Move over Sutters, Hulls and Staals—the Shwetz sisters are leaving a hockey legacy of their own as Griffins
Christmas Day marks important traditions for many families. Turkey in the oven, stockings emptied of goodies, wrapped gifts torn open and warm thoughts of peace on Earth. For the Shwetz family, Christmas Day also means hitting the ice for their annual hockey classic.
“When we get together, hockey is the talk,” says Shanya Shwetz, currently a forward for MacEwan University’s Griffins women’s hockey team, playing alongside her sister, Katresa, also a forward. “It’s a big deal in our family because all of us play and all of us have gone somewhere in life with the sport.”
Shanya’s cousins, uncles and brothers have played, and her mom is the manager of the Smoky Lake Minor Hockey Association. However, the most noteworthy players in the game are the Shwetz sisters (Seyara, Kanesa, Shanya and Katresa) because they have all been, at one time or another, on the Griffins hockey team.
Discovering the ice
The sisters have been lacing up from an early age—when their parents, who were homeschooling six children, decided the kids needed an activity to get them out into the community and to help them make friends.
“What they did was put us in every sport or activity they could think of,” recalls Shanya. “Figure skating, dance, soccer, music—and hockey was the one that we all seemed to enjoy the most.”
Skate fast, play hard
The sisters’ individual passions for the game drew them into varsity athletics, where, one by one, they played for the Griffins. With grace, they dealt with the competing challenges of any university athlete: full-time studies, community involvement, training, competitions, and social and team commitments. But rather than recalling the busy nights and frenetic pace, they extol the benefits.
“You learn a lot from hockey, even if you’re just watching it or waiting on the coaching bench,” says Katresa, the youngest sister. “You’re able to take a lot from it, more than what you’re putting into it.”
“Looking back on my career, I don't remember the big hits, or the best passes, or the worst penalties,” says Seyara, the eldest sibling. “I remember the way my coaches taught me the value of being punctual. I remember learning the importance of positively building up the people around you. I remember the friendships that were formed on buses. And I value the way these people continue to play such an important and cherished role in my life.”
She adds, “I think the Shwetz sisters fell in love with hockey because of those intangible extras. Not just because we like to skate fast and play hard.”
Reunited for family fun
The sisters reunited as Griffins in last year’s alumni game. “That was an amazing moment,” says Kanesa, the second oldest sibling and former Griffins goalie. “A team is a bond, and although we did not all play at the same time, we all now share the same logo on the jersey.”
The sisters are now off on their own adventures—Seyara is in med school, Kanesa is travelling the world, and Shanya and Katresa are studying for their science degrees at MacEwan University. But they’ll they come together again at Christmastime, at a rented outdoor rink where the 14 cousins divide into teams coached by their grandparents.
“There’s Grandma’s team and Grandpa’s team and it’s a really big deal to see who wins just between the two of them,” says Katresa. “I think they let us tie in the end. They want everyone to be happy.”
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