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Cloverdale's Jenn Gardiner selected in second round of PWHL entry draft

Gardiner to start career in November as a professional hockey player for Montreal's PWHL team

What a year it's been for Cloverdale's Jenn Gardiner. 

As hockey seasons go, the 2023-2024 season will be hard top.

The 22-year-old was named captain of her Ohio State Buckeyes women's hockey team before the season started. She played for Canada fort the first time in December in a rivalry series versus the USA. Her Buckeyes team went 35-4-0 this year on their way to their second national championship in 3 years. And to top it all off she was recently drafted by the Montreal hockey club of the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL).

A couple days after the June 10 PWHL entry draft, Gardiner said she was still overcome with emotion after being picked in the second round, 11th overall

"It came as a shock," Gardiner said. "Even though you expect your name to be called, you never really know when or if. So when it does get called, you kind of just go right into shock."

She said the night was a bit of a whirlwind, as everything just went by so quickly. She was thankful her parents, who flew in from Cloverdale, were there to support her at the draft, which was held in St. Paul, Minnesota. She said there was "no way" her parents were going to miss the moment she walked up on stage.

"The whole day was a little stressful for them, and even the last few weeks leading up to the draft," she explained. "Having my parents there, obviously my two biggest supporters in life, was super special."

It was also extra special for her to be able to give her parents the first hugs after her name was called.

She was also surrounded by her Buckeye teammates, her second family, and her head coach, which also meant a lot to Gardiner. Several of her teammates got drafted as well—with two going in the first round. Roughly 20 per cent of all draftees, 8 of 42, were Ohio State Buckeyes.

Gardiner said a lot of family and friends in Surrey got together to hold a watch party. She was in contact with them and was also thankful for all the support back home.

"Just walking up on stage and getting to meet the GM of Montreal, as well as Brian Burke who was announcing my pick, was super special. I can't express the amount of gratefulness I have for that organization for selecting me."

She said a lot of excitement comes with being drafted. Now she can't wait to get to Quebec and go to work for her new club.

She'll spend two months back in Cloverdale over the summer and then head to Montreal in September. Training camp for the Montreal women's franchise begins in November. The season will start in January again, with the number of games across the league expanding to 30 for each team, up from 24 in the inaugural season. (All six teams in the PWHL did not have nicknames, logos, or individual jerseys in the inaugural season. That is something the league says will come later.)

Gardiner credits her development with the Buckeyes as the reason she's able to move on to the next level. 

"Over my time as a Buckeye, I really developed as a player," she said. "That's a testament to our staff (in Columbus) and the players I've been surrounded by as part of this program. I think being on the top team in the country, and getting to practice with these players everyday, just challenged me and made me such a better player in general."

Gardiner will wrap up her master's degree in sport management by the end of August and be able to devote 100 per cent of her time to being a professional athlete. Something she's excited for. 

"I will be a full-time professional women's hockey player, which was unheard of a couple of years ago," she said. "It's a little bit crazy that I get to wake up everyday and go to work, which is at the rink, I can't believe it.

"I think every little girl dreamt of this opportunity, but knew that it was never possible," she added. "It gives me chills just thinking about how I can play the sport that I love every single day for a living."

Prior to her time at Ohio State, Gardiner attended Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, played three all-star seasons for the Greater Vancouver Comets, was a three-time provincial champion and won gold in 2019 at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds tournament.

— with a file from Tom Zillich.

Malin Jordan

About the Author: Malin Jordan

Malin is the editor of the Cloverdale Reporter.
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