For Whistler’s Camie Matteau Rushbrook, receiving the call with an offer to play hockey for the Brock University Badgers while being able to work toward a degree in Sports Management was a dream come true.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that dream didn’t play out quite the way she expected in her first year at Brock.
No games, intermittent practices when restrictions allowed and fully online classes made for a challenging first year of university life for Matteau Rushbrook. But heading into Year 2 with courses returning to the classrooms and her first exhibition game with the team scheduled for next week, she could not be more excited for what the year brings.
“I’m so excited, it’s been a really long time since I played a game, the energy in the room is just buzzing,” she said. “We are super stoked to see how it goes but no matter how it goes, I think everyone is just happy to be back on the ice and to get COVID behind us.”
Not having played any games against university-level competition before, Matteau Rushbrook is still uncertain about where she stacks up on the team but said she is prepared to work hard to establish her position.
While she may be unclear about the role she will be playing once the season gets underway in the next couple weeks, her former skills coach at the Whistler Hockey Skills Academy Tim Knight knows exactly what Brock University is getting in Matteau Rushbrook.
“They are getting a [player] that is not afraid to work along the wall, get to nets, do the things she has to do. She has all the intangibles, [she’s] a great teammate inside the room, and she’ll do what it takes for the team all the time. She’s kind of like glue for a team,” he said. “She’s … very athletic, she’s strong on her skates. When she’s battling for a puck she’s hard on her stick, she can win these battles, turnover pucks, a good playmaker, good forechecker … and she’s a fierce competitor and a great student.”
Knight describes Matteau Rushbrook as a power forward akin to Todd Bertuzzi, who is hard to knock off the puck and can hold you off with one hand while driving to the net with the other.
And when asked about her style of play, Matteau Rushbrook, who admits her favourite part of the game is heading to the dirty areas of the ice to dig out pucks for her teammates, attributes her grinder style game to playing boys’ hockey most of her life as opposed to the less physical girl’s game.
“The games are a lot different than people would assume. They are the same sport but girls’ hockey is played completely differently than boys’ hockey, so it was a huge transition thing for me. It took me about half a season to actually get adjusted,” she said about switching over to AAA girls’ hockey for the Greater Vancouver Comets in her last two years of Midget.
“I think one of the big things in girls’ hockey is you have more time with the puck. Some of my teammates are absolutely fabulous skaters who could dangle through the whole team, whereas coming from boys’ hockey I didn’t really have that same time with the puck to practice those skills. So that definitely translates from boys’ hockey, I think. And as much as it was a difficult transition, I think it was a positive and I think I got some skills that I might not have had growing up in girls’ hockey.”
Beyond working hard in class and hockey, Matteau Rushbrook doesn’t have much in the way of future plans figured out just yet as she’s still deciding what avenue to take in her Sports Management program, but she hopes to be able to move back home to the mountains when her degree is finished.
As for Knight, he wishes all the best for Matteau Rushbrook in her university career and hopes one day he’ll see her getting into the coaching side of things.
“I wish her the absolute best and I hope she has a great university career. And one day, I hope to see Camie turn into a coach because I think after she’s done her career, she’s going to make a fantastic mentor, a fantastic coach in the game,” he said. “I think she has strong leadership skills and I think she’s going to be someone in society, as an adult, that communities are going to be blessed to have wherever she chooses to live. That’s my greatest hope for Camie.”