Twin sisters Kyla, left, and Jordyn Bear have accepted scholarships to play at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York for this upcoming fall. The 17-year-olds dream of playing together for Canada in the Olympics one day. (Jesse Johnston/CP photo)

Lake Country twins inspire Indigenous hockey players

Grade 12 George Elliot Secondary students Kyla and Jordyn Bear earn hockey scholarships at NCAA Division 1 school

Twin sisters Kyla and Jordyn Bear have made an impression with college hockey recruiters and their fellow students and teaching staff at George Elliot Secondary (GES).

The pair have earned hockey scholarships to play Division 1 NCAA hockey with the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

It marks the culmination of a childhood journey for the Indigenous youths to extend their minor hockey experience to the next level.

Following the family example set by their hockey-playing older brothers Kirk and Josh, the Bear twins grew up on the Ochapowace First Nation, about 100 kilometres south of Yorkton, Sask.

After playing with the Melville Prairie Fire midget AAA team in Saskatchewan, the girls came to B.C. to attend the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, then shifted to Kelowna where they enrolled at the RINK Hockey Academy, pursuing their dream to one day play together for Canada at the Winter Olympics.

They came to George Elliot, in Lake Country, as it is the school designated for students who are attending private hockey academy programs, which calls for participants to be billeted with local families.

Introduced to school trustees via zoom at the April 14 board of education meeting, GES vice-principal Darryl Smith said the Bears sisters enrolled in the school for Grade 12, and have made a “tremendous impression” on students and staff.

“I have interacted with them on several occasions along the way this year and I can say they are positive, hard-working and determined students who came to us with a goal, and it is no surprise they were able to achieve it this year even when things have been difficult (because of the coronavirus pandemic),” said Smith.

“People are very happy for them and our school is proud of their accomplishment.”

In talking to the School District 23 board, the two sisters told trustees they first started skating at the age of four and acknowledged the challenge of leaving home to pursue their hockey dreams, noting the support of Smith during this school term has “been a huge help for us.”

Kyla is a defenceman and Jordyn is a forward.

After hearing the girls’ story school trustee Amy Geistlinger spoke with one of their teachers, who stated they were excellent students, kind to their classmates, considerate of others, excellent human beings, well-liked by other students and incredibly empathetic.

“I thought, wow, that is pretty impressive to hear,” Geistlinger said.

Trustee Lee-Ann Tiede said she has family back in Saskatchewan, and she inquired if any of them had heard about the Bear sisters.

“I found out, man, have they ever,” Tiede said. “It was even suggested I should maybe ask for their autographs.”

In a Canadian Press story profile published last month, the Bear sisters mentor Brigette Lacquette, the first Indigenous hockey player named to Canada’s national women’s hockey team in 2018, talked about the challenges of leaving home at a young age to pursue hockey professionally.

“Living in such a small community it was hard to leave home,” said Lacquette of her experience growing up in Mallard, Man., a community of 150 people.

“There were so many times when I was homesick, and a lot of Indigenous kids go through that. But to be able to overcome them and pursue your dreams, that is what inspires people.”

Lacquette coached the Bear sisters three years ago on the APTN reality show Hit the Ice.

“You can see how driven they are and how passionate they are about playing sports, especially hockey,” said Lacquette.

Off the ice, Jordyn has her sights set on law school while Kyla wants to become an anesthesiologist.

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