One tough Cookie’
After playing with elite girls teams in St. Albert, Brooke Tipton came back to her stomping grounds to help out at home
Tuesday, Feb 14, 2017 04:15 pm
There’s just about five minutes left in the second period. The Athabasca Midget ‘A’ Hawks are in their home rink up against Ponoka.
The stands are packed, and the game is tight. 4-3 Athabasca.
As the Hawks rushed the puck, one sly Ponoka player leaves his stick out as Brooke Tipton skates by. She trips, and he’s given a two-minute penalty.
Getting up, she gives the guy – who stands about a foot taller than her – a smile and an elbow jab in the gut as he shuffles off to the box.
“Brooke, I tell you, she plays hard,” said Hawks head coach Jody Tangedal after the game. “And has lots of aggression, too.”
Although she cut her teeth on the Athabasca rink with the boys’ ‘A’ teams, Tipton has been honing her skills with elite teams in St. Albert over the past two years.
As she was moving up the ranks and even playing at a national level, a personal tragedy and the love of her family brought Tipton back to home ice.
Value of the game
Tipton, 18, said she has been playing hockey since she was about four years old and always played with the boys’ ‘A’ teams in Athabasca.
Her father, Dave, said his family has played hockey “from the beginning,” noting that his dad played hockey and so did he.
“Brooke was always around that, and she wanted to play,” he said.
Brad Sakowich was one of her coaches during her local hockey career. He said she was a joy to coach.
“She was awesome,” he said. “She’s just such a unique personality. She was so much fun.”
He said she was the toughest person on his team, adding that he felt she always wore her heart on her sleeve when she played.
“She’s honestly one of the favourite kids that I’ve coached,” he said. “She’s one of my favourite, and one of the most competitive kids that I’ve ever coached.”
Sakowich also noted that when he was coaching her at the Novice level and he had given everyone on the team nicknames, she was insistent on what hers should be.
“She goes to me and says, ‘No, my nickname is Brookie the Cookie,’” he said. “That’s just who she was. And she was the only novice girl – novice player – that no one else could tie her skates except herself.”
During her second year in Bantam, Tipton tried out for and made it onto the St. Albert Raiders.
“I think she surprised herself, that she had made it,” said Tangedal, who has been coaching Tipton since she was in Prenovice. “I had an idea that she’d probably make it, anyways, but I think it was so nice for her to go there and be one of the better players.”
Last year, Tipton was on the ‘AAA’ Midget St. Albert Slash, as well.
While she was in St. Albert, Tipton lived attended Paul Kane High School and lived with teammates’ families during the season.
“She’s always maintained her marks, which was tough, because she never had, until this year, a full year in high school,” Dave said.
Tough as nails
Last May, while Tipton was in Toronto at the 2016 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships playing for Team Alberta, her mother passed away after a motorcycle accident.
She was on a plane within two hours, on her way back home.
She made the decision to stay in Athabasca for the final year high school, and forgo her second year at the Midget level with the St. Albert ‘AAA’ team. She also turned down the opportunity to play for a Junior ‘A’ team as an affiliate.
Tipton said her 11-year-old sister Megan was a big factor in her decision.
“Just because dad’s not used to doing everything,” she said. “Like the house chores, and getting her around and cooking.”
She also said that soon after her mother’s funeral, she was back on the ice at spring camp for U18 Team Alberta.
Although she did not make the team, she said hockey has given her “kind of my place to escape.”
“The outside world doesn’t matter,” she said.
Dave said it was unconditional love after her mother’s death that kept his daughter at home this year.
“She wanted to stay and help me raise her little sister,” he said. “She’s done a great job, teaching her how to cook, how to do her own laundry – her little sister’s doing her own laundry and stuff.”
The home game
Tipton said the transition back onto the Athabasca boys’ team was an easy one, because her teammates were really welcoming.
“Just part of the boys, I guess,” she said.
Tangedal said he could see the experience with the St. Albert team was a good one for Tipton, adding that she really was a better player when she came back to Athabasca.
“You know, she left with a fairly weak shot, and now she comes back and she can really fire it,” Tangedal said. “She’s got a good shot, and she’s more offensive, more hands on and more confident with the puck.”
Not only is she playing, but she is helping other young girls learn Canada’s game and becoming a role model for them.
“I coached the Pee Wee girls,” she said, noting it was something she was doing with Erin Francis, and was only possible this year because she was living in Athabasca.
“I had Christmas cards that said, ‘I wish I could be as good a hockey player as you,’ and stuff,” she said with a smile. “It was cute.”
At this point, Tipton said her future in hockey is uncertain, adding that she is thinking about going to school for business.
“I haven’t decided really,” she said. “I might try to play for NAIT or MacEwan. Or I might just play Junior ‘A’ – or focus on school.”
Tangedal said he thinks she could be tapped for another team’s playoff run, but that could leave the midget team in the lurch.
“Hopefully, we can make a long run in the playoffs and get to provincials as well,” Tangedal said. “So that would really suck if she did get called up and she has to make a choice.”
He also said he believes she has a future with the game.
“For Brooke, I think that if she wanted to play after minor hockey, as well, I think she could have no problem doing that with one of the systems in the city,” he said. “She never misses a practice. She’s always ready to play the game. She’s not one of those people you have to motivate – she’s a motivated person herself.”
Dave also said that when someone leaves the ‘AAA’ program they tend to get lost, as the focus is on the players that make that team. But he hopes she pursues her goals and fights her way up.
“I’m very proud and happy to have her around,” he said. “I wish she would have pursued her goals. Ultimately, it’s her decision. I tell her, the cream always rises to the top. So she’ll be OK.”