Saturday, 14 July 2018

A Legend Gone

I try not to get too sentimental on HBIC, but there are times where something hits home and you have to address it. Yesterday, Venla Hovi tweeted out the above tweet, and it really caught me in its finality of her U SPORTS hockey career. Venla's been a face and presence in these parts for some time now, and her enthusiasm and attitude have rubbed off on everyone. It's a hard pill to swallow, but the University of Manitoba may never see another athlete of Venla's abilities and accomplishments on the ice for some time.

Make no mistake that Winnipeg and Manitoba has produced some outstanding female hockey players. Jennifer Botterill, Sami Jo Small, and Halli Krzyzaniak are among the current names of players who have held the torch high in recent years, and there are more on the way as women's hockey in the province and city become more prominent with prep hockey academies and high school clubs producing better talent each and every year. There will never be a shortage of amazing women who are playing the game who call this province home, and that's exciting for hockey fans across the spectrum as more and more U SPORTS and NCAA programs recruit Manitoba-born women into their programs.

What makes Venla special, though, is how she adopted this province as home as fast as this province adopted her. She is constantly busy in the community and on campus, and her work with the Bisons and with other elite athletes is making her one of the city's gems when it comes to athletics. Venla, from what I've been told, is still planning on competing for Team Finland, so you know her diet, training, and exercise all are Olympic calibre, and that training regiment has pushed other athletes around her to train harder, be stronger, move faster, and be better thanks to her work ethic.

Most people probably haven't encountered Venla in their daily lives, though. She's incredibly upbeat, sugary-sweet in her positiveness, hilariously funny, wicked smart, and a joy to be around in any circumstance. Having had the opportunity to get to know her over the last few years while she played for the Bisons, there was never any doubt about her talents on the ice as she routinely wowed us with her abilities. It was off the ice, however, where she went from a shy foreigner to a an absolute tour-de-force as we got to know her more, and I cannot express how grateful I am that she let us, as broadcasters, into her life. She truly is a wonderful person, and I am a better human being for knowing Venla Hovi.

Her impact on the hockey world in this city and on the international stage will surely still be felt as she continues to train the next generation and compete for her country of birth. Of this, I have no doubt. The one thing that I will selfishly miss is seeing her at Wayne Fleming Arena weekly, seeing that smile that lights up the rink, and watching her dazzle the crowd with her hands and her speed. Selfishly, I'll miss her barking orders at her teammates on the bench, the intensity in her eyes when a big play was needed, and the chirps she used to toss at me between the benches during warm-up with that patented smile on her face.

Thank you, Venla Hovi, for being one of the greatest Bisons to ever wear the jersey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: