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OGHA Girls Hockey Report: Former Carleton Ravens captain Tawnya Guindon finds new passion coaching U13 Lady 67’s

By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Ottawa Girls Hockey Association

As captain of a university team, as a pro player in Sweden, and now as an Ottawa Lady 67’s coach, hockey’s been at the forefront for Tawnya Guindon all of her adult life, though she never would have dreamt it as a 17-year-old from Clarence/Rockland who’d only ever played house league.

“I come home from school one day and my stepdad says, ‘You wanna go for a skate?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I love hockey. I’m gonna go for skate.’ No idea he was bringing me to tryouts,” recounts Guindon, who found herself suddenly competing for a spot on Rideau St. Lawrence’s ‘AA’ team for her final season of youth hockey.

“I was super shy at the time, not knowing what to expect, but I just said, ‘Well, I’m here, so I might as well do it.’ So I did it and I made the team,” continues Guindon. “It was all my stepdad, and he helped me get into CÉGEP, which put me on the trajectory into coaching now.

“It’s funny how one decision you make can change your whole path.”

Guindon went on to play Quebec collegiate hockey for St-Jérôme before returning home for a standout career with the Carleton University Ravens. Carleton’s captain from 2015-2017, she then played professionally with Göteborg and Leksands before rejoining the Ravens as assistant coach and participating in the U Sports Female Apprenticeship Coach Program.

Several months into her first head coaching gig, Guindon is now guiding players taking their first strides into ‘AA’ competitive hockey – albeit much earlier than she did. Guindon makes up a third of the Ottawa Lady 67’s under-13 girls’ all-female coaching staff alongside assistants Claudia Fortin and Jordan Beshara, who also played university hockey with Concordia and Carleton respectively.

“The (Ottawa Girls Hockey Association) is big on non-parent female coaches. That’s what they want for the entire organization, and I think that’s a smart way to go,” indicates Guindon. “Not to say that men can’t do it, but I think the girls just respond differently when it’s women, and women who have played the sport as well.

“Maybe their goal is to play at the university level, so we have that connection where we can help them get there. I think we are role models to them and it’s nice that they can look up to us.”

The experienced U13 coaching, and using the Lady 67’s name to match the association’s U22 Elite team, drew in many players from other hockey organizations in the city and farther in Eastern Ontario.

“Getting the team to gel was a huge thing,” Guindon highlights. “Even for us – we didn’t know them and they didn’t know us – so it was so important at the beginning to get to build that strong chemistry between the players and coaches.”

The team has organized numerous bonding activities this season. They went to a Ravens game together following a team pumpkin carving contest, they plan to go to Concordia as well, and this weekend they’ve got group tickets to watch the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association’s all-star weekend action at Canadian Tire Centre.

“I think it’s really, really cool for the young girls to see what can potentially happen after their career here – so that they have something to work for and to motivate them and keep going,” signals Guindon, a huge supporter of the PWHPA’s mission to establish a top-flight women’s pro league.

“You know, if they can do it in Europe, why not in North America?” she adds. “I think we have the better women’s hockey players here in the U.S. and Canada, and they need a place to play. They need a career, as men do. I think it’s about time that we do this.”

Count Guindon as a bit of a casualty of the “dream gap.” She did make her living as a hockey player in the top Swedish league, had her apartment paid for by her team, trained every day and travelled around Europe, but when she decided to returned to Ottawa, a day job outside of hockey was required.

“If I would have came back from Sweden and a league was up and running, I probably would have tried out,” says Guindon, who’d earned a spot on the Buffalo Beauts before she chose Sweden.

“Right now I’m totally out of shape and could not do it. I do play ‘beer league’ in the Carleton women’s league once a week. I don’t train any more.

“But honestly, my priority is coaching now. Do I miss it? Absolutely. But I found a new passion in coaching. I found a love for it. This is what I want to do.”

Guindon aspires to be a university head coach one day, but says it would be difficult to move on from the group of young girls she’s now bonded with.

“I’m always happy to be here,” she underlines. “Even on tough days – everybody has them – when you’re feeling tired, you get here and they’re just bouncing around because they’re so excited to be here, and it just makes everything better. You understand why you’re here.”

Guindon’s focus as a U13 coach is on player development – making sure every one of her players can make it to the next level – and generating team success through that approach. There are times to be serious and her staff always wants 100% effort from their players, but having fun and joking around is crucial too.

“They make us laugh so much. We just have such a good time,” Guindon smiles. “The young girls respond so well to what we’re seeking and trying to accomplish and they’re just soaking in every single detail.

“That’s such a thrill as a coach. It’s just awesome.”

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