WHEN Jenelle Kohanchuk lined up for Canada's national women's under-22 hockey team in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, on Tuesday, her family's hockey dreams were celebrated on the world stage.
Kohanchuk, along with fellow Manitobans Bailey Bram and Chelsea Karpenko, opened play in the 2011 MLP Cup international hockey tournament with a 5-0 win over host Switzerland. Karpenko scored Canada's second goal.
For the Kohanchuk clan, which includes Angela, 30, Daniel, 25, twins Jenelle and Jeff, 20, and mom Phyllis, hockey has been the tie that binds since they lost their dad Ron to cancer. Raising four children on her own without her husband, Phyllis decided it was a good idea to keep busy and that's where hockey came in.
"What hockey did was it let us spend an awful lot of time together in fun environments and we grew together as a family," Phyllis said, noting Angela went into the arts but has always helped get her younger siblings to games and practices. "When I look back over the years, it is the bond for the three especially and Angie and I were part of it in a support role. Hockey was never mandatory, we mixed it in with Ukrainian dance, art classes, other sports programs. It isn't easy, but you can't give up on yourself and we leaned on each other. It's adventure, communication and memories."
Jenelle said her mom recognized what she wanted before she did.
"I would always wear Daniel's hockey equipment around the house so my mom got me my own," Jenelle said, laughing. "With so many of us playing hockey, it was very demanding on my mom but she did everything she could to make sure she took us individually to things. She always has a way to bring us up if we're down or keep us energized. Having her with me, it's always kept me motivated and growing and made me want to get to the highest level I could achieve.
"She is the most positive, informative and motivational person that anyone could ever meet. For this Christmas, she got each one of us calendars with motivational quotes for every day."
Phyllis said playing hockey helped Jenelle cope with the loss of her dad.
"The twins were just 10 years old. Jenelle went into aggression and the boys went into depression. She was on the ice and she would just hit. Her hockey went up and theirs went back a bit but they got back into it," Phyllis said. "You have to just let people do what they need to do at the time. I'm just proud of all four of them and amazed that everything is falling into place for all of them. "
Angela said hockey helped show the family 'every day is a new day, like a new hockey game.'
"The environment in our home was that it was up to us to 'Create a Great Day' and continue our focus on our goals, hockey and otherwise," Angela said. "We had many challenges, but patience, gratitude, and belief were our anchors along with our Mom."
Daniel and Jeff are playing hockey in same Michigan area. Daniel plays for Battle Creek Revolution in the All American Hockey League while Jeff plays for the Battle Creek Junior Revolution in the North American Tier III A Hockey League.
Jenelle, in her junior year playing for Boston University Terriers (NCAA Division I), had 32 universities recruit her after high school. She played in three different elite programs in high school: grade 10 at the Pursuit of Excellence school in Kelowna, B.C., her grade 11 with Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Sask. and her grade 12 year at Winnipeg's Balmoral Hall. "Hockey has helped teach us hard work, do your best. You're part of a team so see what you can do to help the team," she said.