It didn’t take much convincing to get Marie-Jo Pelletier in a pair of skates for the first time.
The 19-year-old University of New Hampshire women’s hockey team captain was just two when she got on the family’s backyard rink for the first time. Since then, she hasn’t stopped.
“I have two older brothers and as a kid I always wanted to follow in their footsteps. They were really into hockey, so here I am,” Pelletier laughed.
The time between her wobbly, outdoor-rink start and leading a university hockey team has been filled with accomplishments. Pelletier was selected to participate in the 2014 IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp in Finland and was voted most sportsmanlike at the National Women’s U18 Championship in the 2012-13 season. Pelletier also participated in the annual under-18 Canada vs. USA summer series in 2014, which she considers her greatest achievement.
Pelletier, originally from Dalhousie, has been a fixture on hockey teams in the northern part of the province. Being from a small town, she played on co-ed teams until bantam, when she joined the Bathurst Northern Stars midget AAA women’s team.
“That’s where I got the taste of playing women’s hockey. It’s a different game when you play with guys your whole life to playing with girls. The men are focused on a physical game; women’s hockey is more based on skills.”
Pelletier soon joined the Rothesay Netherwood School RIverhawks hockey program under Kayla Blackmore. Pelletier chose to stay in New Brunswick to be closer to family and friends.
“At such a young age, I was more comfortable staying in New Brunswick. I wanted to stay close to home and I’m glad I did. I learned so much playing at RNS,” she said.
Another life lesson came when Pelletier travelled to Vierumäki, Finland, which featured 16 countries coming together to grow female hockey around the globe.
“It was an unbelievable experience to meet women from different countries see how the game is unique in different places. I enjoyed seeing the various styles of play and how each country trained, and it was an honour to be selected to represent Canada.”
Now Pelletier is leading the University of New Hampshire Wildcats women’s hockey team through the playoffs. The second-year player is already captain of the squad, part of the nine-team Hockey East conference in the NCAA which includes competitors like Boston College and the University of Connecticut.
She’s maintaining her focus and hoping to finish strong and win the championship this season, but Pelletier is always cognizant of her career aspirations.
“I want to have a shot at Hockey Canada’s national development team. Every day I’m working towards making that goal a reality.”