“My mother pushed me to play hockey. She grew up playing hockey, played at St. Lawrence University. When I was three, she slapped a pair of skates on me, threw me on the ice, and said, ‘figure it out, you’re gonna love it.’ Honestly, at first, I didn’t really like hockey.” Strange words coming from girls’ varsity hockey co-captain Jayden Y. ’17, especially considering she’s the sixth and most recent recipient of the Jason Ritchie Hockey Scholarship, given annually to the student athlete who best exemplifies the traits of the late Jason Ritchie himself– selflessness, determination, sportsmanship, passion for hockey, academic commitment, and leadership.
“I’d cry coming off the ice, the tears would freeze my face. But after a year, I thought, this is awesome. I’m out here having fun with a bunch of kids. I told myself I wanted to play college hockey, and my mom was a driving force for that. She’s always been one of my role models, so I wanted to be like her.” That motivation and focus led Jayden to this, her senior season and the culmination of years of hard work, manifesting itself in her being awarded the prestigious Jason Ritchie Scholarship and accepted at Saint Anselm College.
Jayden reflects on the journey to get to this moment. “The scholarship made a difference in me getting [to Saint Anselm]. I was able to tell my coach for next year that, hey, I got this scholarship and this is what it takes to earn it. St. Anselm’s prides itself on having great student/athletes and this award shows I’ve worked hard to be the best student/athlete I can be.”
Jayden ponders the notion that her photo will soon be placed on the Jason Ritchie Foundation’s Wall of Fame, just inside The Winchendon School’s Jason Ritchie ’05 Ice Arena lobby, alongside the award’s previous recipients. “It’s definitely a good feeling, but it’s not that it’s a prestigious thing as much as it’s a feeling that makes me proud of what I’ve done. This scholarship is a kind of reminder that I’ve done everything I can to be the best I can.”
That includes being a student/athlete role model, but more importantly, making efforts to absorb her experiences on the ice as a Wapiti leader and teammate. “The outcome on the scoreboard doesn’t matter as much as being together and having fun.” It’s a lesson for anyone who’s ever had their mom slap a pair of ice skates on their feet— figure it out and have fun.