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Northern Capitals defenceman/PGSS student Johnson recognized for leadership and role-model attributes

'Penelope embodies the spirit and values this award represents' - BC Elite Hockey league commissioner Fred Zweep

Away from the ice, Penelope Johnson is the kind of person who goes out of her way to look for positive attributes and make everybody she meets feel welcome, and because of that people gravitate to her.

On the ice, as a defenceman for the Northern Capitals 18-U triple-A girls hockey, it’s a different story. Like any effective blueliner, she plays an unwelcoming aggressive style that makes opponents want to avoid her at all costs.

But when it came down to sorting out all the worthy candidates to determine the winner of the BC Elite League’s Commissioner’s Award, Johnson shot to the head of the class.

The 18-year-old Prince George Secondary School graduating honour-roll student has been chosen as the first recipient of the new award.

“Penelope embodies the spirit and values this award represents; unconditional leadership, involvement, and integrity,” said BCEHL commissioner Fred Zweep. “She is an outstanding role model, and we are proud to have her be the first-ever recipient of the BCEHL’s Commissioner’s Award.” 

Johnson, a native of Gitanmaax, near Hazleton, played all 32 games for the Northern Capitals this past season and collected three goals and an assist.

“Penelope was an outstanding leader for our team this season,” said Capitals head coach Mike MacKay. “She always led by example on the ice, and away from the rink was always there for her teammates. She has a great attitude and was an absolute pleasure to coach.”

Considered a role model in Prince George and Gitanmaax, Johnson volunteers as a youth mentor in PGSS’s reading program and during the summer she works as a peer leader at a youth camp in Hazelton. She also coaches kids at Prince George Minor Hockey Association development hockey camps and jamborees in the fall and winter.

Coming from a family of six kids, her older sister, Mercedes Spooner, inspired her to start playing hockey at age 4 in Hazelton. She moved with her family to Prince George when she was 11 and started playing female hockey with the Coyotes development program. She’s been with Northern Capitals for the past two seasons.

In 2023, Johnson helped Team BC to a fourth-place finish at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship in Winnipeg. She’s committed to Red Deer Polytechnic for next season and has enrolled in the education program, with plans to return to Gitanmaax to work as a teacher.

“She represents us at the highest level and was one of our captains on the Northern Capitals and she’s always represented the North well,” said Cariboo Cougars general manager Trevor Sprague.

“She’s very proud of where she comes from and when you see her she wears that proudly and represents her family well and she’s a great student over and above that.

“She’s a young lady who really gets along well with her teammates and looks at the best of everybody and she comes to play the game that she loves. She’s just a quality human being, always has a smile for everybody coming to the rink. She’s somebody who attracts a lot of good will to everybody and people really like her.”

Sprague has coached Johnson a few times and knows her tendencies.

“She’s pretty aggressive defenceman, she does well on the  blueline in all situations and she’s hard to play against,” said Sprague. “She’s very coachable. For somebody who has the experience she does has, she was awesome to work with.

“For her to win that award means a lot for the Capitals program and what kind of people they’re putting out into the hockey world.”

The Commissioner’s Award celebrates a BCEHL player who profoundly impacts their community and shows exemplary leadership on and off the ice.  

The other finalists were: James Eagle (Vancouver North East Chiefs - U-18 triple-A), Khayam Siah (Vancouver Island Royals – female U-17 triple-A) and Kate Steele (Vancouver Island Seals – female U-18 triple-A).