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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Ellery Veerman follows the road of perseverance
by Randy Pascal

Within OUA women’s hockey circles, the notion of a walk-on sticking with any given team is something of a rarity. But talk to absolutely anyone associated with the Laurentian Voyageurs women’s hockey team and they will quickly attest to the fact that captain Ellery Veerman is one very special, very unique young lady.

“Obviously, I’m very humbled that they feel that way about me,” noted the 25 year-old native of Englehart, completing the final year of both her university hockey career as well as her Nursing degree this spring.

“I think I just try and treat everyone the way I would like to be treated.”

Her humility is quite natural, especially when one understands the road that Veerman has travelled to this point, one that differs notably from a good majority of her teammates and OUA opponents, many of whom were contemplating post-secondary hockey options by the time they hit their early teens.

The youngest of four children in the family, Veerman was a fairly natural all-around athlete in her youth. “When I was really young, I think I was just generally active, and I did play hockey as my only organized sport, really,” she said. “In high school, I kind of played everything I could, as much as my schedule allowed.”

As is the case with most Canadian small towns, hockey players make do with the options at their disposal. For Veerman, this would mean a mix of seasons split between houseleague and competitive alternatives, but all of which involved teammates that were almost exclusively male. “I think it made me a stronger player,” she said.

“I played full contact when I started in peewee, it was still there. It made me get better at decision making and making plays quickly.” Her midget year of hockey behind her, Veerman would find herself heading off to McMaster University, pursuing her Kinesiology degree, partly school driven, and partly due to a lack of awareness of the options.

“I was more program driven at that time,” she stressed. “Mind you, being from so far north, I didn’t have any connections to any kind of post-secondary varsity hockey programs. If I had more information, I might have pursued it differently.”

The flames of her hockey passion still burning brightly, Veerman would quickly join the club team that was hitting the ice at McMaster, one of a small handful of Ontario universities that is not home to a varsity women’s hockey team.

“We were in a Senior “AA” loop, so we would play teams from in that area which included girls that had already gone off to school, say in the States or in Canada,” stated Veerman. “I don’t think the OUA teams look there.”

If university women’s hockey coaches were unaware of the hidden gem that was continuing to develop at McMaster, the same could not be said for the opposite side of this equation. Immersed in the southern Ontario corridor and becoming rapidly aware of the level of varsity hockey, Veerman would eventually follow the merging of a pair of areas of keen interest for the ultra well-rounded young woman.

“It was definitely on my mind fairly early,” she confessed. “f I could have played varsity right away (ie. a varsity team at McMaster), I think I would have. When I decided to go into nursing afterwards, if I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play hockey afterwards, I would have probably done an accelerated program down there.”

“Since I was able to play hockey here at the same time, the extra time at school was OK, to kind of seize that opportunity as well.” Pursuing this path, one that was vastly different than that of her teammates on the club team, would require a great deal of personal motivation. “The team is different, the structure is different, because you’re not funded,” she explained.

“The commitment level of the players is totally different. It’s much more self-driven. It was difficult, at times, but my team did have regular training and regular practices that were meant to be mandatory. I committed myself to those things and whatever else I could do.”

That mindset would be critical for the next step, as Veerman looked to beat the odds. Thankfully, the situation in Sudbury, at that time, provided a viable opportunity. “Being from further north, I knew that I wanted to come back this way, I didn’t want to stay in the city, so Laurentian was a good fit in that way,” she said.

“It was convenient that they were awarded the team the year before I came. I reached out to (coach) Stacy Colarossi and asked about open tryouts. One thing led to another and I made the team.” Despite the fact that the list of potential returning players and new recruits would mean that Veerman would have to beat out an athlete fully expecting to play in order to earn her spot, there was little doubt that this was a realistic and achievable goal, in her mind anyways.

“I just felt that I could control what I could do, in terms of training and prep coming in, so I did as much as I could,” she recalled. “I just knew I had to come in as fit as I could be, training camp is where you get a chance to show that.” To the credit of the Laurentian staff, Veerman was given a good solid look, gradually winning over the crew.

Five years later, they reap the rewards. With 26 goals to her credit during her time at L.U., Veerman ranks in the top handful of all-time scorers in the still burgeoning program. To the surprise of no one, she was named captain prior to the 2017-2018. The irony here is that this is but half of the story.

Playing through a torn ACL last year, Veerman underwent surgery at season’s end in March. Remarkably, she returned in time to suit up, with her teammates, in an early December contest in Waterloo. More remarkably, she has amassed eight points and five goals over the course of the past six games, Laurentian emerging victorious in each and every one of those games.

Combined with an incredible run from rookie netminder Shanna Dolighan and the efforts of a team that now believes it can play with the very best in the province, the Voyageurs have vaulted themselves right back in the middle of the OUA playoff hunt.

One simply cannot downplay the contribution of captain Ellery Veerman in this turnaround, the contribution of a very special player and an even more special person.

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