McDonells entrenched in Athenas community
East York is in the midst of a dynasty: The McDonells.
Of all the families in schools citywide, no clan has arguably had a greater effect on Athenas hockey than these sisters.
Before the successful tandem of Jaimie and Jordan, currently in grades 11 and 10 respectively, their older athletic sister Amanda McDonell paved the way, determined to have John Simopoulos coach the girls hockey team.
Knowing the social sciences teacher coached AAA boys hockey at the time, the elder McDonell got Simopoulos to take the helm so the Athenas would not be iced.
Little did he know Amanda would not be the last one to lace up the skates for him.
“I stuck with it and lo and behold the next generation of McDonells came,” he said of his current captain and alternate. “That is a fabulous, fabulous family indeed.”
Jaimie and Jordan are entrenched in the East York community, starting their road to the rink in Wexford with the chipmunks program.
“You just skate, learn basic skills so that you’re not pushed right into a league and you’re not learning anything,” Jaimie says, sitting with her sister outside East York CI’s gym.
Quick learners, both played in the rep program until they turned eight. Though they have taken slightly different routes both currently suit up for the Toronto Aeros.
The slight difference — Jaimie competed in the boys league until grade 9. The reason for her departure is explained simply by loftier goals in women’s hockey.
“If you play with guys you have no opportunities with Team Ontario or anything women-related,” she said.
With that change also came recruitment to the Athenas by Simopoulos and assistant coach Goldie Happy. A trip to AAA/AAAA OFSAA in 2009 was soon to follow.
Once Jordan joined in 2010, the sisters were reunited on the ice.
“At the older age we actually appreciate it,” Jaimie said of sharing the ice with her younger sister. “(But) we have our moments.”
A nod and smile from Jordan indicated she agrees.
The pair has spent countless hours honing their skills in their backyard shooting at golf mesh that their father converted into a hockey net.
Whether it’s varsity or rep, the ladies always give 100 percent especially when Jaimie played with the flu during the city quarters.
“I was so sick,” she said, adding both she and Jordan were on the ice for 17 minutes each.
Still, their opponents, Martingrove, upset the Athenas in a dramatic shootout finale, 5-3. The ladies took the loss in stride, knowing they’ll be back in 2012.
“It was a great season,” Jaimie said. “The pool is getting a lot harder to keep up with but we played.”
For Simopoulos the McDonells are exemplary of Athena’s strength and wisdom.
“It’s often overstated, ‘It’s a pleasure’, ‘It’s an honour’ and it is,” he said. “They know the drills, they know what has to be done but the most important thing is they know how to instill some of their good qualities in the other players.
“They see their role on the team not just to play well but to improve the whole team.”