• Mavs camper shows girl power

  • Johnston used to being only girl on the ice

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  • For as long as she can remember, 8-year-old Tessa Johnston has been on the ice.
    “My dad had me on skates when I was 1,” Tessa said Thursday morning at the conclusion of the first session of the Missouri Mavericks Skills and Development Camp at the Independence Events Center. “I have played hockey the past three years and have figure skated – but I’m taking some time off from figure skating to become a better hockey player.”
    Her father, Chris Johnston, is the facilities manager of the Centerpoint Community Ice rink at the Events Center, and he keeps an eye out for Tessa, who happens to be the only girl at the 25-player camp.
    “She’s a good little skater,” her proud father said. “She loves being on the ice. She grew up on it, and she’s really working hard to become a better player so she can make the Jr. Mavs Squirt travel team.”
    Last year, the John Nowlin Elementary School student was the lone girl on the Jr. Mavs Mites select team, so she knows what it’s like to be on the ice with nothing but boys.
    “It’s OK,” she said, when asked about being the lone girl in so many of her hockey activities. “Today, I was open by the net but no one would pass me the puck. Then, I was in line and one of the boys pushed me. I just got up and hit him back. He didn’t bother me anymore.”
    Simon Watson, the camp director and head coach of the Jr. Mavs Elite program, loves Tessa’s spunk.
    “They better not mess with her,” Watson said, grinning. “She can hold her own on the ice, and she’s a good little player. We watch her out on the ice and just think of her as a camper, not the only girl camper. She can go as far as she wants to go in this sport.”
    Tessa’s father hopes that one day there will be enough girls interested in the sport to have an all-girls Jr. Mavs team.
    “We’re getting there,” Chris Johnston said. “But there is a big drop-off in the 10-11 age group for girls. I just wish they could see how much fun Tessa is having out there.”
    She’s having fun, and gaining respect on a daily basis.
    “I want the boys’ respect,” she said matter-of-factly. “I can get it by being a good player and knocking them down. I’m not afraid of anything on the ice.”
    Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC

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