Since she could remember, junior Gianna Clemente has been surrounded by a family of ice hockey lovers. She recalls her mother’s love of the game a large influence on her interest in the sport. However, it was not until the 2018-2019 hockey season when Clemente’s aunt took a job with the BB&T center working in the hockey department that her mother decided to purchase season tickets which rekindled Clemente’s love of the game.
“In the past two years, I’ve gotten a lot more involved. You can usually find me at the BB&T Center every home game or streaming the away games with my family,” Clemente said. “I actually just started skating in December of 2018.”
She skates regularly at the Panthers Ice Den in Coral Springs and occasionally skates during public sessions at Pines Ice Arena. Her week consists of at least three sessions of morning skating from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m.
Clemente also secured herself a spot on the newly established American Heritage Ice Hockey team. The co-ed team has three girls, including Clemente, and will play its opening game Oct. 7.
Clemente plays both forward and defense positions at her usual rink, but she mostly plays right wing.
“I’ve never not liked hockey. I would consider the home opener the moment I fell in love with it again,” Clemente said. “It was the home opener of the 2018-19 season, so Oct. 11, 2018, Panthers v. Columbus Blue Jackets. My aunt got us glass seats and we got to high-five the team before they went out to start the game. It was a pretty cool experience.”
In addition to her family’s love of hockey, Clemente’s admiration of player Hilary Knight inspired her to fall in love with the sport a second time.
“[Knight] plays for the U.S.A. Women’s Olympics team. She used to play for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League; however, that shut down because of a lack of funding. As a result, Knight and a bunch of other women started the ‘For the Game’ movement to fight for a substantial future for professional women’s hockey,” Clemente said. “There’s this whole stigma that ‘hockey isn’t for girls,’ and she’s been a big inspiration to look up to combating against this idea.”
Apart from her passion for hockey, Clemente is also a varsity cheerleader, a yearbook staff member and a sports fan in general (specifically of Major League Baseball).
“[The importance of hockey to me] is hard to put into words. It’s definitely a lot of work, but you learn a lot from it as well. It helps with confidence, especially because I started so late, coupled with the fact that I’m a girl,” Clemente said. “It’s not easy for me to get out there, but it’s worth it every time. It’s also a stress-reliever, a good distraction from everything going on in life. I don’t have to worry about school, friends or drama when I’m out there; it’s just the game.”