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Hockey champs read to students at Parishville-Hopkinton


PARISHVILLE - Having special guest readers isn’t anything unusual for Parishville-Hopkinton Central School, but it’s not every day students have the opportunity to enjoy a story being read to them by members of a national championship team.

Vanessa Gagnon and Jenna Boss, members of the Clarkson University women’s hockey team, each read a story to the students in Julia Pahler’s fourth-grade class. Other known hockey fans at the school were also invited to the reading.

One of those students came from Chris Brand’s third-grade class.

When asked what it was like to have two members of Clarkson’s hockey team reading, signing autographs and posing for photos with the students, Grace Ashley replied, “It’s exciting.”

Another student, Jayden Rivers said, “It’s really awesome. I’m a huge fan of hockey, especially Clarkson. They beat everybody.”

Prior to reading, Ms. Gagnon, a senior from Quebec, and Ms. Boss, a junior from Minnesota, introduced themselves to the students.

“My last game was a couple weeks ago, so I’m pretty sad about that,” Ms. Gagnon said.

Ms. Boss added, “Her last game was the national championship, so that’s pretty cool.”

Ms. Boss then showed the students the trophy each player on the team received. “We all got one of these,” she said, as students passed the trophy around the room. “The bigger one is an exact replica of that.”

For her story, Ms. Boss read “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.

“I wanted to read you guys Harry Potter, but that was too long,” she said.

Ms. Gagnon gave the students a choice between the book “That’s Hockey” by David Bouchard and a story featuring the popular children’s character Franklin the turtle.

Students overwhelmingly cast their votes for “That’s Hockey,” a story about a young Canadian boy playing street hockey for the first time with his cousin, who was used to playing pond hockey.

Throughout the story, Ms. Boss and Ms. Gagnon interjected their own commentary, as they related to different parts of the story, but Ms. Gagnon began by telling the students that four years ago she didn’t even speak English.

“When I was a little kid, I only spoke French. Now I’m able to read to you in English,” she said, noting when she first came to Potsdam four years ago she didn’t know English.

As she began reading and pond hockey was mentioned for the first time, Ms. Gagnon and Ms. Boss both perked up sharing their own pond hockey memories with the children.

“My best memories are playing outside with my friends and family - pond hockey, that’s the best,” Ms. Gagnon said.

Ms. Boss said she even grew up with her own pond.

“My last name is Boss, and we had a pond in our back yard,” she said. “It’s called Boss Arena.”

Then as the story details a goal being scored, Ms. Gagnon, a forward on the team said, “It’s the best feeling when you score a goal.”

Ms. Boss, who is a goalie, added, “or when you stop one.”

Then as the story began wrap up and one of the players yelled, “Next goal wins,” Ms. Gagnon told the students what happens when their coach says the same thing during a practice or scrimmage.

“When our coach yells, ‘Next goal wins,’ things get crazy,” she said.

The girls then spoke about leadership, something both Ms. Boss and Ms. Gagnon said they know a lot about.

“Perseverance is really, really a big part about being a good leader,” Ms. Boss said. “One thing that really makes people a good leader is standing up for what is right, even if everyone else is against you. A leader is selfless and they put others before themselves. We have a few players like that on our team and that’s a big reason we were able to get these (national championship trophies).”

During a question and answer session, one of the students asked Ms. Gagnon, who is an assistant captain on the team, what the A on her jersey meant.

“It means I’ve been chosen by my coaches and teammates to be one of our leaders,” she said. “It’s nice to be chosen by my teammates, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t mean anything. We have a lot of leaders on our team.”

When asked what the last few weeks have been like, both women said it’s been a whirlwind experience.

“It’s just kind of sinking in,” Ms. Boss said, adding Potsdam is will now forever be home to a Division 1 national championship team. “Before it was just Potsdam, but now they have a national championship in their town.”

Ms. Gagnon said it’s her hopes that the championship will lead to increased fan support for the women’s team.

“It’s really created a lot for awareness for us. It kind of has brought the whole community together,” she said, adding that as a senior she can return home to Canada knowing she has left an impact on Potsdam and Clarkson University. “I feel like everywhere you go, you should try to leave an impact. I’m leaving now knowing that I have made an impact.”

While the girls said the team never really had set out to win the national championship the confidence they had in their abilities to win each game, together with their one game at a time approach eventually led to the team to believe that the 2013-2014 season could be a magical one.

During the first half of the season, Ms. Gagnon said the team had a couple of losses “that we shouldn’t have.” After that though, the team was on fire.

“We adapted very quickly,” Ms. Boss said. “In the second semester we were a totally different team. As the season went on and progressed, we were like, ‘We can do this.’”

Ms. Gagnon said it’s that confidence that allowed the team to defeat the heavily favored Minnesota Golden Gophers, who were 87-1-1 in their previous 89 games and 29-0 on the season.

“The only reason we were able to beat Minnesota was we believed it could happen,” she said.

As for next year, Ms. Boss said the 2014-2015 season isn’t going to be about topping this year’s accomplishments.

“Next year isn’t going to be about topping this year. It’s going to be about proving it wasn’t just luck, and we deserved to win a national championship,” she said. “It’s not going to be about topping. We won the national championship, and you can’t top that.”

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