They’ve already fostered a winning connection off the ice.
But playing together at the 2023 World Ringette Championships?
That makes — and would make — their bond even stronger, say Regina’s Donnell and Lauren Schoenhofen.
That’s mom Donnell and daughter Lauren, two key members of Canada’s Under-21 team at the international event hosted in Calgary.
“It’s been super special to share this experience with her,” said 18-year-old Lauren, amid her team’s charge for the championship at the week-long world tournament at WinSport. “This definitely is not the first, and I hope it’s not the last time she’ll be coaching me.”
But it is the grandest.
Donnell is an assistant coach for Canada, while Lauren is a defenceman for the host entry
The Schoenhofens and Canada are shooting for gold against Finland in the junior-age championship. It’s a two-game set which opened Friday night with a 6-6 draw and wraps up Saturday at Markin MacPhail Centre (7 p.m., TELUS Optik 1999, youtube.com/c/RingetteCanadaRinguetteCanada).
Should the teams remain tied after regulation, they play sudden-victory overtime until the golden goal is scored to crown a champion.
“Definitely we need to up the intensity and execution and bringing everything we have to the ice,” Lauren said. “This is the pinnacle of ringette. We want to come away with the gold.
“That’s the plan.”
For all the members of Canada, that would be awesome.
But for the Schoenhofens, that would be oh-so uniquely awesome in a way others might only imagine.
“There probably aren’t words to describe that,” Donnell said. “It’s something very few people get to experience. It would definitely be a highlight for me as a coach and but also highlight for me as a mother.
“These type of memories and experiences absolutely contribute to the relationship we have outside the rink,” agreed Lauren. “And it would be so special to win — and a lifelong memory.”
Not that winning would make their relationship.
That’s already strong in a situation that can be difficult to navigate.
“The way we operate is a little unique,” admitted Lauren. “There’s Mom Donnell, and there’s Coach Donnell. We just try to do a really good job of keeping mom and daughter outside of the rink and coach and athlete in the rink. And I think that that’s just easier for everyone.
“It prevents me from setting an expectation for how she responds,” the younger Schoenhofen continued. “I know exactly how she’s going to respond when we’re in the distinct settings — like she’s going to talk to me like a coach when we’re at the rink and like a mom outside of the rink. So it helps manage those expectations and keeps those relationships separate from each other.”
They’re certainly on the same page where the mom/daughter-coach/player differences is concerned.
“Coaching your children can be a challenge,” said Donnell, 47. “Because it’s quite easy to put higher expectations on them because you know them and you want the best for them and you know what they’re capable of. But also there’s perception, as well, where people will want to sometimes see what they would like to see in terms of the potential for favouritism or if they get more ice time or expectations.
“You know, I’ve been coaching her for a long time. So as I got older and we’ve worked together, it was really important for us to be able to have conversations as a coach to athlete and for me to understand and respect her as an athlete who happens to be my daughter but treat and talk to her the same way that I would any other athlete. Similarly, it’s important for her to treat me as she would any other coach and then to know that you can still have the ability to have a conversation as a mother and a daughter, which looks different than it would be between athlete and coach.”
They’ve been together on teams in the past — mom coaching daughter from bunnies through to U16 AA and then most recently at the Canada Winter Games, from which the Schoenhofens and Saskatchewan earned bronze medals — in overtime — in Prince Edward Island.
But here with Canada, it’s a little different dynamic for them.
Mom is coaching the forwards at the other end of the bench, while daughter is at her usual spot back on defence.
“So I don’t really see much of her when we’re out on the ice, to be honest,” Lauren said. “But it’s super special to know that I have her here and that we can go through this experience together.”
Plus, of course, she’s enjoying trying to chase gold with the best of the best junior ringette players Canada has to offer.
“It’s been super cool to be with girls who have been my competitors in the past,” added Lauren. “I’ve played against them for years. The community isn’t super big. These are girls that I admire when I play against them, and that’s really pushed me and challenged me to be better as opponents. And seeing the stuff that we can do when we’re teammates has been super, super special.
“Obviously, the expectation this week is to be to be winning as much as we can. But just developing the sport and the kind of program that we can build here in Canada has been super special.”
Canada’s goals in Friday’s first game of the final set came from Jazmyn Fevin (2), Mia Hemstreet, captain Erin Ung, Regan Meier and Manon Vautour … Friday’s other action at the worlds saw: the 9-7 Under-18 morning contest between winner Finland and host Canada Black — a mix of players from across the country but primarily from the east; and the President’s Pool semifinal game in the afternoon, won by Sweden over bronze-medallist Czech Republic … Saturday’s other games are: the U18 development team versus a group of area players (10 a.m.); the President’s Pool gold-medal final between USA and Sweden (noon); and Finland versus Canada White — a collection of players from across the country but primarily from the west — in the U18 capper (4 p.m.) … All games are at WinSport.