From committing to play NCAA hockey at Clarkson, to being selected for
the U18 worlds and the Canada Winter games, quite a year for "Shelbs"
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
By Rob J. Ross
MALAHIDE, Ont. - Christmas came early for Shelby Laidlaw.
The 17-year old has been named to Team Canada for the 2023 U18 women's world hockey championship, January 8-15, in Sweden.
"I got the call and they told me that I was going to Sweden," said Laidlaw, prior to Christmas. "There were so many emotions it was crazy. I was speechless. I came out to my parents and just couldn't say anything. tears coming down my face."
Team Canada contacted Laidlaw in early December, with roster officially announced, December 16.
"An amazing feeling," Laidlaw said. "Definitely awesome. I get to represent my country, as well as travel to a new country and explore things there."
Laidlaw will head overseas with two of her London Devilettes junior teammates, Emma Pais and Jocelyn Amos.
"It's nice to have people who have already been there," said Laidlaw.
The year 2022 is a memorable one for the Grade 12 student at East Elgin Secondary school, in Aylmer.
Earlier in the year, while still in Grade 11, Laidlaw made her commitment to play hockey, at the University of Clarkson, a NCAA school, in Potsdam, New York, starting the fall of 2023.
Days after the Team Canada announcement, Laidlaw was selected to Team Ontario, for the Canada Winter Games, February 18 to March 5, in Prince Edward Island.
"It's a small school, so it kind of reminded me of home. Hockey is their only D1 sport, so they get prioritized. They always bring in good athletes," said Laidlaw. "The facilities were really nice and I really liked the community and atmosphere. The coaches were nice. They came out to my games and watched me play and then reached out to me."
No other option appealed to Laidlaw like Clarkson, located about 55 kilometres from the border crossing between upper New York State and Ontario, 25 kilometres east of Brockville.
"I looked at a couple other schools, but none really caught my eye and I didn't have any interest in any others," Laidlaw said.
Nicole Gosling, of London, a junior defenceman, is one of five current players from Ontario, on a roster with 16 Canadians. The Golden Knights are 16-5-1 this season and 5-3-0, in the Eastern College Athletic conference.
"I have always wanted to play post secondary hockey," said Laidlaw. "Once I went to Clarkson, I knew it was right for me and somewhere I wanted to be in the future.
After committing, I felt excited and almost relieved that the decision was made and honoured to be apart of such a great hockey program."
The honour student remains undecided on her major.
Laidlaw describes herself as a strong skater with good puck control, a playmaker who can score if she needs too.
Those skills are not lost on her Devilettes' and now Canadian teammate, Jocelyn Amos, who has played alongside Laidlaw for five years.
"She is a very smooth and powerful skater and her hands are insane," said Amos. "Shelbs always battles hard and plays with grit. She gives her best at every game and practice and leads by example on and off the ice."
Skating with pucks since she was five years old, Laidlaw started with the Belmont Aylmer Dorchester (BAD) Blazers, before moving on to the Devilettes following her atom years.
Laidlaw was the team's leading scorer when the Blazers won the Lower Lakes Atom A title and a bronze medal at the 2016 OWHA provincials.
"It was kind of a rough start with the Devilettes. I wasn't doing as well as I wanted too," recalls Laidlaw. "But then I ended up working my way up, eventually making junior."
The former cross country runner, a regional champ in 2018, is in her third season with the junior Devilettes.
"My parents have been a big influence, " Laidlaw said of her mom Jody and dad Travis. "My dad was my coach when I was younger and always pushed me and encouraged me to be better. He would have me shoot pucks in the yard or skate on our rink he built almost every year. He's played hockey since he was little and he has always pushed me. He's the reason that I got here today."
Shelby has a younger sister, Reece, who also plays hockey, currently with the BAD Blazers' U18 team.
Eyeballs on Laidlaw started accumulating during 2021, with invites to Team Canada camps and interest from various universities.
"That's when I started to experience more attention," said Laidlaw. "Scouts and schools started reaching out."
In early August, Laidlaw was invited to a three game National U18 women's summer showcase, in Calgary, Alberta. Although not selected for a three game rivalry series, against the USA, later that month, Laidlaw must have left an impression.
"That was devastating (missing the rivalry series), but I ended up getting picked (for worlds)," Laidlaw said.
The U18 world tournament begins January 8, with Canada playing Finland, at 2 p.m. Eastern time.
"I'm hoping to get a couple points. Maybe get on the score board. It's a honour to go. A gold medal at the end would be the best outcome. I want to play my best and do everything I can for the team," Laidlaw said. "I think pulling on the jersey with be amazing and something I'll never forget."
Laidlaw has previously played for the Maple Leaf, winning a bronze medal, with the Canadian junior women (14-18 years) inline hockey, at the 2019 World Roller Games, in Barcelona, Spain. Laidlaw scored twice in the bronze game against Finland.
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