In a normal year, the Northern Capitals are part of a five-team province-wide league for Under-18 Female AAA hockey clubs.
The name represents not just where they play, primarily in Prince George, but the towns, districts, villages and rural areas out west to Prince Rupert, east to Valemount and up north to the Yukon border.
The 2020-21 Caps feature a multitude of talent from nine different communities and its new captain says she’s proud to be leading the group regardless of where the COVID-19 pandemic takes them for competition.
Kiera Mulder is a product of Terrace, less than 600 km west of Prince George, and served as an alternate captain last year, so hearing of her promotion came as a shock.
“I didn’t think I was going to be getting it, so it was a nice surprise for me to receive that,” she tells PrinceGeorgeMatters.
“They announced it in the dressing room, all of us captains and I was the last one to be called [...] It’s a big thing for me. Coming all this way and playing very far from home, it’s me showing off my town, it’s me showing off everybody else that’s moved away; we have a big role on the team even though it’s technically not home for us. It’s a big responsibility for me to have the ‘C’ and I’m very proud to be named the captain.”
The 17-year-old defender claims the honour speaks volumes to the hard work she’s put into hockey on and off the ice, especially since growing up outside of a big city can present struggles.
“We’re mainly out-of-town girls,” she said of the Northern Capitals’ regional diversity for the upcoming year and what suiting up in the red, white and black means for each non-Prince George born-and-raised athlete.
“For most of us, we didn’t have a girls team, and it’s important to have one. It’s far from home, but you just got to talk to the people you need to talk to and everyone processes it differently. The girls just need to treat it like home and this is their family now, so they have people to come to if they need anything.”
BC Hockey has told its minor hockey programs, including the Capitals, had planned on a January 2021 start.
COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the province with 469 virus-linked deaths, as of this publication, and close to 35,000 total infections since it reached B.C. in January.
In the north, the situation appears to be getting worse as November included a record daily case-count of 40 in a 24-hour span (Nov. 26), more than two weeks of consecutive double-digit daily case counts since Nov. 16 and eight deaths.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry put in travel restrictions for sports teams on Nov. 19, keeping them in their own community for the time-being.
“It’s been quite a big change for us, said Mulder, noting it can be hard to stay patient when competing in a meaningful game is at the top of players’ minds.
“It’s really rough. We’re trying to work positively right now and working to get a season, and BC Hockey has been working really well with us. It’s really going to depend on everybody around us. Fingers cross right now, but we’re not throwing in the towel quite yet. We just want to play. That’s all we want.”
During regular-season scenarios, Mulder explains she likes to bring energy to the team, which includes pumping up the girls in the dressing room and on the ice before puck-drop.
A concept put on hold like many other team rituals.
“We have all these procedures that we like to go through at the start of a game, and we can’t really do that anymore,” Mulder adds.
“We’ve all had to step it up and take responsibility for our own personal game and it’s been a big deal for us. It’s hard not to be around the girls all the time and needing to distance every time we see each other. But I think we’re taking it very well. We’re taking every precaution we can so that we can get back to normal and I think, being able to play those other teams [in October and November] was a really lucky opportunity for us.”
As Mulder mentioned, prior to the latest public orders, the Capitals had travelled to Williams Lake for five games against Fraser Valley and Thompson-Okanagan, as well as a trip to Vernon for a stint against the Lakers.
A 2-4-2 record was compiled, but the Caps looked very promising in their first set of contests since the 2019-20 season was cancelled in March.
Since the restrictions, the ladies have been placed in a cohort with two other Cariboo Hockey-sanctioned clubs as a way to play games, continue training and practice with other competition-hungry athletes.
However, Mulder is really hoping British Columbians can do their part in the weeks ahead in containing the virus for her team and others feeling the effects of COVID-19.
“Not having a season would absolutely suck,” she said bluntly.
“We’re doing whatever we can. There’s no explanations for our desire to play. We’re going to give everything we got.”
Mulder is one of four graduating players this year and hopes to pursue post-secondary hockey options in addition to getting an education.
The three others are forwards Pyper Alexander and Brette Kerley, and goaltender Tessa Sturgeon, who have all been named alternate captains, as well as second-year defender Ella Boon.