Chalk up another win for the benefits of maintaining a wide variety of sporting interests, even if the ultimate goal is the pursuit of one particular field of play.
For as long as she can remember, defenceman Alexei Dokis-Dupuis dreamed of playing hockey for as long as she could, and most definitely beyond her years with the Sudbury Lady Wolves.
Her academic goals, however, were every bit as lofty, intent on making her way to university in a line of study that would set her up well as she tackled all of the challenges that adulthood will entail.
Ultimately, her choice on the latter was to enroll at the University Of Toronto School Of Architecture, a program she knew would clearly lessen the likelihood of a post-secondary varsity career in women’s hockey.
“I talked to the coach (Olympian Vicky Sunohara) and I knew the situation,” said Dokis-Dupuis, earlier this week. “Their team is massive this year. With a lot of returning girls, a lot of third and fourth year girls, their roster is up to 30 – so that didn’t really work out.”
Thankfully, there was an alternative route that availed itself to the 19-year-old Lo-Ellen Park Secondary graduate.
“I grew up also playing lacrosse,” Dokis-Dupuis said.
Indeed, pretty much every summer during the off-season away from the rinks, she would be right back, the ice having been removed as she suited up regularly with both the GSLA (Greater Sudbury Lacrosse Association) and the Sudbury Rockhounds, on the competitive side.
“It’s a great way to stay in shape,” she said.
And to be perfectly honest, it’s not as though she was leaving “everything hockey” far off in the distance of the rear-view mirror.
“There is so much crossover; both sports are so hand in hand,” Dokis-Dupuis said. “A lot of the concepts carry into both sports, which is great. The coach (U of T women’s field lacrosse head coach Jesse Porter) would say something and I would be: that’s the exact same as in hockey.”
Yet for as much as there are also notable differences between the two sports, the other tricky part of the equation as she made her way to a first-ever training session on the Varsity Stadium Field lies in the fact Dokis-Dupuis had never actually played field lacrosse at all. All of her background was in box lacrosse.
“I was kind of nervous; it was more skills that I had to learn, with a new stick, a field hockey stick and all of the different rules. This was a new transition.”
That said, her natural athleticism would help — a lot, to be honest.
A familiar participant in both track & field and the cross-country school scene (she’s even dipped her toes into a few other athletic endeavours), Dokis-Dupuis would be slotted into a midfield role as the Varsity Blues opened league play a week and a half ago.
“The midfielder plays the whole field,” she said. “You’re running back to play defense and forward to play offense. I think it’s a good fit for me because of my speed. I am a good runner – or so I’ve been told. It’s a lot of running, but it’s fun.”
Positionally speaking, it also means that Dokis-Dupuis and other midfielders have to very quickly grasp the chess game that occurs at each end of the pitch as six-vs-six action creates all sorts of intricate patterns of interwoven player movement.
“In the defensive zone, you find your man and try and stick with them,” she said. “If there’s a pick, you switch. On the offense, it’s the opposite of that. You’re trying to get open, trying to deceive your player, trying to get a pass and drive the net.”
Apparently, the lessons outlined in practice are sinking in.
Dokis-Dupuis would net her first ever OUA goal last Sunday in a matchup with the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks.
“My defender was sliding so I saw an opening, cut into the middle, got a pass and kind of jumped up and shot up and over the goalie’s shoulder. Everyone kind of went wild because they knew it was my first goal. It was a very heartwarming moment.”
No, it wasn’t another in the line of countless heartwarming hockey memories, but it was very, very special, just the same. And Alexei Dokis-Dupuis can thank her commitment to travelling the spectrum of sporting involvement as a youth in adding this memory to her treasure chest.
Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.