She calls herself “Hendy the Tendy,” so you have some idea of Jane Henderson’s spirit and sense of humour.
And, oh yeah, the girl can play.
At five-foot-five and 131 pounds, the St. John’s native is drawing rave reviews for her goalkeeping performances with the Gonzaga Vikings boys’ high school hockey team.
“She legitimately made our team,” said Vikings coach Peter Keough, who added that he didn’t know anything about her until she showed up to the team’s first open practice.
“The coaching staff agreed to give her a shot and see what she could do,” said Keough, “and she hasn’t disappointed.”
Henderson has won both her starts this season — a 5-1 decision over St. Kevin’s Mavericks and a 6-2 victory over Bishops Barons.
Playing on the Vikings has been “exhilarating,” said Henderson, who said she isn’t intimidated playing with the boys.
“The hockey is much faster, which is a challenge for me. I love it,” she said.
“The shots don’t scare me anymore … as long as I keep the puck from going into the net. And pile-ups in the crease are just part of the game.”
However, she added that boys’ hockey is different in other ways, the physical game being the most notable change.
“As far as the shots, I feel I really have to switch gears going back and forth,” she said.
Keough said the fact a girl made the Gonzaga boys’ side for the first time was never a big deal with the team or the school.
“The guys have no problem with her playing on the team,” he said.
Keough had no concerns picking her for the team after watching her during the five hours of tryouts. She beat out three other goalies for the No. 2 job in the net.
The team’s No. 1 goalie is Brandon Goodwin, who plays for Newfoundland and Labrador’s Canada Games team, has won three of his first four starts.
“She plays the butterfly style and she’s very quick,” said Keough about Henderson. “She’s got a great glove hand. We have a couple of guys who can really fire the puck and she’s up to the task. She shows no fear.
“She’s a good skater and she covers her angles really well.”
The Grade 11 student is still learning the position and Keough says there are some things she needs to work on, like every young goalie.
“She’s very quiet and reserved and we’d like her to communicate a little more with the defenceman and to get out a little bit quicker to block the puck when it goes around the net.”
Henderson said a few friends on the team convinced her to try out for the Vikings.
She said she gets along well with her teammates and while said there’s some kidding, it’s all in fun.
“I’m just another player on the team,” she said.
But she also realizes she’s playing in a key position.
“There’s a lot of pressure being a goalie, but they (teammates) are definitely encouraging,” said Henderson, who started playing high school girls’ hockey in Grade 7 with Booth Braves.
She started the sport like many kids do.
“My brother and I used to take shots on each other in our basement almost every day,” said Henderson.
Then she got help to learn to play her favourite position.
For Henderson, hockey “started to get competitive” the first year she tried out for the Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador ‘s high-performance program in 2007. She began playing hockey with the boys in peewee in the 2006-07 season and the choice became a simple one.
“I decided to play with boys because a few of my friends were playing and I wanted to improve my game.” she said. “My various coaches throughout the years and a friend’s parents would give me tips on how to improve my game. I started doing the Nova Scotia Goaltender Academy camp in 2007 and it took me to a whole new level.”
Henderson took in several 4 Nations Cup games last week where she was selling programs in support of her female midget AAA team.
She said although it would be “a real stretch,” given the opportunity, she’d love to get a try out for Team Canada, noting, “it would be a dream come true,” to play for the national women’s team.
“After watching that team play, it made me just want to be on the ice with them. Definitely an inspiration,” she said.
Henderson said her primary goal, for the time being, is to play competitive female university hockey.