Raygan Kirk prepares to shine on the national stage again - this time with Team Manitoba
After helping Team Canada win gold at the 2019 Under-18 Women’s World Hockey Championship in Japan last month, Raygan Kirk doesn’t have much time to celebrate. The 17-year-old goaltender from Ste. Anne, Manitoba will be a centrepiece of Team Manitoba’s women’s hockey team in Red Deer.
Still, Kirk has reflected on her big international win.
“It was definitely an amazing experience with that group,” said Kirk. “They were such hard workers, and our whole goal was not really to win gold, but to play with a gold medal attitude, that’s what the coaches set out for us.”
Kirk, who was named the most valuable player of the tournament, said playing overseas was a big adjustment to her routine.
“They made a little jet lag plan for us,” she said. “So we basically had to sleep the whole plane ride there, so I think that helped for a lot of the girls, but just getting used to the food and definitely the time switch and the ice is different. It’s definitely difficult but I think we did a pretty good job at it.”
Now Kirk has her sights set on the Canada Winter Games in Alberta and is optimistic about what they could bring.
“I think we have a good chance this year,” she said. “Obviously Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, they’re always really tough teams to play against, but I think we have a really good group. I’ve met all the girls and the coaches are really great.”
Kirk’s younger brother is also a goaltender and actually started playing the position before she did.
“Where I live (in Ste. Anne) we had our first girls’ team and they needed a goalie and I’m like ‘Well I’ve got equipment so I might as well try it out,’” she said. “Never really turned back. With the boys I was playing defence and girls I was a goalie so I had to make the choice and I had a lot more fun in net so that was the decision I stuck with.”
Kirk said the toughest aspect of being a goaltender is the mental side of the game.
“You’re by yourself a lot in the game in the other end and you’re kind of your own team,” she said. “You’re the quarterback I guess of the team, so just staying positive if a bad goal goes in or you’re having a bad play or you’re getting tired, you just have to stay mentally tough.”
Kirk’s hometown is a female hockey hotbed. Melanie Gagnon, Jocelyn Larocque, and sisters Bailey and Shelby Bram all have Ste. Anne roots and all have played for Team Canada in the past.
“They all live about five minutes from my house,” Kirk said. “They keep saying something’s in the water but I think there’s just a lot of passion for hockey. Coming from a small community people want to go far. Obviously as women we don’t have the choice to play in the NHL, so playing for Team Canada is kind of the biggest thing for us.”
Kirk said she especially looks up to the Bram sisters.
“Bill’s my coach right now, their dad, and then Bailey’s on the bench and she does dry land with us and she works us hard. Always people I’ve looked up to,” she said.
As for her long-term career goals? Well, she’d like to keep the Ste. Anne hockey tradition going.
“Obviously (being an Olympian) that’s the goal,” she said. “I’d like to play for the CWHL or NWHL, that’s always been a goal for me. And continuing with Team Canada…something I’m really hoping to look forward to.”