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Sam on Sports: Phoenix Taylor

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Phoenix Taylor, a member of Curve Lake First Nation, is playing in the Greater Toronto Hockey League this season with the Markham Major Under 12 AAA team. – Photo by Bear Taylor

By Sam Laskaris

CURVE LAKE FIRST NATION – Phoenix Taylor has some lofty ambitions.

And though she’s still a tween, the Curve Lake First Nation member is realizing that plenty of hard work now will greatly boost her chances of achieving her goals.

Taylor and her family members are making a huge commitment this hockey season.

That’s because instead of spending the 2023-24 hockey season playing close to her home in Curve Lake, Taylor has made the commitment to suit up with the Markham Majors Under-12 AAA squad.

The Majors compete in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL), the largest youth hockey organization in the world.

Taylor and her family members also believe the GTHL is the best place for her to develop her skills.

Other youth hockey associations are much closer to Taylor’s Curve Lake First Nation home, but the decision was made for her to suit up for the Majors this season.

That decision translates into some rather lengthy commutes. Several times each week. It takes about 80 minutes for Taylor’s father Bear or mother Becky to drive to the Thornhill Community Centre, where the Majors play their home contests.

Thus, a round trip journey will consist of almost three hours of driving.

The Majors usually practice twice a week. They also play an average of two matches per week. Plus, the club has perhaps two weekly off-ice training sessions.

So, the Taylors find that most weeks, they are enduring lengthy commutes five or six times each week so that their daughter can suit up for the Majors.

She’s one of two girls on the predominantly boys’ squad. And she is the only Indigenous player in the club.

But you do what you’ve got to do in order to get better.

Though it’s still early in the season, young Phoenix will tell you she’s already improved by coming to the GTHL, especially in terms of her work ethic as she has quickly realized how much of a commitment is needed to play with the Markham squad.

Taylor has visions of one day earning an athletic scholarship from a university south of the border; she is keen to play women’s hockey at the NCAA level.

Though she is still only a Grade 6 student at Lakefield District Public School, it’s rather admirable that a such a young age, Taylor already knows where she wants to be more than half-a-dozen years down the line.

Heck, most kids her age have difficulties planning their after-school or weekend activities. Perhaps it helps that she has some noteworthy individuals that she looks up to.

Her female role model is Hayley Wickenheiser, the former women’s star who is arguably the greatest female to lace up hockey skates.

Taylor also considers Edmonton Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid as her favourite National Hockey League player.

And the fact she considers the Toronto Maple Leafs her favourite pro team, well, she’s still young. Sure, the Leafs are the closest NHL squad to her home, but even her father can joke at how young she is and doesn’t fully realize how much heartbreak the organization has caused its fervent supporters over the past several decades.

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