FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Cecil Lake local Alexandra Lehmann has earned a spot on Team Switzerland and is heading for the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Championships.
The puck drops for the tournament in Denmark next week.
The Swiss-Canadian goalie has been playing professional hockey in Switzerland’s National League for the last two years, winning a national championship with the Lugano Ladies two years ago and placing second last season.
The national team has been in her sights since she left the Carleton University Ravens hockey team for Switzerland in 2020.
Training for the national team has progressed over the course of the last month at the Olympic training center in central Switzerland in preparation for the championships.
The roster—with Lehmann’s name on it—was released Wednesday morning.
Lehmann will be the third goalie and likely will not dress for all of the games in the upcoming world championships—but this is an expected step for a player’s first foray onto the international stage.
“My ideal outcome is to gain a lot of experience,” Lehmann said. “See how the other teams play and support my team in the best way I can— which means being a good teammate, being there for the others, bringing the energy, those kinds of things.”
When discussing outcomes and success, Lehmann likes to focus on elements that are within her control. Who starts each game is not one of those things—but how she handles every moment, supports her team, and shows her skill and commitment are.
“I’m probably going to be the stats taker, that’s my role,” she joked when asked about her position on the team. “It’s not glamorous or sexy.”
Though removed from the action, Lehmann views her place on the team with honour, humility, and excitement. She knows that teams at all levels—including the national—need players who can support the team’s starting line while dreaming of taking on that mantle themselves in the future.
Pathways and opportunities
Lehmann started playing hockey in elementary school at the Clearview Arena—a long building next to Clearview School with variegated metal walls and one small rink 45 minutes northeast of Fort St. John.
The Clearview Colts were one of the earliest girl’s hockey teams in the region.
“When I was 15 or 16, I started to get a little bit of a bigger horizon,” Lehmann said.
She sought further training, and proceeded to play on a travelling team, then attended hockey academies in Kimberley, B.C. and Michigan. After graduating high school, she committed to the Carleton University Ravens.
All sports have conventional methods and pathways into the upper echelons—junior and major junior leagues, professional leagues (in hockey, the NHL), and national teams.
Women’s hockey has a different—and less extensive— system for players seeking to compete at the highest levels. For all but a very few female players, in North America at least, the dream ends with university-level leagues, Lehmann said.
“I didn’t get to play junior or junior B,” she explained. “I played academies and then went to college.”
Opportunities to move to the next level are also difficult to come by in more remote regions like Fort St. John. Lehman notes that the female Predators rep teams (which began the year she left for Kimberley) are a big step for the girls coming after her.
“I needed to leave home because you have to play at big tournaments for scouts to see you,” she said. Catching the attention of a university team was the first step to that next level.
“And I always wanted to play at the highest level I could.”
From Cecil Lake to Switzerland
The leap across the pond, for Lehmann, was the opportunity to find a level to play beyond the standard system.
It came during the advent of a pandemic and online university and began as the result of what Lehmann called a “To-whom-it-may-concern” email sent to the general contact address for the Swiss National Ice Hockey Federation. From there, the Swiss-Canadian goalie made a connection with a national league team, made that team, and made the move. She narrowly missed the national team, and with it, the winter Olympics, after the previous season.
Lehmann, then a university student, has since finished her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Carleton online.
“If you think about it, sometimes, it all seems pretty crazy that some kid growing up on a farm is suddenly going to the world championships,” Lehmann said.
In the off-season, Lehmann has returned to her family’s farm in Cecil Lake, where she works with her father tending crops and cattle for the past two years. She refers to her love of this work as “catching the bug” for it.
She also trained in Fort St. John over the summer, supported by the familiar hockey community in her preparations to pursue a spot on Team Switzerland.
“Despite playing far away and playing for the Swiss national team, I still feel really connected to the Fort St. John area. And I’m always calling home to see how the crops are doing,” she said.
The Women’s International Ice Hockey Championships begins August 25th, 2022. Team Switzerland is currently ranked fourth in the world and will play in Group A against national teams from Canada, the USA, Japan, and Finland.