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She skated with her idols when she was 10. Now her hockey dreams have come true

Maggie Connors lines up for the national anthems during the 4 Nations Cup in Mount Pearl, N.L. The competition had come to Newfoundland and Labrador, and Connors had won a competition to spend time with the national women’s hockey team. (Susan Fagan) Maggie Connors lines up for the national anthems during the 4 Nations Cup in Mount Pearl, N.L. The competition had come to Newfoundland and Labrador, and Connors had won a competition to spend time with the national women’s hockey team. (Susan Fagan)
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Maggie Connors’ parents couldn’t keep her away from hockey.

Her introduction to dance classes was a disaster, her father Sean Connors remembers — akin to an allergic reaction. And figure skating wasn’t any better.

She wanted to be where her older brothers were: At the stadium, out playing street hockey, or taking laps on the backyard rink.

“Like any good Canadian dad, I had a backyard rink,” Sean said. “I’d set everything up, and Maggie — we couldn’t keep her in the house.”

Maggie Connors skates on a backyard rink as a young girl in St. John’s, N.L. (Susan Fagan)

“We bought, kind of, the complete hockey kit in a box, Velcro skates, and we put them on her,” he said.

“We looked at this little girl, and she’s maybe three and a half at the time… and she’s going around the ice doing all the things that we’ve been teaching the boys now for a year and a half to try to do.”

Maggie had an instant passion for hockey — so it just made sense that when her hockey heroes came to town in 2010, she’d be right there beside them.

Luck went her way: The 10-year-old won a contest to spend the day with the women’s national hockey team. She lined up for the anthem, sat in the dressing room, and even did warm up drills with the team.

There’s a lot to remember about that day: Her mother, Susan Fagan, remarks how small her daughter looked out on the ice, next to superstar Marie-Phillip Poulin.

It all means a little bit more now that Maggie is once again sporting the red Team Canada jersey, as a full member of the National Women’s Hockey Team.

Maggie played her first game with the team in February, during the last three games of the rivalry series between the Canadian and American women’s teams.

She helped the group complete a reverse-sweep of the Americans — a full comeback from a 3-0 deficit to take the seven game series, 4-3.

Maggie had worn Canadian colours before, but this was her first exposure to the top levels of the women’s game.

“It gets much faster and you need to have decisions made before you even get the puck,” she said. We talk about something called ‘0.5 hockey’ in terms of making decisions in less than a second.”

Maggie celebrated the moment in a photo, posed alongside Marie Phillip-Poulin and Natalie Spooner once again, this time as teammates.

Maggie Connors poses for a photo with teammates Marie Phillip-Poulin and Natalie Spooner during Rivalry Series action in February. (Maggie Connors)

She is the first Newfoundlander to play in the Professional Women’s Hockey League, and the second-youngest player to play in the league this year.

She signed with PWHL Toronto, where she is teammates with Natalie Spooner — the very player she was paired with on her day with the women’s national team in 2010.

The winger didn’t relay that bit of trivia to Spooner, or the rest of the team, right away.

“My first impression, I don’t think, can be ‘Hey Natalie Spooner, do you remember when I was 10?,” she said. “I was obviously, like, just kind of playing it cool.”

But word got out when a reporter uncovered the pictures from the 4 Nations Cup in Newfoundland in 2010.

“They were awesome about it,” she said. “The girls love the story now, so it’s fun.”

Now that she’s near the top of the women’s game, Maggie said she has a new appreciation for the experience she got when she was a 10-year-old girl in St. John’s.

“You kind of learn, when you’re at this level, of how massive little fan interactions can be, and how impactful it can be on young players.”

Her father remembers one of the first things she said when she got home was how kind all the players on the national team were.

Maggie is dedicated to paying that kindness forward.

“Any time I’m able to get back to Newfoundland and meet young girls and people that are coming up in Hockey N.L. and things, I try to stay involved as much as I can.”

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