Not everyone that goes to university ends up working in their field of study, and this is no different for U SPORTS women’s hockey alumni Maxie Plante and Tamara Kajah.
Plante, a member of the Montreal Carabins women’s hockey program from 2011 to 2013, and Kajah, a member of the UBC Thunderbirds in 2009-10, both found their calling outside the classroom.
Both Plante and Kajah are still on skates almost daily, but instead of chasing the puck, these women find themselves chasing the finish line. Plante and Kajah both tour with the Red Bull Crashed Ice circuit across Canada, the United States and Europe.
For Kajah, having played competitive hockey her whole life, the next logical move was to play at the university level. Following competitive minor hockey, she suited up for the UBC Thunderbirds during their 2009-10 season.
“You had an immediately family, with all the girls on the team, which was so nice,” says Kajah when asked about her highlights of being a Thunderbird and playing U SPORTS women’s hockey.
Though Kajah was a Thunderbird for only a single season, it helped her develop her skills for what was to come.
Introduced to the sport of ice racing after leaving UBC, Kajah was shown the ins and outs of the sport by a former teammate, competing in her first race in 2014 in Quebec City. Having made it onto the podium multiple times during the Crashed Ice races and capturing golds and silver medals during the Riders Cup races, Kajah has positioned herself as one of the most competitive Canadian females to be participating on both circuits.
Getting to travel to new places, meeting new people, the whole race aspect is really exhilarating. It’s a big adrenaline rush. Everything about it is just fun and exciting and it keeps me coming back every year.
“I think that as a female athlete, it’s always great to have more girls try the sport and not be intimidated by it. There are small circuit events that are perfect races for girls to try the sport and anyone can sign up. I would always love to see more girls come try out.”
Plante, also born and raised with strong hockey roots, wrote herself a similar story. After completing two years at an athletically-designed high school, she was welcomed warmly to the Carabins hockey program at the Université de Montréal. Not only was she able to make lifelong friends on the team, but after two years she also found a championship ring on her finger following the 2012-13 season, winning the U SPORTS title.
“Of everything, (what) I enjoyed the most at U de M was the chemistry between all the players. The team became just like family and that’s part of the reason why we did so well on my last year,” Plante says, echoing a similar message as Kajah - one of friends, family and fun.
“After only four years of existence, we were able to win the national championship which says a lot about the structure of the team, the facilities and experience of all our coaching staff. It is such a great university to play for and I couldn’t have picked a better team to play such competitive hockey.”
After two years at university, Plante decided that it wasn’t the best fit for her. Thankfully, she still had a passion for hockey and skating. In 2014 - the same year as Kajah - Plante tried her first ice cross race.
The first time I got on top of the course and I looked down, I asked myself ‘Why am I doing this?'
“The first time I got on top of the course and I looked down, I asked myself ‘Why am I doing this?’ But it didn’t take long for me to understand that ice racing was for me. It was challenging, painful sometimes, but the feeling I had every time I got to the bottom of the track was just amazing,” says Plante, clearly in love with the sport as much as any athlete could be.
“Sports careers aren’t always easy, but they sure teach you a lot. You can fall, get hurt or not get the results you’re expecting but you can only keep working harder and keep your head up. It teaches you your limits, and pushes you to cross them without questioning. It takes you to different places, physically and mentally. It gets you to meet people you will never forget, and friends you will always have. It’s an identity you make, and memories you’ll never forget,” adds Plante, as passionate as Canaadian Olympian Marie-Philip Poulin, talking about the game of hockey.
With both women frequenting the podium, the Crashed Ice circuit’s last race in Edmonton over the weekend of Mar. 9-10, is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated races and competitions of the year.
Ice cross downhill racing isn’t a conventional sport, but it is growing in popularity. It is hard to imagine a more Canadian type of race - as some of Canada’s best lace them up this weekend and chase the finish line instead of the puck.
Declan is a second year journalism student at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta. Having played both competitive hockey and soccer throughout his childhood, Declan hopes to integrate his knowledge of sports and his passion for writing to produce stories for students about students.
Follow Declan on Twitter @TheDeclanRiley