Aubrey Cole packed her bags and left Sarnia while still in Grade 9, leaving behind family and friends to pursue her dream of becoming an elite hockey player.
“My mom cried a lot,” Cole, 17, recalled of that move to Ridley College prep school in St. Catharines in 2014.
“Grade nine is a pretty important stage of development. Playing with older kids and practising every day helped me a lot.”
Cole is back in Sarnia now but will pack her bags again next fall when she joins Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, on a Division 1 scholarship.
“Oh my gosh, this is actually happening,” Cole said after receiving the offer.
The 5’ 11” defenceman was a part of two silver-winning seasons at Ridley and was named 2016 Varsity Hockey Rookie of the Year.
Last year, she joined the Whitby Wolves and this season moved over to the Strathroy Bluewater Hawks. Both teams are in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), the top amateur women’s league in the province.
Before that she played for the Lady Sting organization and in Mooretown.
Cole has a hockey pedigree. Her father, Lee Cole, played three seasons in the OHL, suiting up for Sault Ste. Marie and Kingston in 1994-97.
Playing in Strathroy this year ahs allowed her to live with her family for the first time in three years. Between Hawks’ games she also patrols the blue line for Northern Collegiate’s hockey team.
At university, Cole intends to major in education with aspirations of teaching. She wants to go as far as possible in women’s hockey, she said, but understands playing professionally might not pay the bills.
Wherever she goes, though, Cole will bring with her is a series of pre-game rituals. She always arrives at the rink first, dresses her left side equipment first, and when taking faceoffs taps her stick once and spins it twice.
She also believes her team did better last year when she wore a Mercyhurst ball cap – something started wearing before the school recruited her.