Captain and senior Micah Zandee-Hart’s dreams of an NCAA championship with top-ranked Cornell were abruptly crushed by COVID-19, hardly the way the Saanichton product anticipated her collegiate hockey career to end in the spring.
When hockey reopens, the Canadian national team player will focus on a career in club colours with the fledgling Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in Canada colours.
She will also give back to youth in her hometown by helping with mentorship and development with the Capital Region Female Minor Hockey Association, it was announced this week.
The capital region association’s teams are called the Reign. They began playing last year as Greater Victoria’s first girls-only minor hockey association. It’s an indication of the progress of the female game.
An all-girls hockey association wasn’t an option for Zandee-Hart when she started playing on Peninsula boys’ rep teams in Atom, Pee Wee and Bantam up to age 15 before going to the Okanagan Hockey Academy.
Zandee-Hart, one of four siblings, said she became a blueliner because older brother Ben Hart played defence for the Peninsula Panthers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
Now, a generation of young Island female players can point to Zandee-Hart as the reason they took up the sport, whether on the blueline or at forward. Because of her commitments at Cornell, Zandee-Hart was unable to play in Canada’s 3-2 overtime pre-pandemic Rivalry Series game against the U.S. in February in Victoria, but jerseys with her name on the back dotted the big crowd.
Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre was sold out for the game and many of the fans were young female hockey players. It was another indication of the role-model status enjoyed by the Canadian women’s team players. Zandee-Hart never gave up on her desire and has graduated in that pantheon.
She was in Initiation-level hockey at Peninsula in 2002 when she sat in front of the television set in the family room to watch the national side win its first Olympic gold medal at the Salt Lake City Winter Games. The images never left her. Now she pursues her own Olympic goals on the road to Beijing 2022 and Milan Cortina 2026.
The 23-year-old’s progress has been steady. Zandee-Hart was chosen to be the B.C. flagbearer in the opening ceremony of the 2015 Canada Winter Games and that year was also named captain of the Canadian Under-18 team, which won silver at the world championship.
She was named to the Ivy League and Eastern College Athletic Conference first all-star teams this senior season at Cornell, the institution where she was named captain as early as her sophomore season. A dynamic ball of energy, five-foot-nine Zandee-Hart is a mobile blueliner who was a finalist this season for ECAC defenceman of the year and third in conference scoring among defenders.
Zandee-Hart, who says Canadian women’s national soccer team captain Christine Sinclair is the athlete she most admires, made her own senior national-team debut in 2018 and her International Ice Hockey Federation world championship debut with bronze medallist Canada in the 2019 tournament in Espoo, Finland. That, and the strong potential for the podium at Beijing 2022, should be inspiration enough for the young Capital Region Female Minor Hockey Association players Zandee-Hart has been tasked to help mentor and develop.
“It’s nice to have that local connection,” said Maegan Thompson, vice-president of hockey operations for the capital region association.
“Micah reached out to us. She is an absolute gem of a young adult.”