ESTEVAN - Megan LeBlanc has made the best of an adverse situation.
Her time in collegiate hockey was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And then an opportunity to play professional hockey overseas was scuttled, in part, due to pandemic-related restrictions.
But she’s happy to be home, and making a difference in the lives of others.
Hockey has been part of her life for as long as she can remember. She was skating at the age of four, fell in love with the sport and quickly displayed a natural talent.
“When you get older, you start playing in front of scouts, and you get a couple of offers to move away and to better yourself as a player,” said LeBlanc.
In her first year of U18 hockey, she led the league in scoring and averaged more than a goal per game, playing at the AA level for the Estevan Power Tech Panthers. Then she made the jump to AAA and junior, playing a year for Notre Dame and another for Melville’s Prairie Fire program.
That earned her a chance to join the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks in Edmonton, where she spent three years. Her final year was cut short in the midst of the playoffs due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was supposed to move up to join the University of Alberta Pandas for 2020-21, but the pandemic dashed the season.
LeBlanc was recruited to spend a year playing hockey in Budapest in a Hungarian professional league. She had a knee operation that didn’t heal properly, and combined with the pandemic travel restrictions, she didn’t believe it would have been smart to go overseas.
The hockey in Budapest would have been comparable to what she would have seen with the University of Alberta.
LeBlanc said hockey has provided so many lessons for her life.
“I feel like hockey has taught me almost more than schooling,” said LeBlanc. “I feel like when it comes to life lessons, just being part of a team teaches you so much. But the thing I really miss about it is that aspect of being part of something bigger. You always have a family of friends and your teammates become a family.”
Upon returning to Estevan, it didn’t take her long to find another outlet for hockey. She has joined the new Hockey Academy at Sacred Heart School/École Sacré Coeur as an instructor and a trainer.
“It’s really cool, because I used to go to Sacred Heart when I was a kid in Estevan,” said LeBlanc.
The kids will be bused over to Affinity Place or the Power Dodge Arena and work on their skills, such as skating or puck skills. They also get to exercise at Sacred Heart’s gymnasium.
It’s been nice to be back on the ice, and to help the kids develop their fitness and their love of the game.
Even though she has only been part of the program for a month, LeBlanc can see the improvements in the kids.
“It’s a super rewarding job to be able to have those few hours throughout the week to work with the kids, and then catch the game on the weekend. Or even just the next week, you go and work on the same skills. It’s rewarding just to see those improvements.”
LeBlanc, who has a personal training diploma from NAIT, operates Meg LeBlanc Fitness, which has been open for about a year. When she was in Edmonton, she used to be with a professional hockey training company in which she trained aspiring professional hockey players.
“That’s really where I owe a lot of my knowledge to this day, is to that job and that four years of experience of training everywhere from minor hockey to pro levels,” said LeBlanc.
She now uses what she learned in her business, and she has a good mix of athletes and the general public in her clientele.
She has been doing corrective exercises with the older population in an effort to keep them moving and active.
“I’m not playing the sport anymore, but I’m training for the sport, and I’m trying to pass down everything that I’ve learned to the next generation,” said LeBlanc.
March 8 was International Women’s Day, with the theme of #BreaktheBias. LeBlanc believes she has done that through hockey and training.
“I tell people that I’ve worked with players who are going into the NHL, or are NHL alumni, they say ‘You’re a girl and you are training hockey guys?’ I feel like I am breaking that barrier a little bit.”