“I don’t ever want to just stop,” says Crawley on when her hockey playing days might end. Photo by Trung Ho.
[E]mma Crawley lives in two colliding worlds, neither of which seem to care much about the other. But it’s clear to anyone who meets her that she could not live without one and the other.
Pouring over her chemistry textbooks on the long subway trip to the George Bell Arena, Crawley is the studious academic, a chemistry major, and recipient of a President’s National Entrance scholarship from Ryerson University. An hour later, between the pipes for the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team, Crawley does her best to backstop the team to victory in their inaugural season in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) competition.
“School has always come first, hockey a very close second,” says Crawley.
The balance between the two is often bullish. “It means a lot of social sacrifices.” Yet Crawley does not let that phase her, partly because there is no time to think about that, but mostly because she really enjoys playing hockey.
On Crawley’s Blackberry there is a picture of her at three years old; wearing tiny, miniature looking goalie equipment, standing very Brodeur-like in a net threatening to swallow her diminutive frame. She is probably smiling behind the mask. That part of Crawley has never grown up.
She enjoys the game now as she did then, but the situations could not be more different.
Crawley grew up in Herring Cove, a small Nova Scotia town about 20 minutes away from Halifax. “It’s pretty much two schools, a few churches, and a grocery store,” she says half-jokingly.
At one of those schools, J.L. Isley Secondary School, she studied hard and fostered a passion for biology and chemistry, while her passion for hockey was played out with the big boys, literally. “I played with the South Shore Wild, a guys Junior C team.”
The experience of playing with a competitive men’s team helped Crawley with the jump to the women’s university game. On the ice, Crawley is adjusting fine, off the ice those changes were slightly harder to adapt to.
“I found it weird being in a place where everywhere you look all you see are buildings.” Yes, life in the big city can be tough on anybody, but it was made all the more difficult because the only person Crawley knew in Toronto was the women’s coach, Lisa Jordan. “It was not an easy adjustment.”
Photo by Stephen Kassim.
[Y]et, here hockey proved a sanctuary again, because having a set of friends waiting in her new Rams teammates helped make the transition a whole lot smoother. “I didn’t know anybody until I met the team, then it was like, you have instant friends all with hockey in common.”
There is one other big change Crawley has made since coming to Toronto.
“I’ve become a Leafs fan,” she says, smiling only a little apprehensively. “I hate Montreal.”
She is becoming more of a Torontonian every day, though she still gets ribbed by her teammates for that Nova Scotia accent, which, for the record becomes noticeable only after she mentions it.
During a lecture or a lab, Crawley might find her mind wandering to the ice, the game sometimes finds its way into her studies. “But as soon as I put on my goalie equipment, it’s all hockey.” This is not a two-way street. Hockey takes up a lot of her time, and when she is not practicing or playing, Crawley has to focus on school, because, “when I’m not playing hockey, I don’t know what to do with myself.”
There is something about standing in net having vulcanized rubber fired at her that continues to entice Crawley. It was there that day, at three years old, and it is still driving her now. Even with all the medical knowledge necessary of one whom hopes to graduate to medical school, Crawley loves stopping pucks with her body.
“I don’t ever want to just stop,” says Crawley on when her hockey playing days might end.
There is still one lingering question; why does she put herself through the gauntlet? She could be a world-class Olympic goaltender, or a big-time doctor, but can Crawley handle the draining workloads to be both?
Even if only for a little while longer, say four years, or fifty, Crawley wants to try. Ryerson has found a keeper, on the ice, and off it.
Ryerson Rams photo provided by Stephen Kassim: http://www.ryersonrams.ca