At 13, Glenwood’s Keesha John has already competed in a number of big-name hockey tournaments.
From provincial tournaments to Atlantic Canadian championships, John has been there, and not just as a player, but as captain and assistant captain.
However, during a recent tournament in Florida, John got to experience a moment she'll probably never experience again - playing hockey in front of NHL fans during a regular-season NHL game.
"We went to an NHL game between the (Florida) Panthers and (Washington) Capitals. There was a lot of people at the game, but not like what you would see in a major hockey city like Toronto or Montreal," said John. "We actually got to play an intersquad game during one of the intermissions. I don't know how it happened, but I think John (Lake) was able to get together with the person who organized the tournament, and they set it up for us to play at the NHL game. Being from Newfoundland and getting to play at an NHL rink, during an NHL game? Yeah, it was exciting."
John was competing at a tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from Nov. 31-Dec. 6. She was a member of the Seventh Wave U-15 girls' hockey team that earned silver at the event following a 6-3 loss to Colorado in the gold-medal game.
Lake is involved with the Seventh Wave team, and John believes he's the one mainly responsible for organizing the intersquad game at BankAtlantic Center, home of the Panthers.
"I've got to thank John for that one," said John.
John never actually tried out for the Seventh Wave team, and truth be told, had no idea there even was a Seventh Wave U-15 team.
Her parents, Donna and Barney, received an email one day from Lake, but because they weren't familiar with the Seventh Wave program either, thought it was junk mail.
It wasn't until Lake called their home that they realized it was legit, and their daughter had an opportunity to play hockey in Florida.
"He got some players together from Newfoundland that he heard about," said John of Lake. "I've never heard about the Seventh Wave Team before ever (laughs). Mom and dad got an email one day telling them about the program, but they thought it was some sort of gimmick, like spam email. He ended up calling our house one day and told us all about the tournament, asked me if I wanted to go to Florida, and I said yes."
The other U-15 teams competing at the event included squads from Tampa Bay, Carolina, Colorado, and Hamilton.
John had no idea what to expect when she got there, but said she felt a great sense of pride when the silver medal was placed around her neck.
To go along with the silver, she was also handpicked by Lake to play, which brought even more pride to the Lakewood Academy student.
"I mean, we won silver, and we're only from a small province in Canada, so it was a wonderful feeling to represent my province and win silver," said John. "I felt pretty good after John asked me to play for the team. He was saying he heard stuff about me as a hockey player, so it really did feel good to be recognized in that way."
Besides the tournament itself, John also got to spend some quality time with her mom, who accompanied her on the trip.
Thanks to great tournament organizing, the Seventh Wave players had ample time to experience sunny Florida, while friends and family in this province were busy buying winter tires.
"It was incredible," said John. "It's the first time I was ever in Florida, and the first time I was in the States, actually. Me and mom went, and it was really relaxing, actually. We had a game a day, and sometimes we had a game and practice on the same day, so we had a lot of extra time to do things. We stayed in a hotel with a pool and basketball court, we went to a few different beaches, and went to the mall. We did a lot of stuff away from the rink, actually."