Alyson Reeves is a Toronto elite hockey player and part of the Stay Real With Milk youth ambassador community. While there are myriad reasons why Canadians get into hockey, in Alyson’s case, it was a respectable desire to best her brother.
“It all started with my brother and our outdoor rink.”, says Alyson. “I always idolized him, and wanted to be better than him. I would always chase him around. That’s what started me skating super fast, and then I got into it. I would skate around in laps for about two hours and then after that I got into hockey. My dad wanted me to play and I signed up for the boys’ team, which was a challenge, but I was up for it.”
If you were thinking this is as simple as a ‘girls can do anything boys can’ story, you’d be mistaken. Alyson is a gifted hockey player who has made shrewd choices throughout her evolution. After playing elite boys’ hockey for seven years, Alyson now plays right wing for the Toronto Leaside Junior Wildcats.
Alyson was selected as a Stay Real With Milk ambassador by Dairy Farmers of Ontario along with Toronto Maple Leaf Connor Brown for their shared commitment to hard work and perseverance. We had the chance to interview Alyson during her ambassador photo shoot at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto, Ontario.
Q: So why did you choose to play boys’ hockey?
A: “I live really close to North Toronto Arena, so I didn’t have to travel as much—girls have to travel really far. I decided I was going to try out for the Select team. I was younger than them at the time and the coach told me I had to work hard to get the spot on the team, and I made it. I went up the next year and played A for the next seven years. I switched to girls’ hockey after that.
My dad felt I could play at that level, and I’d be pushed by the guys. He thought it would be the best thing I could do, and it was. I didn’t want to be the straggler…the only girl. I was the only girl. I had to keep up with them, and that’s what made me better.
Playing on a boys’ team as the only girl was hard at first because, well, I’m the only girl and technically supposed to be the worst so I had to show I was not the worst. I went out there and showed what I was like and they began to accept me. It was hard at the start, and then they were like my best friends. And then we won everything, so it was fantastic.
So I played with the boys for a year and then after a year, the next step was going up to the A team, but I was a year younger than that. The coach said I could try out, but I only had a try-out spot, which is not normal, you normally get picked before tryouts. He told me that if I worked as hard as possible I could possibly make the team with an extra forward. I went out there and lucky enough I made the team and was on that team for seven years. We won two championships and lost in the finals once. We only lost two games out of 63 in one year. It was quite impressive, and it was fun. It was great.”
Q: What made you decide to make the move to girls’ hockey?
A: “As I got older, I went into Grade 9 and some of the guys began to lose a bit of interest, but I wanted to go to university for hockey so I needed to make the move to girls’ hockey. I decided to reach out to a few teams—I didn’t know much about it. Leaside was pretty close and convenient so I decided I was going to play Midget AA for a year. I played with some people from my school and it was great. This year I played Junior in the women’s provincial hockey league and there’s 20 teams.
I play left and right wing. I think on the right I can get my shot off quick. That’s where I was placed when I was younger, so I’ve always stuck with that position.”
A: What do you feel was the biggest contributor to your success?
“When I was younger they told me I had to work hard. If I wanted to achieve what I wanted to achieve, I had to work hard. I made the first team and the second team, and it was all by working hard. I did not have a guaranteed spot at the start and then I was the second forward on the team. My parents convinced me that I could be one of the best players. I doubted myself, but I stuck with it and played on my outdoor rink almost every night and got a good shot. That’s where I got all my skating skills from. That’s where it all started, I guess.”
Q: What advice would you give to other young athletes?
A: “You’ve got to be respectful, and you’ve got to work hard. If you want to get somewhere, you’ve got to dedicate yourself. That’s how I did it. Dedication, respect for your team mates, and hard work.
Also, nutrition is a very big part of my game. It’s the same thing as working hard on the ice—you’ve got to eat well to be able to play well. When you do that off the ice, you get results on the ice. I need to have fuel for the games; I need to have my protein to make sure I have the energy to play. I drink milk every day in the morning. Before I go to school, I normally have cereal with it. It tastes great.”
While it was impressive to watch Alyson on the ice, it was amazing to see the genuine warmth between Alyson and Connor Brown when they had a chance to meet. They talked about Connor’s high-stick injury, and Connor signed and gave Alyson his stick.