As the Whitby Wolves head into the PWHL holiday break standing second overall, Hailey Noronha has provided superlative leadership on the blue line. Although she started playing hockey as a forward, the influence of one of the first women inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame had an influence on Noronha.
“I attended the Geraldine Heaney defensive camp. She is my female role model. She was the one who scored the girl version of the Bobby Orr goal (at the 1990 IIHF Women’s Worlds). She has helped me with my technique, and I really look up to her. We keep in touch.”
The tutelage of Heaney certainly made an impact on Noronha as she was named to Team Ontario Blue for the 2012 Canadian Under-18 Nationals. Two of her teammates from the Whitby Wolves (defender Lauren E. Williams and forward Krista Yip-Chuck) joined her on Team Ontario Blue.
Together, this titanic trio helped make Canadian women’s hockey history as Team Ontario Blue (led by head coach Bradi Cochrane of Oakville PWHL), claimed the gold medal for the first time in the history of the Under-18 Nationals.
“It was unbelievable. I cannot even describe it. I am so proud of our team. We were underdogs going into the tournament. We were not expected to make the medal round. Our goal was to make Ontario proud. Team Ontario Red had won for so many years; we wanted to keep the streak alive.”
As a side note, the province of Ontario is allowed to ice two teams for the Canadian Under-18 Nationals (Blue and Red). Several of her Whitby teammates (forwards Hanna Bunton, Nicole Martindale and Alex Moore) were competing on Team Ontario Red.
When asking Noronha if it was strange to play against them, she replied, “No, we are such a close team. There are no rivalries or awkwardness. We play for fun, and I had a blast against them.”
With Whitby standing in second place, this talent heavy squad is a contender to grab the PWHL league title.
In discussing if the team had what it took to claim the title, Noronha replied, “I think we do. We are in second right now, and we are very good at scoring goals. If we work as a team, and not as individuals, we can go far.”
Two of her Whitby teammates, Bunton and Moore, are spending their holiday break competing for Canada at the 2013 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds.
Noronha is excited about the opportunity, “I am extra proud of them, especially for Hanna. Last year, she did not make it. Alex was not invited last year, so for both of them, this is their last shot. It makes me more proud of them.”
Like all players in the PWHL, the demands of academics and the high level of competition in elite junior women’s hockey can make for a balancing act.
“It can be tough. When I first played for Whitby, it was a one hour drive on most days, so I would do my homework in the car. The key is that I can ask for extra help if I need it, and that is a huge help.”
Noronha would be the first to acknowledge the importance of the parents for any player in the PWHL.
“They give us extra support. They come with us and encourage us to keep going. You have to make big sacrifices to play at this level, and they are a great source of encouragement.”
As many teams are concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area, it is not uncommon for players to travel with their parents.
“We usually take the bus on road trips to places like London, Bluewater and Windsor.”
Employing maturity and acumen in her role with the Wolves, Noronha also sees herself as a leader.
“I do. Just because there is no letter on my jersey, I still try to encourage our girls. It is important to have confidence and communication on the ice. It only helps the team. If you learn not to be hard on yourself, it just makes your team better.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”