STAFFIERI: Feeling of family adds luster to Laura Dacey’s dazzling time with Wolfpack

Having added the gridiron game to an already solid sporting resume, the experience has proven to be a labour of love for Laura Dacey. Part of the Winnipeg Wolfpack’s offensive line unit, the concerted and consistent Dacey arrived to the club with superlative competitive credentials.

The vast expanse of the football field mirrors the soccer pitch, a sport that Dacey played competitively throughout her formative years. Having also excelled in both field hockey and ice hockey, Dacey also participated in the prestigious Canadian Shield hockey tournament.

Making the transition from the rink to the gridiron, it represented an evolution in Dacey’s athletic endeavors. With three seasons as a member of the Wolfpack’s offensive line, one of the most formidable in league play, it provided Dacey, who always had an affinity for the game, to fulfill the desire to compete, while helping establish an important chapter for women in Winnipeg sporting lore,

Laura Dacey all smiles in the Winnipeg Wolfpack jersey (Image supplied by Dacey)

“I played competitive soccer for years I played high school field hockey and in the nationals and have played and still play high level hockey and have been to the Canadian Shield several times as well, goalie in all.

I joined the Wolfpack in 2015, as soon as I heard about them, from a friend at hockey. I wish I had known about women’s tackle football sooner. I always wanted to play football as a kid but never had the chance. I played for fun at recess and tossed the ball around on the road with the carnival but never anything organized.”

Competing on the offensive line is an exhibition of careful choreography, motivated by the goal of exhausting defensive opponents at the line of scrimmage. Focused on quickness off the snap, Dacey is part of a group interdependent on working to accelerate the offense. With a growing reputation as one of the finest linemen in Wolfpack lore, the dignified yet indomitable Dacey is contributing towards building a solid tradition of great female football in Manitoba.

While Dacey’s first WWCFL game involved the Wolfpack taking on the role of underdog, it was one that she relished with tremendous enthusiasm. With four months of preparation, involving intensive training and a demanding camp, the chance to finally grace the gridiron brought a tremendous feeling of both satisfaction and achievement.

Taking on the Saskatoon Valkyries on their home turf, Dacey displayed tremendous bravado once the game began. With any nervous feelings quickly evaporating, finding inspiration in the roster’s veterans, it quickly translated into a feeling of eagerness, ready to begin this newest chapter in her athletic odyssey,

“I was really excited about my first game. All the hard work we had put in since January would finally be put into work in the game. It was an away game in Saskatoon, so we left the day before on the bus to go. I was nervous but not as nervous as I thought I would be. Having all the vets there being really supportive and reassuring helped a lot.”

Considering that the camaraderie in football is one of the game’s hallmarks, transforming teammates into a second family, the essence of belonging and community has taken on an even greater meaning for Dacey. Akin to her gridiron sisters, the attendance of friends and family adds a more profound sense of importance, simultaneously adding greater value to the admirable efforts exerted on the field of play.

Among this strong showing of support, the most cherished involves the loving presence of her grandmother, Sophie. At 98 years young, dedicated for many decades as a fan of the beloved Blue Bombers, the chance to cheer for the Wolfpack enhanced her appreciation of the gridiron game, proud of the opportunity to root for her gracious granddaughter. Attending her first game at the age of 96, Dacey recounts the euphoric feeling of joyousness and realization at the opportunity to play with her grandmother in the stands.

Laura Dacey proud to have her grandmother Sophie as a Wolfpack fan (Image supplied by Dacey)

“My Gramma is 98 now and that (photo) was from Mother’s Day two years ago. She was 96 and came to her first ever women’s football game. She is a huge part of my life and no matter what she supports me in everything I do along with my husband and my mom.

Just like my mom, everything is followed with the words “don’t get hurt”. Gramma is a huge football fan and almost never misses a bomber game whether she listens to it on the radio or sees it on TV. My mom has not been feeling well for a couple years off and on but hopes to come to a game this upcoming season and as Gramma says ‘God willing maybe she can see another one’.”

Although Dacey remains humble about her success in football, a quality that makes her a highly admirable teammate, her admiration for her teammates is one that certainly sets a positive example. With an observation that focuses on the bigger picture, and the role that the Wolfpack plays in the Prairie female sporting conversation, what Dacey sees as her contribution involves the chance to inspire and encourage,

“I do not see myself as an inspiration or role model but I see our group as proof that women and girls can do anything and play any sport they want and women they can look up to. The girls can see us and see there are places to keep playing after 15 and they can play till whatever age as long as they are enjoying themselves. They can look at some of our players that played for Team Canada and see where football can take them.”

Having participated in the 2017 Women’s World Football Games in Orlando, Florida, Dacey was part of a gathering of talented women from numerous nations. Joined by fellow Wolfpack teammate, starting quarterback Rebecka Clark, they shared in the experience of a proud event that is destined to become a rite of passage for many female footballers.

Suiting up for Team Red, Dacey gained the opportunity to call two distinctive yet exceptionally celebrated women of the gridiron as teammates. Among them was fellow Canadian Carly Dyck, a WWCFL champion who also holds the distinction of the longest field goal in the history of the Lethbridge Steel. Worth noting, Dyck would follow up her WWFG experience by suiting up for Team Canada at the IFAF Worlds.

Jennifer Garland Johnson, whose prominence as an influential woman in business includes a role as Vice-President for Johnson & Johnson, a highly trusted brand for generations. Also a competitor with the USWFL, Johnson has created a tremendous sporting legacy that establishes her as an inspiring role model for young women.

“I loved meeting so many women from all over the world who despite language barriers all loved football and learned more about the game together and helped each other. It was amazing to see all the different countries that have women’s football. The coaching was top notch. Having the coaches that came out with their knowledge and experience not only to work with us but to work with coaches learning as well was incredible. It was great to see how much women’s football is growing and how much support it is starting to get.”

Approaching the game with a combination of enjoyment and discovery, eager at the chance to continue to acquire knowledge and become a better player, while indulging in the opportunity to be part of such an empowering time in Canadian female sport, it provides tremendous satisfaction for Dacey. As the Wolfpack have taken on the role of a family, taking to the gridiron with her football sisters is one that encompasses what makes the game so pleasing.

Absorbing the entire experience, Dacey indicates that there is not one specific moment that stands out as a highlight during her time donning the Wolfpack colors. Instead, the overall journey is of the greatest importance for Dacey. From the incomparable feeling of victory, to the sense of pride in the effort made, regardless of the outcome, the chance to be part of it is one that provides Dacey with appreciation, proud to call herself one of the Wolfpack,

“I do not really have one favorite moment. All the time I get to spend with my Pack is great. When we win as a team is the best feeling but when we lose and our coaches tell us how proud they are of the energy and pride we played with till the end no matter how many points we were down and that we never gave up and did not get mad at each other or blame each other, those moments are pretty great too. Every time we play or practice or have camp are my favorite moments.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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