Interview with Carly Hill – star SHL defenseman

Carly Hill was the only female player in the Siam Hockey League this past year, and her team, Hertz, won the SHL championship. Carly was far from being the token female in the league; she was one of its best players and a major reason why her team won the championship. Carly is also a teacher at the Canadian International School of Thailand. Voyageur recently caught up with her to find out a little bit more about what kindled her passion for hockey.

Q) Please tell us a little about yourself; where you grew up, what you studied, how you ended up here. I grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I have a Bachelor of Education from McGill University where I played CIS hockey for 5 years and won three national championships. Before coming to Bangkok, I worked as a high school teacher for the last 7 years teaching subjects ranging from Science, Physical Education, French, Dance and ultimately ended up as the head of the Resource department working with students with learning difficulties. Through my school board back in Montreal, an opportunity to come to Bangkok and help open and work at the Canadian International School of Thailand arose and I jumped at the chance.

Q) When did you first start playing hockey and who or what inspired you to do so?
Since I could walk, I loved playing sports and I started playing ringuette when I was 5. My older brother played hockey though and I really wanted him to think I was cool, so at the age of 9, I quit ringuette and started playing hockey and never looked back. We had the same routine, competitive soccer in the summer and competitive hockey in the winter. My parents were fully supportive of our love of sport and were at every game. When we weren’t in season, we were either playing hockey in the living room or I was out playing sports with my brother and his friends.

Q) Role model growing up?
My brother has been my role model since day one. I followed him like a little puppy. Joined all the same sports as him, and never missed a game. If he could do it, I could do it. It’s because of him that I worked so hard and got to play competitive hockey.

Q) Favourite NHL team & player?
I am a Montreal Canadiens fan and always have been. Sidney Crosby has always been a player I respect and enjoy watching.

Q) Why do you like playing defense?
When I was younger I used to be a forward in both hockey and soccer but I always felt more comfortable protecting the net. I’d rather prevent a goal than score one. I like to be able to see the play and watch the disappointment on the opposing teams’ face when I stop them. At McGill University, I played mostly forward but in the CWHL I played mostly defense. I like the mix.

Q) Favourite hockey movie and why?
Mighty Ducks. I mean who didn’t like Charlie Conway and Coach Bombay.

Q) You’ve played with some of the best female hockey players in the world: which ones stood out and why? Marie-Philip Poulin is by far the best woman hockey player in the world. She’s truly incredible to watch and play with. She makes her teammates better. Catherine Ward who retired a few years back was definitely my favorite defense to watch and play with. Her skills and vision were one of a kind.

Q) How has women’s hockey evolved since you started playing?
When I was younger I could only play with the boys because women’s hockey did not really exist. They had one under-21 female team, but at 12 years old it makes the dressing room chats a little awkward. I played boys hockey until I was 19 years old and loved every moment of it. Now young girls have many choices of teams and various calibers. Hockey has evolved tremendously in North America and even worldwide.

Q) What was it like playing in the SHL – anyone give you grief?
Playing in the SHL was great. I looked forward to going to the rink each week and hanging out with my teammates. I think I probably gave them more grief than they gave me. Took awhile, but they soon realized I could dish it out as well as I could take it. Jordan Ashton and Juhani Ijas were probably my two favourite players to play against. Two big goal scorers and the two I wanted to make sure to stop every time. The disappointment on their faces made it worth every time.

Carly in action during the championship game.

Q) Have you been able to skate with or help out the Thai women’s’ national team?
I skated with the team once and helped out at practice. The girls were very welcoming and very open to coaching. A great group of ladies and I can see the potential in the future.

Q) We understand you also play ball hockey and participated in the recent Mekong Cup – what was that like?
Yes, I play ball hockey once or twice a week…as much as I can actually. Great ball handling practice and a good group of guys. Nothing like a hard cardio workout in the Bangkok heat. I really enjoyed the Mekong cup. It was a fast and competitive tournament with teams from all over Asia. Now that I think about it, my team beat the other Bangkok team and I’m looking to do the same next year.

Q) Compare playing ice hockey with ball hockey?
With ice hockey, you have some padding so when you get hit with the puck you’re protected. The ball stings like crazy when you get a shot to the body. The cardio and style of play is different as well. You can’t glide and be lazy in ball hockey you constantly need to be on your toes.

Q) What do you like most about living in Thailand?
The food and the people. The culture and history are totally different than anything back home. The ability to travel and the weather. I love hockey but we have 5 months of winter and snow back home! I’ve never lived in a country where the locals are so welcoming and the food and flavors are so mouthwatering. I enjoy every time I discover new areas of Thailand and I am constantly amazed at how beautiful this country is.

Q) What has it been like teaching at The Canadian International School of Thailand this past year?
There aren’t many people who can say they had a hand in helping open and develop a brand new school. Our students this year have been absolutely amazing. From classroom lessons, to learning to skate on one of our field trips, to begging to play ball hockey in PE, to googling my hockey career and then finally coming to cheer me on at the SHL finals! They’ve helped me become a better teacher with their desire to try new things, just as much as I hope I’ve helped them and the school.

Q) What do you miss most about Canada?
I miss my friends and family the most. Surprisingly, I also miss the snow (and snow-days), playing outdoor pick-up hockey in the winter and skiing. I also really miss poutine – fries, gravy, & curd cheese – a Quebec specialty.

Q) Dream job?
I love teaching. I’d have to say I AM living my dream job. I love teaching in Canada but this experience has been life-changing and I’m enjoying every single second. That being said, I love puppies! I’d like to become a dog walker or work with dogs when I retire. Somehow the love and compassion from animals makes all other worries go away.

Q) If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
I’ve made a pretty good dent in Southeast Asia but I’ve never been to Europe and I definitely would like to head there. Recently, the idea of a safari in South Africa or heading to New Zealand or Australia one day has also been on my mind. You can definitely say I have caught the travel bug!

Q) Other passions?
I am a sports fanatic. In addition to hockey, I love soccer, ultimate frisbee and I just started playing rugby here in Thailand and I am really enjoying tackling people. (Just don’t tackle me.) I am definitely a dog person and truly love animals. Unfortunately, the condo I live in doesn’t allow pets, but I have about fifteen pet soi dogs that I see every day. Other than that, I never had the opportunity to travel much when I was younger and living and teaching here in Thailand has allowed me to do so. Travel has definitely become a passion.

Carly (second from left, first row) and her winning SHL championship team, Hertz.