She shoots... glug...she scores!
Meet Leigh McGaughey. She’s a 44-year-old mother of two who just moved to Bainsville along with her husband, David.
She’s done a lot of globetrotting in her life. Born in South Africa, she has lived in New Zealand, England, Tazmania, and eventually moved to Vancouver, where she obtained a PhD in marine science from the University of British Columbia.
And she’s also a member of the Canadian Women’s Elite underwater hockey team.
Let’s dispel some of the myths about underwater hockey. There’s no goaltender and players are not outfitted in scuba gear. Their sticks can be operated with one hand; they can easily fit in your glove compartment. Perhaps the most important piece of equipment is the snorkel.
Stamina plays a big role as players have to balance their play time – often spent swimming near the very bottom of the pool – with the frequent coming up for air.
Underwater hockey doesn’t have anything near the commercial appeal that ice hockey does. Team members at the elite level have to pay travel costs whenever there’s a competition. In fact, she just returned from the 13th annual Battle @ Altitude, an underwater hockey tournament in Denver. Next on the horizon: the Atlantic Coast Championships in Quebec City in April and the National Championships in Montreal in May.
Dr. McGaughey fell in love with the sport when she got her scuba diving ticket as a 12year-old living in Capetown. Later, when she was in high school, a physical education teacher brought some hockey equipment to the swimming pool as a “once off.”
She tried the game and really enjoyed it. As a student at the University of Capetown, she discovered an underwater hockey team in the city centre. Unfortunately, she didn’t have transportation to get there so she had to content herself playing water polo, which was much closer to where she lived.
Evidently, she got quite good at underwater hockey – good enough to qualify for a number of national teams. While living in Tazmania, she was picked for the South African team. In 2006, she played for the Australian team, which subsequently beat the Canadian women in the finals.
Strangely enough, as a current member of the Canadian team, she’s now playing with women she beat when she played for Australia.
Although Dr. McGaughey trains twice a week in Montreal, she says it’s rare for the entire team to practise together. That’s because they are so spread out throughout the country. Three players are in Vancouver, two in Edmonton, three in Toronto, one in Montreal, and two in Quebec City.
She says she moved to Bainsville from Vancouver because her husband’s family is from Cornwall. They have two children. A daughter, Kathleen, who is six, and a son, James, who is one.