Friday, July 19, 2024

Strong family hockey passion helps fuel Grace Outwater on to Penn State Nittany Lions

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By Emma Zhao

Hockey has always been a family affair for Grace Outwater. Her love for the sport started early, when her grandfather introduced her to the basics after building an outdoor rink. From there, her parents put her in skating lessons, and thus begun the journey that’s seen Outwater score 50 goals in the under-22 Ontario Women’s Hockey League and sign with Penn State University.

“My family’s just been super obsessed with hockey, we’d go to a bunch of games,” recounts Outwater, who first took ballet lessons before switching to skates. “You just learn so much from hockey. You learn how to work hard. I’ve learned to get up early and work out, and how to stay motivated.”

Her father Chad played hockey, while her mom Tina was a competitive figure skater. Her brother Owen became a star in ‘AAA’ hockey and has played three years in the Ontario Hockey League for North Bay, Kingston and Windsor.

But Outwater draws perhaps her most inspiration for someone who never played hockey. Her late grandmother, who passed away two years ago, always supported her passion and encouraged her to pursue her hockey dreams.

“Every time I’m playing a game or something, I make sure I’m thinking of her, and I’ll write her initials on my stick,” Outwater highlights. “I’m playing for her.”

Tina Outwater is proud to see the leadership abilities her daughter has developed, and the sense of camaraderie she helps build on her teams.

“She’s a lot of fun, she’s always out there being positive. I hear she can be a hoot in the locker room too,” Tina indicates. “She just always encourages everyone on her team to participate and get out there and try their best. I see her as being a leader on some of the teams she’ll play on in the future.”


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Grace Outwater. Photo: Dan Plouffe

The next team Outwater will join is the Penn State Nittany Lions. It’s a bittersweet feeling in a way for Tina, who will miss having her daughter at home but excited to see her move on to the next chapter in her life.

“I’m overall just so proud of her, she’s worked so hard to get where she’s at,” Tina adds. “I just want her to experience life and come into her own.”

Outwater also has some bittersweet feelings, having developed close friendships with many of her teammates. The assistant captain is one of the many Lady Sens leaving to play university hockey, including Jessica Cheung at Syracuse, Michelle Gao and Alysse Wilkinson at Guelph, Sophie LeDain at Montréal, and Vicky Kay and Olwen Jones at Carleton.

Outwater played on boys’ teams throughout her childhood but built her strongest connections once she joined girls’ teams. She says she’s formed an indelible bond with her teammates of the past two seasons with the Lady Sens, who shared in both happy and sad moments together, including a silver medal at last year’s provincials.

Grace Outwater 50 goals. Photo: oswh.ca

“Those were the best two years of hockey. The amount of development I was able to get from them was just phenomenal,” signals Outwater, who also captured a 2023 national U18 title with Team Ontario. “Half my friends have been from playing on hockey teams.”

Outwater, who attended Louis-Riel high school and was a female athlete of the year before finishing her final year online, is set to study kinesiology at Penn State. Outwater will join the NCAA ranks fresh of her final junior season where she hit the magical 50-goal mark in 39 games.

Outwater says that committing to Penn State was a no-brainer. The school was one of the first that caught her eye, and she was impressed to see she’ll get the same training, programming and facilities that the men’s team does.

“It was nothing but wonderful when I went to visit, and I think it’s going to be a start to a great new journey,” Outwater underlines. “It was such an exciting moment (to sign with Penn State) and my family and I have been so happy ever since. I’ve just been counting down the days.”

Read More of our 2024 High School Best Series, presented by Louis-Riel Sports-Études, as we tip our caps to top local student-athletes at: OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-High-School-Best-2024

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