OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Like most kids born in Canada, Jillian McLaughlin could skate about the same time she could walk.
“My mom put me in figure skating when I was two or three,” Jillian told FOX 5. “And my sister was playing hockey and I thought it was cool, so she put me in.”
And Jillian stayed in, even after she moved from her first home outside Ottawa, Quebec, Canada to Oceanside at age 8. The minor detail that water doesn’t freeze in Southern California very often didn’t mean she would get frozen out of the game she loves.
With no girls team to join, Jillian stepped in with the boys and played with the Jr. Gulls and fit right in.
“We played a game and went through the handshake line and I’ll never forget, a couple of the kids on the other team were like, ‘Dude, that was a girl!’” Jillian’s coach Noah Babin told FOX 5. “She fits in with the boys amazingly well, to the point where she is one of the better players on the ice sheet at any given time, so it’s really fun to watch.”
Jillian also joined a 14-and-under girls all-star team made up of players from all across the country, and in the last weekend in April, her team won the Chitown Shuffle in Chicago — with Jillian leading the team in goals.
“This team is really good,” Jillian said. “This is the best girls team I have ever played on. It would definitely give my boys team last season a run for their money.”
When not on the ice, the 8th grader runs track for MLK Middle School in Oceanside, specializing in sprints and jumps. The 14 year-old says the cross training helps her with her speed on the ice, and she plans to stay on the ice as long as she can, and ultimately one day play in the Olympics — and with a mother from Canada and father from North County, she has her choice of countries to represent.
“I’m going to just keep working hard,” Jillian said. “Keep my mindset and I think I’ll get there if I try my absolute hardest.”
“I do not think there is a limit based on her personality and her skillset,” Babin said. “So it’s going to be up to her to see where she can develop. I’m personally going to be eagerly watching and very excited to see where she goes.”