied the next day, and beat Concordia 2-0 to take a medal back to Vancouver.

UBC Thunderbirds Coach, Graham Thomas is happy with his team’s performance.

“Really proud, really proud,” said Thomas. “You’re right, it wasn’t what we wanted ideally. It had a different feel to it. We competed really hard. I guess winning that very last game on the very last possible day you could play, versus losing last year. I know it’s a bronze, not a silver and not a gold. It still had a different feel. It had a very rewarding feel for our seniors, and for our players to finish up on a real positive note.”

With eight graduating seniors, this was the year that UBC really wanted to win a national championship, but that’s also the goal of seven other competing teams. UBC was seeded first, followed by the three conference winners across Canada. The heavily stacked McGill Martlets were seeded fourth, which was a bit of a head scratcher.

UBC and McGill played a terrific game. There was back and forth action, a specialty teams battle, physical intensity, and brilliant saves from goalkeepers, Amelia Boughn (UBC), and Tricia Deguire (McGill). If you weren’t closely following the tournament, you might of thought it was a gold medal game. It was not. It was a chance to go to the gold medal game.

Having two conference winners playing in a semifinal game, with the other bracket featuring two conference runners-up playing in the other semifinal, makes no sense. You should be rewarding the Canada West and RSEQ winners. They should have played the opposite runners-up. UBC vs Concordia, and McGill vs Alberta, this didn’t happen.

“The format needs to change to have something to address what happened, said Thomas. “They (McGill) should have been a two or three seed. The semifinals, we had the Canada West Champion, and the Quebec Champion playing in a semifinal knockout. On the other side, we had the two runners-up from the exact same two conferences playing on the other side.”

The USports National Championship tournament seeding below shows the conference winners, 1-4 and the runners-up, 4-8. The teams in BOLD all won quarterfinals games. If a re-seeding had taken place before the semifinals, UBC and McGill would not have faced each other in the semifinals.

1. UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West Champions)

2. Guelph Gryphons (OUA Champions)

3. Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS Champions)

4. McGill Martlets (RSEQ Champions)

5. StFX X-Women (AUS Finalists)

6. Alberta Pandas (Canada West Finalists)

7. Concordia Stingers (RSEQ Finalists)

8. Queen’s Gaels (Hosts)

“It was setup that way, and it makes sense,” said Thomas. “You keep the integrity of the pool together, but they do need to have an exception in there. Not always are you going to have the same two conferences runners-up and champions making the top four. If that does happen, there should be a re-seeding. It does not make any sense to have the two champions play. You earn the right to be a champion in your league. For us it would have been Concordia. Then if you look at it our way, we get rewarded for being the champion and a top seed, versus now having to play McGill, which arguably could of been the gold medal game.”

Essentially it was busted brackets after exciting upset quarterfinals victories by Alberta, and Concordia. A great achievement for the Pandas and Stingers programs. It shows that anyone can be upset, but then having a 6 vs 7 in the semifinals, that’s bonkers.

“Again, you can’t go back,” said Thomas. “I’m not complaining, but I do think they need to look at it in future years. It makes sense.”

UBC came into the tournament with a 23-4-1 regular season record, and a 4-2 record in the playoffs. A team that was peaking all season, mowing down the competition, and then facing a few speed bumps in the playoffs. Those bumps (and bruises) tend to take a toll when you are always facing your opponents top game. UBC had injuries at nationals as did every other team. They also had a flu bug that struck several players at an inopportune time.

“It ran through five or six of our players,” revealed Thomas. “We weren’t able to play (Mairead) Bast very much. Her injury was catching up to her. She didn’t play in the bronze, and we she didn’t play very much in the semifinal game. We ran into some injuries, but I think a lot of teams are that way. I give our group a ton of credit for just playing. I thought we played really well.”

It’s a long haul from start to finish. Players get injuries, rehab, and sometimes play through injuries choosing to fully recover after the season and playoffs. UBC was hit hard by injuries all season. It’s possible that a healthy Thunderbirds team may have had more success at nationals.

“I think it did affect us,” admitted Thomas. “At the same time, it made us stronger. It’s a fine line. We got a lot of other people in there who got a lot of valuable game time experience. It’s hard to say that’s what it was for sure. So much has to go right in order to be national champions. In one game knockouts, and how long our season goes, so much needs to go right.”

Going into next season, UBC should be primed for another year of positive results, and more success on and off the ice. Eight seniors will be moving on, but they have definitely left their mark on the Thunderbirds. The next wave will have learned from some of the best players to play for UBC. Getting back to nationals will be tough, but you sure wouldn’t want to bet against UBC with the way the program has developed and thrived.

“We feel confident in our returning group,” said Thomas. “That we have it in us to get back there again, and to have a year similar to what we had this year, but it is going to be a challenge. We’re going to be gunned after even more for being back to back Canada West champs, and being bronze medalists, and medalling back to back.”

UBC wants to be a team that’s mentioned in the same breath as successful programs like McGill, and Alberta. They want to build a team that goes all the way and wins gold. They’re certainly knocking on the door, and others have noticed. UBC has become a university with excellent education opportunities, and a top women’s hockey program.

“It really has changed the scale of our program now,” said Thomas. “I credit that to the players that are in this program, and have been in this program. They’ve changed the culture here. It’s a winning culture now. We’re a program that’s going to be challenging for a championship or a national championship every year. It was a big statement year. It’s really exciting, it’s really gratifying. I’m very proud of the girls and what they’ve done.”

As the Thunderbirds prepare for exams, warmer weather, and exciting offseason plans. They’ll still have a focus on how they can get back to the big dance, and win the ultimate prize.

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UBC Thunderbirds Redshirt Freshman, Tiffany Chiu.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds finished the Canada West season with an impressive 23-4-1 record and top spot in the conference. UBC has earned a playoff quarterfinals bye and will sit back and watch the first round of playoff action this weekend. Coach Graham Thomas will prepare his team for a semifinals matchup against the lowest remaining seed. The best of three series will take place February 24-26 at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Vancouver native, Tiffany Chiu, is one player you won’t see during the Thunderbirds playoff run. The redshirt freshman is still a big part of the UBC Thunderbirds, but not eligible for any game action.

“Basically you’re not on the roster,” said Chiu. “You get to practice, and do everything with the team, except for play games, or go away when we play away games.

Chiu is often the first player on the ice for practice and the last player to leave. She stays behind for extra shooting drills, and rounds up all the pucks at the end. You can find her in the stands with a smile on her face cheering on the Thunderbirds at every home game. Some students might be overwhelmed by first year university life, but not Chiu.

“Personally for me, with my goals in school and hockey, it’s a perfect fit for me, especially for first year,” admitted Chiu. “Transitioning from high school to university, and being in sciences as well. I think I needed this year, just to adjust to high level hockey and school.”

Coach Graham Thomas couldn’t be more thrilled with Chiu’s work effort on and off the ice. It takes a team player to put the teams benefits above themselves. Chiu has been able to contribute, show her character, and support her teammates throughout the season.

“She’s been phenomenal,” said Thomas. “Honestly, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t whine. She shows up everyday and just works, and really pushes the girls and makes them better. She fills in, especially in the last three, four weeks when we haven’t had enough bodies. She’s capable, skilled. I can’t say enough good things about her, she works really hard. She had a really good semester in school. She’s contributing in so many different areas. It also sends a really positive message to our team about filling rolls.”

You might find some players in the coaches office asking for more ice time, special teams duties, or this, and that. Thomas hasn’t heard a bother from Chiu. “Look at Chewey, she’s not complaining, and she’s not playing,” said Thomas.

The former Arbutus School Avalanche sniper, will eventually get her opportunity to play for the UBC Thunderbirds next season. It will certainly help having a year of school completed. Chiu will already be familiar with practices, tactics, linemates, fitness, video, and media.

“Full player next year,” said Thomas when asked about Chiu’s status next season. “She’ll have that year under her belt, school wise. That should be a little less stressful. She’ll be stronger, more skilled. I think it’s going to be a win, win. She could play for us right now, but we’re creating this development system. Players come in a little bit older, they’ve got a year under their belt, they don’t have that freshman stress in that very first year of school.”

Stephanie Schaupmeyer, Emily O’Neill, Haneet Parhar, Nicole Saxvik, Kelly Murray, Katie Zinn, Jenna Carpenter-Boesch, and Melissa Goodwin will all graduate following the playoffs, and possible USports Nationals. Having Chiu in the UBC Thunderbirds environment learning from those veteran players will help with the transition next season.

UBC has always been the school of choice for Chiu. She grew up right around the corner from the campus and graduated from Crofton House School. She was over the moon when she found out she would one day be representing the UBC Thunderbirds program.

“When Graham called me and told me he wanted me on the team, I was just so excited,” revealed Chiu. “I just love UBC. I just love the campus. We got toured here a bunch with our high school just looking at schools. I think the program and the hockey is good for me.”

The UBC Thunderbirds program is in good hands for years to come. Players will obviously come and go, but having a prospect like Tiffany Chiu bodes will for the UBC Thunderbirds. With eight graduating players, the time is now, but the future doesn’t look too bad, eh.

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UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas, Photo Credit: Rich Lam UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are flying through Canada West competition with a 20-3-1 record as they inch closer to making history. UBC is four points shy of locking up a first place finish in conference play, and thus earning a bye straight to the Canada West semifinals. A spot at USports Nationals in Kingston, Ontario would go through Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center where Coach Graham Thomas and his players are 13-2-0.

The injury ravaged Thunderbirds have four games left as they’ve been stricken by a massive injury bug. They finished Friday’s 1-0 victory over Lethbridge with nine forwards on the bench. The next afternoon, they defeated Lethbridge 3-0, with only sixteen available skaters. Whether it’s concussions, necks, wrists, groins, knees, groins, or feet, the Thunderbirds have been in the infirmary all season.

How much of a goal is it to secure first place in Canada West?

“Absolutely, it’s a goal in so many areas,” said Thomas. “We (would) set history, and try and lock down first place for the first time ever in this program. Also, what that gives us is home ice advantage, it gives us a bye, and that is crucial for us. Some bodies we might get back, some bodies we could be losing, we’re not sure yet. That bye is going to be crucial for us, we’ve got to keep our focus on that and keep pushing.”

Cassandra Vilgrain and her teammates will travel to Regina this week to take on the Cougars on Friday, and Saturday evening. Earlier this season, UBC defeated the Cougars, 4-1, and 3-2 in Vancouver. It’s not out of the question to think that UBC could take maximum points while putting the Cougars back in hibernation. Vilgrain’s 5 goals and 17 assists have been a welcomed scoring punch, and she knows that history will be there for the taking in Regina.

“We definitely think about it,” admitted Vilgrain. “We’re not so much focused on the history of things that like the fact that we haven’t been there before. (It’s) just keeping our spot, keeping winning games. We want to keep our number one spot, so it’s definitely something we think about.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward Cassandra Vilgrain, Photo Credit: Rich Lam UBC Athletics.

The Thunderbirds will be facing a tough challenge within their own locker room, finding enough healthy players to compete will be a process. Players have been asked to fill in and play out of position. Shiayli Toni had to play defence vs Lethbridge. The second year forward did quite well, and looked terrific breaking up a dangerous Pronghorns two on one opportunity. Coach Thomas couldn’t be more made up by his teams recent performances.

“We’re down to nine forwards in the game,” said Thomas. “We’ve got six D (defence) Toni’s playing D (defence) for the first time back there. We’re filling in holes in places, and roles wherever. They’re playing with line combos they haven’t played with, and just rolling out there. We had three centres out there sometimes. I’m just really proud.”

Defence has been a strong point for the Thunderbirds this season, the team is allowing 1.6 goals per game, and striking fear in opposition goalies by scoring 3 goals per game. Fifth year defender, Katie Zinn, scored the game-winning-goal on Friday. Zinny, as she’s affectionately known by her teammates, has a one step at a time approach down the stretch.

“It would mean a lot,” said Zinn, when asked about securing a first place bye. “It would be the first time in history, but we try and just focus on our day-to-day, rather than focus on the goal at hand. It’s been working for us so far, so we’ll probably stick to that game plan.”

With the flu bug going around, ice packs at the ready, and the odd crutches, the UBC Thunderbirds are a focused and determined team. Most teams would wilt under a lengthy injury list, fatigue, and juggled lines, but not the UBC Thunderbirds. They have history to make, and you just know they’ll find a way to lock up first place.

Notes: UBC closes out the regular season vs Mount Royal University on February 10 and 11 at The Doug.

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UBC Thunderbirds Hannah Clayton-Carroll (Left), and Kathleen Cahoon (Right) supporting Bell Let’s Talk day.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds skated in line rushes during a lengthy practice on Wednesday morning at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Coach Graham Thomas was putting his players through the paces as they prepare to host the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Friday (7:00 pm) and Saturday (4:00pm) at UBC.

It’s been a busy January for the Thunderbirds who have been helping to raise awareness for mental health issues in the memory of Laura Taylor. On Bell Let’s Talk day, one player stood out during practice, second year forward, Hannah Clayton-Carroll was rocking the Bell Let’s Talk day toque. The bright blue addition was noticeable on top of her helmet, and it also matched the patented Thunderbirds blue jersey.

It’s a small gesture, but something Clayton-Carroll felt comfortable embracing.

“I just think it’s important for everyone to know that it’s something not heavy in the media, it just needs to become something more popular for people to talk about. Wearing the toque is something small that I can do to help out other people. It’s a great thing to do.”

All around campus, athletes from the Thunderbird flock have been doing all that they can do to spread awareness, talk, and listen to people struggling with mental health issues. Coach Thomas couldn’t be more happy by the response his team has received, it’s even moved him to perhaps, one day, jump aboard a social media platform to help out.

“We’ve had a great response,” said Thomas. “We’re so proud of the girls, they’re really buying into it. It’s obviously close to home for us, it means a lot to us, this year especially, and from now on moving forward. It’s a great campaign, it’s awesome. I need to personally learn how to… I don’t have twitter, I don’t have any of that, I’ve never hash-tagged before. I need to take advantage of this campaign with Bell. In all seriousness, our girls are doing a phenomenal job. We’re just really proud of them.”

West Vancouver native, Haneet Parhar, has been blown away by the overall positive feedback from fellow UBC students, and faculty. Sometimes it only takes one group of strong-minded people to speak up and get the puck rolling. The Thunderbirds have done just that, in Taylor’s honour. They’ve shown that it’s not all about goals, assists, academics, and the latest Snapchat filter. It’s about caring for friends, family, others around you, and sometimes complete strangers.

“We’ve got a lot of feedback,” revealed Parhar. “It’s extraordinary to hear (that) people we’ve never even talked to, we didn’t even know, come up to us, and say, wow, thank you so much, this means so much to me, and we love that you guys are doing this. It’s making a difference with people that we don’t even know. It’s really important.”

The hashtag, #BellLetsActuallyTalk was trending on twitter on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a signal that indicates more needs to be done to raise awareness and progress talks surrounding mental health issues, all year around. #BellLetsTalk day is a fantastic initiative from Bell, but what about the other 364 days of the year?

Communities like the Southeast Asian, East Asian, and others don’t necessarily communicate very well within those cultural societies. If you have a mental health issue, it can often be perceived as a weakness, impairment, or bad omen to share your struggles with others.

Parhar is familiar with this notion, and she wants to help make a change.

“Yeah it’s very important,” admitted Parhar. “I personally, unfortunately have first hand knowledge of that. It’s a stigma that is not just within one culture, or one society, it spans all over the world. It is extremely important, because it’s something that is not talked about outside of more progressive societies, so it’s very important.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Haneet Parhar supports Bell Let’s Talk Day.

The UBC Thunderbirds family is one close-knit family that’s doing big things to help reach other people so other families don’t suffer in silence. Retiring Laura Taylor’s jersey on January 6, having her family in attendance, and raising money to help others is a lasting effect that will be felt beyond this month. The Thunderbirds have been brought closer together as a team, and in turn, Coach Thomas has learned a few things himself.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” said Thomas, “We’re always looking at ways to get better. For me as a coach, it’s an area you can always get better in. You can’t control everything, and there’s definitely an onus on the person who is going through a tough time to tell somebody, but there’s also a part of that, where it’s on the rest of the team, coaching staff, and everyone to be aware to try and ask some questions sometimes, and reach out sometimes or try and do as much as we can do. We can’t be there all the time, and I recognize that. We can’t follow them around and babysit them, they’re adults. At the same time, yeah there’s things for sure we’ve taken away, or me personally have taken away to be better and more aware.”

Hannah Clayton-Carroll vows to wear her blue toque everyday to help others. Although she’ll probably have to wash it sometime, she, like her teammates are showing just how much mental health awareness needs to be in the spotlight all year round.

“I’ve been on social media a lot this morning,” said Clayton-Carroll, “I’ve noticed that half of my friends tweeting #BellLetsTalk, and re-tweeting all of that. It shows that everyone in the community really cares about this issue. They all want to battle towards it, and help end the stigma.”

If more organizations, businesses, and people come together, like the UBC Thunderbirds, one day, a day devoted to raising awareness for mental health issues might not be needed as much as it is now. Until that day comes, the UBC Thunderbirds will be there to lend a helping hand, and they might even help Coach Thomas figure out twitter.

****(Photo by Wilson Wong/UBC Athletics 2015 All Rights Reserved)****

UBC Thunderbirds goalkeeper, Laura Taylor. Photo Credit: UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds will honour the life and memory of Thunderbirds goalkeeper, Laura Taylor on Friday, January 6 prior to puck drop against the visiting Alberta Pandas. Taylor, tragically took her own life last April, just days before her 34th birthday.

Laura Taylor’s number 29 jersey will be retired by the Thunderbirds. The Taylor family will be part of a pre-game ceremony, as well as other on, and off ice components. Guests include UBC President and Vice Chancellor, Dr. Santa Ono, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dermot Kelleher, and UBC Department of Athletics Director, Gord Hopper.

The UBC Thunderbirds family want to shine the spotlight on mental health awareness issues and open a positive dialogue for anyone going through a tough time. The Thunderbirds have reached out to Bell Let’s Talk, and partners on the UBC campus. Coach Graham Thomas wants to remember Laura, and also help to anyone else struggiling.

“The overall goal besides remembering and honouring Laura, is also awareness for mental health,” said Thomas. “Just getting rid of that stigma and getting the awareness out there of starting the conversation. Bell-Let’s-Talk is involved, and there’s a bunch of partners involved on campus with mental health and suicide awareness. It’s obviously a great cause, and we’re getting a lot of athletes, people, and other groups behind it. Hopefully it will be a good turnout and a good event for awareness.”

Anyone who wants to make a donation to help raise awareness for mental health issues will be able to that at booths setup along the main concourse of the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Fans are encouraged to show support by wearing green. The Thunderbirds have also been given the go ahead for a chuck-a-puck fundraiser that will help raise money for mental health issues.

“We’re doing a new draw for all of our home games,” revealed Thomas. “It’s called chuck-a-puck. Fifty percent will go to the winner, and fifty percent of the proceeds in all the games will go to mental health awareness. They’ll have two or three different booths setup at the game, there will be opportunities to donate at the game and contribute to some different charities and foundations.”

People look up to athletes and think they’re invincible, that’s not the case. UBC Thunderbirds captain, Stephanie Schaupmeyer and her teammates have the ability to help raise awareness, and they want to help. A mental health issue can occur with anyone, it’s extremly important to speak openly about it and seek help if you need it.

“I think it’s so huge, especially as athletes,” said Schaupmeyer. “I think sometimes people think, we’re tough, we’re strong, we have our teammates, it doesn’t affect us. I think that couldn’t be more wrong. Mental illnesses aren’t discriminatory, and they aren’t picky about who they choose to trouble people with. I think it’s important that as athletes, we’re speaking up together.”

Laura’s time with the Thunderbirds was memorable. She was a leader and mentor and helped UBC win a silver medal at the 2016 CIS Nationals. Taylor might not have been on the ice for every game, but she was just as hard-working, passionate, and thrilled to be UBC Thunderbird.

“She was so dedicated, she loved hockey, loved the game, very smart, intelligent, caring, and helpful,” said Thomas. “(Laura) was acting in a mentorship role. She was going to be a neurosurgeon. As an older mature person, that’s the way she came in and that was her role and what she played into right away. She didn’t inform anybody about what she had gone through in her past, and what she was dealing with, which is the unfortunate part of the help piece. She was just so caring and giving, and thinking about others. We will always remember, appreciate, and respect that.”

When UBC looks to add to a fourteen game winning streak vs Alberta. They will no doubt have Laura cheering them on and supporting them from a far better place. That’s just the way Laura was with her teammates, excited, and ready for the next big team adventure.

“Laura was the kind of person that would light up a room when she walked in, said Schaupmeyer. “She had this insanely big contagious smile. She always had her phone out to document what was going on. She just loved being a part of the team, and we loved having her as part of the team. She will always be part of the team.”

http://memorial.supporting.ubc.ca/laura-taylor/

Notes: #BellLetsTalk day is Wednesday, January 25, 2017.