Hanna Pagdato says she first fell in love with hockey while watching Canada’s women’s team win gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The Winnipeg native, currently a goalie for the Mount Allison University Mounties in New Brunswick, was eight years old at the time, but has had a lifelong dream to represent her country on the international stage.
It’s a dream that’s about to come true for Hanna and her sister Larissa Pagdato — but with a bit of a twist. The duo are headed to the unlikely hockey hotbed of the United Arab Emirates next month to represent the Philippines’ national women’s team.
“It’s very exciting,” Hanna told 680 CJOB’s The Start. “I feel like it’s a chance for me to connect to my roots.
“This was a dream of mine ever since I was little…. I always imagined myself representing a national team, and for me to represent the Philippines is something special, especially for my parents and the Filipino community here.”
The sisters — Larissa is a former junior hockey player as well as the coach of the True North Foundation’s U13 girls’ team — likely absorbed some of their passion for the game from dad Larry Pagdato, who says he’s been hockey-mad since he started watching the first incarnation of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets.
“In the early ’80s, I was a big fan of the Winnipeg Jets. When I had my kids, they seemed to also fall in love with hockey,” he said.
“In 2011, they began playing hockey, and now they’re still playing and loving the game, and we were just so blessed to have this opportunity they were given.”
Larry said he’s seen the local Filipino community come to embrace hockey in a big way over the years, and hopes his daughters can act as role models for up-and-coming players.
The call to join Team Philippines for the upcoming Union Tournament in early September came very unexpectedly, Larissa said, but the duo are prepared to hop on a 14-hour flight and join their new teammates within days of puck drop.
“It was a bit of a surprise. It happened really quickly,” she said.
“They reached out and the next day we were on a phone call with them, discussing what exactly the tournament is, what the team is, and our place on the team, basically.”
Because hockey is still a growing sport in the Philippines, the country’s governing body doesn’t have much of a budget to send its players around the world to compete, so the Pagdatos — along with fellow Winnipegger Jordy Wyant, a former teammate of Hanna’s — need to find their own way to the event, which is taking place just outside of Dubai.
Thankfully, some local businesses are helping out, including Triple C Pizzeria and RINK Hockey.
“At the moment, the Filipino team’s budget is not there … so we’re really grateful that a couple of companies have already stepped up to help us with our trip,” Larry said.
The tournament takes place Sept. 5-9.