Abuk Roy was just 18 months old when her adopted parents, Jane Roy and Glen Pearson, brought her to the new world of London from her native Sudan.
Now 15 years old, Abuk is no different than millions of Canadian teenagers who have a passion for playing hockey.
But earlier this year when Abuk and her family returned to Sudan, she found herself in something of a peculiar position — how does someone explain hockey to people who have never even touched or even seen ice before?
“It’s hard for them to understand. I remember dad was showing them a video (of her playing hockey at Budweiser Gardens) and they asked what special effects they used to make the video,” Abuk said. “They didn’t believe it was real, all this snow and ice. It was hard for me to explain to them without them knowing really what ice is or an arena or the equipment.”
Although Abuk admits to feeling a bit like a celebrity during the trip, she felt “really good” about how it went.
It was her first time returning to Sudan in nearly a decade, but she was happy for the experience.
“I felt like it gave them hope knowing that we would be returning every year. It was a bit overwhelming having everyone always around you,” Abuk said. “But at the same time you had to take it in, realize what they need. It doesn’t matter how much it’s overwhelming you, you do it for the people. It’s just something you have to cope with.”
Roy admits to a good bit of pride at her daughter’s perspective on the visit.
But conversely, Abuk recalls her mother providing her with a lot of inspiration too, particularly when it comes to the game they both love.
Abuk remembers her father taking her and her siblings to watch their mother play hockey — on a men’s team — at the Western Fair Sports Centre.
Even though she was only four or five, Abuk recalls being fascinated watching her mother skate around the ice.
Roy had started playing hockey when she was 10 years old, but she put the game down when she was 15.
However, as she got older, Roy realized she needed to do something to keep herself in shape.
And since she hates working out, the hockey pads came back on.
“I was horrible when I got back to it. I hadn’t skated in a long time,” Roy said. “There were some board members at the food bank who were playing Friday afternoon hockey and so I joined them. I play with women now, but it was the guys back then.”
Abuk recalls how it “felt amazing” the first time she put on a pair of skates and moved around the ice — even if holding her mother’s hand.
Once she started skating on her own, the feeling became “even more amazing.”
She wouldn’t start playing hockey for several years, but once she did, the game became a fixture in her life.
“I really like the rush it gives you,” Abuk said. “I like being on the team, making friends. You get to build up leadership skills. It’s just a really fun thing.”
Although she might be somewhat biased, Roy said Abuk — who plays with the London Devilettes — is getting better and better as a player.
But as with most contact sports these days, concussions are a concern.
In fact, Abuk has already had a couple in her young career, but it's a reality her mother has come to grips with.
“I’m actually getting less concerned about her getting concussions because she is playing more and more in ways to avoid them,” Roy said. “To me, the main thing is that she loves it. She’s always trying hard. When I look for someone playing hockey, I want them to love and to always keep trying. That’s Abuk.”