NEW MINAS, N.S. - The good news keeps coming for the Bathersons.
The hockey family hailing from New Minas received word that 20-year-old Drake Batherson was called up to the Ottawa Senators Nov. 11 and now Mae Batherson, his younger sister, has secured a full scholarship to Syracuse University starting in the 2019-20 season.
“One of my goals ever since I started playing hockey was to get to the highest level of women’s hockey and try and earn a scholarship, and a degree, by playing university hockey,” said Mae in a phone interview Nov. 29.
“Not many Nova Scotians go Division 1 NCAA, so that was a very big deal for me and I’m looking forward to playing at that level.”
Mae spent five years with King’s-Edgehill’s elite-level girls’ hockey team based in Windsor. She says the experience helped her gain valuable exposure throughout North America.
“Playing at King’s-Edgehill, I worked on my skills a lot and developed a lot as a hockey player,” she said.
Rink feels like home
A versatile player, the strategic defender is looking to log some minutes as a forward as she completes her high school hockey career with the Kingston Ice Wolves of the Provincial Women's Hockey League in Ontario.
“I’m looking to score goals and set up plays in the offensive end,” she said.
Her to-do list includes some lofty goals — like, for example, to make Team Canada and represent her country in the Olympics one day — but Mae’s success to date can be attributed to continually setting smaller goals that help her improve her game on a regular basis.
“I’ve always had a love for hockey ever since I was young. I really like the team sport aspect and something about going to the rink and being on the ice just feels like home,” she said.
Mae’s never had to look far for role models in the sport. Her father, Norm Batherson, was a star player for Acadia University before going pro, catching the eye of the Ottawa Senators and enjoying a five-year career in the American Hockey League (AHL).
And Mae wasn’t about to miss her big brother’s NHL debut — and, as it would turn out, first NHL goal — when the Sens faced off against the Detroit Red Wings Nov. 15.
“That’s been one of his goals since he was young,” she says.
“He’s been one of my real role models growing up, so to see one of his dreams come true really pushes me to want to work towards making mine come true as well.”
Proud mom Deeann Batherson is thrilled to see her kids reaping the rewards of hard work and dedication.
“Both my kids are very observant of what goes on around them and they have been since they were little, and I think they realized early that in order to achieve a goal, you have to put in the work,” the Kings County Academy teacher said in a recent phone interview.
“They seem to always work toward those goals even if it means a run late at night or shooting pucks in the garage, which they did a lot of,” she said with a laugh.
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She fondly remembers them setting goals like shooting 1,000 pucks a day, or making a provincial team. Being two and a half years apart in age, Deeann says her kids didn’t get too competitive with each other.
“I think, if anything, they look to each other for support.”
Back when Deeann played hockey as a kid, she recalls girls’ teams consisting of players ranging in age from 12-18. She’s happy to say there are more opportunities for her daughter today.
“That’s what’s exciting for us is to see the growth of the female game for Mae,” she said, adding that this aspect of the sport has seen substantial gains in the last ten years.
“It came at a good time for her because Drake always knew what his goal was, but she wasn’t really sure what was out there for females.”
The siblings are now living close by, with Mae staying in Belleville, Ont.
“They actually live one kilometre from each other,” said Deeann, who is originally from Berwick and has many relatives in the Annapolis Valley.
She says it’s heartwarming to know that Annapolis Valley residents have been rooting for her kids and celebrating their successes.
“People say I’ve never watched a hockey game before but because I know someone that’s playing I’ve watched every game, and that kind of gets me excited that Drake’s brought out new hockey fans,” she said.
“I think it really motivates Drake to know he has such a huge community behind him.”
Watching Drake’s NHL debut
She’s not likely to forget the night she watched Drake score his first NHL goal.
“We had just watched the Sens a couple nights before and never thought our child would be on the ice three or four days later,” she said.
“It was kind of lucky. We were sitting directly behind the net that he was shooting at in the second period, so we were able to see, clearly, the whole play off the faceoff and we saw him shoot, and saw the puck travel into the net.”
She says the family has used the word surreal a lot in recent conversations.
“In the last year and a half, it’s just been an accelerated pace of success that we could only dream of for him.”
While she’s proud to see the hard work paying off for both of her children, Deeann says her grin matches the ear-to-ear smile that is spotted on Drake’s face a lot these days when someone goes beyond seeing her children as standout athletes and describes them as thoughtful, kind and appreciative.
“Those are the biggest compliments you can get about your child,” she said.
“When you get compliments from people about how nice your kids are or how kind they are, there’s no better compliment.”