Kelowna hockey player Stapleton looking for new school

Kelowna hockey player Jaclyn Stapleton has been forced to search for a new university after the hockey program at Wayne State folded after her second year. - Contributed
Kelowna hockey player Jaclyn Stapleton has been forced to search for a new university after the hockey program at Wayne State folded after her second year.
— image credit: Contributed

After two years at an American university, Kelowna female hockey player Jaclyn Stapleton has had the rug pulled out from under her.

Stapleton, and the rest of the women's hockey team at Wayne State University, are suddenly looking for another school after Wayne State decided to end the women's hockey program due to budget cuts.

Located in Detroit, Michigan, Wayne State was forced to make cuts after losing some federal government funding. The women's hockey program was the unfortunate victim and Stapleton now finds herself searching for another school and another hockey program.

"We kind of got blind-sided," said Stapleton, who heard the news shortly after returning to her home in West Kelowna after completing her second year of schooling. "I was speechless. I couldn't even believe it."

Wayne State is offering to honour the women's hockey scholarships of its players although many—Stapleton included—want to keep playing hockey. The question now becomes where can they find a team at a time when many hockey programs already have full rosters for next season.

"As of right now I'm talking to schools in the States and Canada just trying to find  the right fit," said Stapleton earlier in the week. "I'm trying to find a school that can give me the same thing that I had. I want the same program and I want to play hockey."

Stapleton had completed two years of schooling with a major in psychology at Wayne State and had made the coach's honour roll with a grade point average of 3.5. She was also coming into her own as a hockey player, having been named the team's most improved player this year.

"It was going really well," she said. "I was finally feeling like I was getting the ice time I deserved. I was moving up and heading into third year. Everything was coming together and then it all fell apart. I feel like I'm in Grade 12 again, looking for a school."

The fact that many rosters are already full is making finding an American college program to join even harder. Stapleton says there are also opportunities to return to Canada and play CIS hockey.

"I'm just trying to figure out what way I want to go and how much scholarship money I can get," she said. "I have to do it sooner than later. There are 24 girls looking for a spot."

Wayne State head women's coach Jim Fetter is also looking for a new school to coach at, at the same time he is trying to help his players find work. He says there aren't a lot of NCAA Div. I schools that are still looking for players.

"The timing of this has been horrible. if they would have done this a month earlier there would have been more opportunities," said Fetter, who complimented Stapleton on her play during two seasons at Wayne State. "She worked hard last summer and came to school in great shape and she was able to step up for us. It's sad because when you see these players improve and work hard in the off season and now you have to say 'sorry, you don't have anything now.'"

Stapleton is no stranger to bouncing around to different hockey programs. Prior to joining Wayne State she trained in the Pursuit of Excellence program in Kelowna as well as at Notre Dame in Saskatchewan and also played in Kelowna Minor Hockey.

After the initial shock of learning that her hockey team would not be returning to the ice next season, Stapleton is now focussed on turning a negative into a positive.

"You can't dwell on it, you just have to move forward," she said. "Hockey seemed like my whole life and when I heard about this I thought my life was over, But life is going to throw you curves and you just have to keep going."

As of last week Stapleton was considering as many as six different options for a place to play.

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