We recently caught up with Syracuse forward Sarah Thompson before the start of her senior season. She discussed her hockey journey and provided insights into her remarkable organization, Sticks Together.
Can you tell us about your hometown, and a bit about your hockey background?
I grew up playing hockey in Ottawa, ON and played for various associations in the city. I started playing for the Gloucester Cumberland Stars, then played for the Ottawa Lady 67’s at the U13 and then U22 level. I finished my junior hockey career for the U22 Nepean Junior Wildcats. I am now a rising senior at Syracuse University, #11 for the Women’s Ice Hockey Team.
What is your earliest hockey memory and when did you first fall in love with the game?
My earliest hockey memory was playing street hockey with the boys in my neighbourhood. I fell in love with the game watching them play and while practicing on my own so that I would be able to join them. But I’ve really been in love with the game for as long as I can remember, so this question may be better suited for my parents! The moment I realized that I was quite good at hockey and hoped to play it forever was when I was recruited to play for a U9 ‘AAA’ spring team, the Maplesoft Hawks.
Did your hometown and/or community have a role in shaping your hockey career? If so, how?
My hometown of Ottawa most certainly played a role in shaping my career. As I’d mentioned before, I fell in love with the game playing street hockey with the boys in my neighborhood. I’m fortunate to have grown up in Orleans, a suburb in the city’s east end, where friendly street hockey games were a common occurrence.
Playing competitive hockey in Ottawa also gave me the chance to play in one of the best hockey markets in the country. It’s pretty incredible looking back at my early hockey career and remembering that many of the players I played against at the national, international, and college levels were girls I played with or against at the age of eight.
Were there any specific role models or mentors who played a significant role in your hockey career?
One of my coaches at the U13 level, Fred Barzyk, played a huge role in my hockey career. He made me truly believe in myself and fall in love with the game all over again. After my season with him, I thought that playing NCAA hockey and for Team Canada was attainable as long as I worked hard enough and had fun. Sami Glockling with Endeavour Sports Group was also a great mentor for me and helped me reach my goal of playing collegiate hockey in the NCAA.
Could you share a couple of your most memorable moments or achievements from your playing career so far?
There are two moments that stand out as my most memorable. One was my first IIHF goal during a U18 Team Canada vs.Team USA Summer Series game in Lake Placid, NY. Scoring a backhand breakaway goal in front of my family was a very special moment.
The other was winning a College Hockey America championship in my sophomore year at Syracuse. I scored the OT game-winning goal to defeat Mercyhurst 3-2 in the final. Getting trampled by my teammates after scoring and contributing to the outcome of the game, I was overwhelmed with emotion.
You’re currently a student at Syracuse University, what led you there? And what are you studying?
I committed to Syracuse University at 15 years old. I was immediately impressed with Syracuse Athletics and the sports culture here. I also chose to study at Syracuse as it gave me the opportunity to pursue a major in Sport Management and a minor in Sports Analytics.
What led you to choose Sports Management as your major, and how has your love for hockey played a role in this decision?
My love for hockey is exactly why I want to pursue a career in sports. I tend to have tunnel vision, so when I am passionate about something I will go to any lengths to be successful in it. There is nothing else I am quite as passionate about as sports and so I plan to continue to be involved after retirement.
What aspects of your background in hockey do you think will help your future career post-retirement?
I think there are many lessons I’ve learned from my playing career so far that will put me in a position to succeed in hockey. I have learnt the importance of hard work, resilience, and teamwork. I am fortunate to have made a huge network of incredible athletes and people that I can lean on for guidance and connect with for future employment opportunities. As a student-athlete at Syracuse, I’m given all the support I need to succeed after sport!
You mentioned your desire to give back and spread the game to others. What motivated you to be involved in this aspect of hockey?
Sports have absolutely changed my life. Hockey has always been an escape from everyday life and has given me purpose. It has also given me the most amazing friends that I will forever cherish. I will never take for granted the role sport plays in my life and I am passionate about giving others the same opportunity to play sports that I had.
Are there specific initiatives or projects you’re currently working on to promote hockey and its values within your community or beyond?
I currently run a non-profit, Sticks Together, that brings the sport of hockey to underprivileged communities around the world. I have brought hockey to children in Argentina and South Africa and will be travelling to the Philippines next. I collect equipment and donations to bring to the children and teach them the game of street hockey. I fell in love with the game starting on the street and hope to inspire young children worldwide to do the same. For more information and to support Sticks Together, you can visit www.stickstogether.org.
Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations?
I aim to continue to play hockey at an elite level for as long as I can. After a professional career, I hope to continue to grow the game by giving children worldwide access to hockey in some capacity. Who knows where I will end up, but wherever that is, I know I’ll have a stick in my hand.