The Winnipeg Jets Alumni & Friends Association have been supporters of high school hockey in Manitoba for many years. They showed their support again on May 27, as Alumni Director Anders Strome along with Alumni & Friends members Jordy Douglas, Gerard McDonald, Bob Fitchner, and Mike Ford presented the annual scholarships to one male and one female graduating high school hockey player in partnership with the Manitoba High School Athletics Association (MHSAA).
New this year was the addition of $1,500 to each scholarship, raising the value to $2,500 for each recipient. But what didn't change is the Alumni Association didn't have to look hard to find worthy candidates.
This year's winners, Ethan Yewdall of Sturgeon Heights Collegiate and Camryn Gillis of Miles MacDonell Collegiate, share a lot in common. Both are skilled defensive players and excellent leaders who share their gifts at the rink and away from it.
Yewdall was named captain of the Sturgeon Heights boys' hockey team this year, and led his team to redemption by avenging their Winnipeg High School Hockey League (WHSHL) finals loss to St. Paul's last year. His team later claimed second place at the MHSAA AAAA provincial tournament.
"As a team, we just had awesome chemistry," said Yewdall. "Everybody got along really well and it really worked out for us in the end. Hard work throughout the season got us to our end goal."
Yewdall was also named an all-star in the WHSHL and provincial tournament, then was awarded the Travis Price Award for outstanding leadership abilities and love of hockey. The Jets Alumni Scholarship was certainly the icing on the cake.
"I've worked really hard throughout the school year and with my team, and it means a lot to get the support from not only my teammates, but people outside the team."
Gillis had a great season in her own right. As the second highest scoring defensive player in her division, she was constantly relied upon by her team. But Gillis was also thrown a unique leadership task this season. A fellow student who had only played ringette before joined the Buckeyes hockey team and the coaches relied on Gillis to be her defensive partner. Gillis remained a very positive role model in helping her teammate gain confidence as she shifted sports.
"It's nice to be looked to as a role model, and show someone the ropes," said Gillis. "I think she really improved throughout the season, but it certainly wasn't all me. The coaches were a huge part of it. But I like to be a leader, and I do my best to be confident and do what I can to make people comfortable and help others elevate their play as well."
The scholarships also recognize community service efforts - something the two hockey players have in spades. Yewdall has spent time volunteering at programs at local community centres, putting hampers together at Christmas time, and tutoring other students at Sturgeon Heights. Gillis serves as the lead editor for her high school's yearbook and is a contributor to Miles Mac's Literary Magazine, along with participating with Hockey Manitoba goalie development as a shooter.
"It's important to do things other than sports and have experiences other than just being part of a team all the time," said Gillis. "You can do things by yourself, or you can volunteer."
Both scholarship recipients were quick to point out the lessons that crossover from hockey to their lives outside of sport, whether in the classroom or the community.
"Working hard and never giving up translate well from hockey to other parts of life," noted Yewdall.
For Gillis, it's all about being yourself no matter the situation.
"In the past I've had issues with my own confidence when I was a first-year player on the hockey team and that's why I like to make people comfortable and do what I can to help them out."
The Alumni scholarships are meant to help students pursue post-secondary education, and both Yewdall and Gillis will be attending the University of Manitoba in the fall. Yewdall will find himself in the faculty of science with dreams of becoming a doctor, while Gillis will be taking Kinesiology while donning the brown and gold for the Bisons women's hockey team.