Shortly after Mariah Hinds was given her first pair of skates, even before she was two years old, her mother found her wearing them while walking around the living room.
“It wasn’t good for the hardwood floor,” laughs Zelda Sadler, “but it shows how much she loved skating right from the beginning. A few months later our family was at Nathan Phillips Square on New Year’s Eve and she wouldn’t hold my hand, she was so excited to be skating around the rink on her own – at age two!”
That natural skater was playing organized hockey at age three and has just been named, at age 18 and after four years with the Leaside Wildcats, as Leaside’s 2017 Athlete of the Year.
Mariah is the third of four children of Moulton Hinds and Zelda Sadler. Her older brother Marcus (23) plays hockey for the Ryerson Rams, and her younger brother Malaki (11) also plays hockey. Rounding out the family is a sister, Monique, who is 22.
Mariah played soccer too, when she was younger. “I used to like soccer better,” she recalls, “but one June I was playing football in the schoolyard with the boys, I got tackled and broke my arm – the cast went all the way up, so I couldn’t play soccer that summer. Since then it’s been pretty much all hockey.”
She played in boys’ leagues at first, in Toronto and Markham, and then was recruited to the girls’ AA Aurora Panthers Bantams. “Playing with the boys AAA teams for the first few years was helpful,” says Mariah, “because they were at a higher skill level than the girls, so when I moved to a girls’ team in bantam, I was used to that higher level of play.” Her teammates were two or even three years older.
Soon after, she was also recruited to Premier Elite Athletes’ Collegiate (PEAC), a private school for sports stars with a focus on hockey – Edmonton Oiler great Connor McDavid is their most famous alumnus. She was entering Grade 6 at the time and it was the first year the school offered Grade 6. There were just four in her class that first year; the other three were boys. At PEAC she played on the boys’ hockey team against other GTA private schools.
There she was coached by Kim McCullough, now head coach of the Leaside Junior Wildcats, who was instrumental in Mariah’s decision to join the Leaside Girls’ Hockey Association four years ago. “I’ve coached Mariah for seven years now,” says McCullough, “three at PEAC and four at Leaside. In all these years she’s had the ability to take over a game at will. She had the hardest shot in the league, by far, and has the highest hockey IQ of any player I’ve ever coached. She has a magnetic personality, her teammates love her, and she leads by dominating on the ice.”
Mariah plays defence but is an offensive threat too, in the tradition of Bobby Orr.
McCullough adds that Mariah is the first ever Junior Wildcat to win a National Championship, playing for the “Ontario Red” team in the competition held in Regina in November, 2016.
Mariah admits she didn’t know much about Leaside hockey when she arrived four years ago, but says practising at Leaside Arena twice a week and being part of the Wildcats for one year as a Midget and then three years on the Jr. team was a very positive experience.
“We were like a family. Our team was really close and it was a fun environment.”
Her mother too has good things to say about her daughter’s experience here: “The association backed up Mariah and Kim on every decision on the team, and Jennifer [TLGHL president Jennifer Smith] is excellent – she comes to all the games, helps out with fundraising and is very involved. And the Leaside community is supportive too – people come out to watch even who don’t have any connection with the team.”
This year Mariah accepted a hockey scholarship to attend Lindenwood University, in Saint Charles, Missouri, an NCAA Division One school, where she is studying law and playing for Lindenwood Lions Women’s hockey team.
Mariah Hinds will be honoured as Leaside’s 2017 Athlete of the Year at the Leaside Sports Hall of Fame’s annual Induction Ceremony at Leaside Arena on Friday, November 17th, where four new Hall of Fame members will also be inducted, (see Leaside Life’s October issue). Tickets are available at the arena or at www.LeasideSports.org.