Sixteen women’s hockey teams have gathered in Wilcox, Sask. this week to celebrate the enduring spirit of Mandi Schwartz.
Schwartz was a gifted hockey player who attended Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox and went on to play at Yale before she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December 2008. She went in and out of remission in 2010 before passing away of the disease in 2011.
The tournament is one of the largest female midget AAA tournaments in Canada. It was renamed in Schwartz’s memory eight years ago.
“Mandi was a big part of our school,” said Craig Perrett the female hockey coordinator at Notre Dame. “A lot of the traits that she carried around – the never give up, the never quit attitude, the leadership she (showed) – is a big part of who our school is and who our program is.”
Schwartz was a captain of the Notre Dame Hounds, and though none of the girls who play for the team played with Schwartz, her legacy still lives on through them, Perrett said.
Perrett himself is new to the program this year, and the girls on the team spent this week sharing with him all the ways they appreciated and valued Schwartz’s memory.
“Some of the things I heard out of their mouth was pretty special to know they understand who Mandi was and why she meant so much to this program and how they adopted that themselves,” he said.
“Just the leadership aspect of ‘yeah, you know what, you’re going to get knocked down but you always have to get up.’”
Perrett said even the young women who come from out of town know who Mandi is, because many of their coaches played with Mandi in the NCAA or in junior, making the tournament special for all the teams across the board.
Plus the tournament exposes the players to members of the NCAA and USPORTS, which can help secure their futures in hockey.
“There is a lot of opportunity for them, so they get excited, not only because of that, but because of who Mandi is,” Perrett said.
The opening ceremony happens Thursday night in Wilcox. Schwartz’s parents will be dropping the puck at the game and the team will be wearing stickers to honour Schwartz on their helmets.
There is no cost to attend the games, however, donations will be accepted for cancer research.