Northern Capitals alumnus Sage Desjardins is coming back to her roots – after six years away she’s rejoining the girls’ hockey team, but now as the team’s newest assistant coach.
Originally from Terrace, Desjardins first moved to Prince George to pursue her hockey career where she played for the Northern B.C. team for three years prior to attending the University of Calgary and joining the Dinos.
She’s now back in northern B.C. with the U18 AAA team to develop the team as an assistant coach.
For Desjardins, coaching is also kind of a family legacy, as her father Mario Desjardins coached her all through her major midget career and was the head coach of the Northern Capitals for the past few years.
“We've both been involved in the program, even when I was away at university. So now that I'm back home, and I'm moved back to Prince George, it's kind of exciting to get the chance to assistant coach with them again,” said Desjardins.
However, she noted that this year will be a bit of an adjustment as it’s the first year she won’t be lacing up skates as a player having finished her time with the Dinos where she was coached by Danielle Goyette, and Carla MacLeod, both Olympic gold medalists in women's hockey.
“I have no doubt come September, when I'm not putting on my gear to play an actual game, it's going to feel a little weird,” said Desjardins.
“But definitely, I want to make that step into coaching. I didn't get to where I did in hockey without so much support from people in this organization and beyond it, and so just to come back and give back and help these girls try and get to where I got to go is really the end goal for me.”
Desjardins says she sees herself staying involved in hockey throughout her career. She is also starting the education program at the University of Northern British Columbia and plans to continue to coach and teach kids in both capacities.
She’s also a big advocate for encouraging girls to become involved with sports.
“I remember when I started hockey when I was like five years old, and you step on the ice and you're with a bunch of boys, it can be so intimidating,” said Desjardins.
“I think the biggest thing with females especially is don't get discouraged. It's so easy to lose your confidence so fast, and it takes months to build it back up. Try not to let that happen. If you're where you're at, you should be there.”
She said hockey and all sports are a great avenue to teach girls skills that can propel them into so many other aspects in life.
“Hockey has taught me so many life skills that like I can never imagine not having and I wouldn't have without playing the sports that I did,” said Desjardins, adding that being on a team brings so many different personalities together and provides the opportunity to form unique friendships.
“It's a beautiful thing. I mean, some of the friends I made I would never have made if I didn't play this sport.”
Cariboo Hockey, including the Northern Capitals, held a development camp and tryout this weekend, which consisted of three days of back-to-back hockey with teams playing around six or seven games.
“They're pushing through and it's great. I think it's been a super fun weekend for everyone involved,” said Desjardins, noting that it will be a building year for the Northern Capitals as the team will have many new players.
“We have a lot of young girls, as we've had a lot of players move on to use sports in different avenues, which is fantastic to see, so it is going to be a younger team.”
She said she hopes to see girls develop their skills over the course of the year and figure out what their aspirations are in hockey and along with the other coaches – help them get there.
“At the end of the day, the Capitals program is to develop girls to develop people. And we're just here to help them get to where they want to go.”
As far as what the year will bring for Desjardins, she says she is happy to be back in Prince George and around her family.
“I enjoy being back in Prince George I think it's going to be good for me to be home and around family for a bit but I'm happy to be back. I'm happy I get to stay coming to the rink and I'm just grateful that I get to coach these girls.”
The Capitals open their season on Sept. 24 in Kelowna when they face the Thompson-Okanagan Lakers.