Meghan Hunter comes home

788
Meghan Hunter sports a sweater made for her by Mary Freer when she was just 11 years old and spent hours around the Petrolia arena hoping to play hockey with whatever team needed an extra player.

Town of Petrolia places hockey great on Wall of Fame

When Meghan Hunter was eight, you could find her at the Greenwood Recreation Centre long after her time on the ice with the Petrolia Oilers was done.

“When I first started, I would stay later so if a team needed another player… They would say ‘Oh I think Ronny’s little daughter, she was out first, I think she’ll play again.’ I sure would, you bet. I’ll go again,” Hunter said smiling broadly Friday as she returned to the arena she spent so much time in as a child.

Hunter says the foundation for her career in hockey was laid here.

Friday, she returned as the Town of Petrolia placed her photo along side the NHL players she looked up to her entire life including her uncles, Dale and Mark Hunter.

Speaker after speaker talked about the inner drive Meghan Hunter channelled even as a young girl shooting pucks up against her parent’s garage for hours on end.

That drive made her a Nicol Scholar at LCCVI, took her to university on a hockey scholarship in the US, helped her to be named Rookie of the Year in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and to a national scoring title. It landed her a spot on Hockey Canada’s U22 team and a gold medal in the European championship.

Over the years Hunter coached, worked in the OHL and was a scout and the manager of hockey personnel with Hockey Canada where she was part of the team when Canada’s women’s won gold at the 2014 Olympics.

It took her all the way to the NHL where Hunter landed the job as Stan Bowman’s assistant with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Now, she is director of hockey administration and the first female amateur scout in Chicago Blackhawks history.

In 2022, Hunter was recognized by Hockey News as one of 20 women with credentials to hold a future NHL GM role.

Her career now also puts her among the greats on the Wall of Fame in the rink it all started – the Greenwood Recreation Centre.

“I had no idea at the ripe old age of eight I’d have my picture on the wall…I looked to everyone on that wall and a lot of them played a large part in my career.

“I’m just totally humbled and in awe of how many people are here today,” said Hunter after listening as former teachers, coaches and coworkers talked about her drive, talent and character.

“I’m just a small town girl from Oil Springs. I just like to come home, have some of my mom’s cooking and play some hockey…I’m very proud of my roots…I love coming home anytime I can,” she added.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the foundation of the community and the support,” she says.

Hunter told the crowd gathered to watch her induction she’s excited to see how Petrolia supports girls hockey. When she played, she was one of three girls in organized hockey. There wasn’t a girls’ change room. Hunter recalls changing in closets and behind shower curtains strung up by her mother. Now, the Lambton Attack has teams at every age level.

Marcia Stinson, the head of that league, says people like Hunter paved the way for the league and girls’s hockey to thrive. Stinson added there are still “big things to come” in Hunter’s career adding she expects someday she will become the NHL’s first general manager.

During Friday’s ceremony, young hockey players from the Attack sat on the floor, just inches from Hunter soaking it all in. Hunter is aware she’s a role model for some of these young women.

And Hunter knows that if she breaks the glass ceiling the GM’s office in the NHL, it will be good for young women.

“I really believe now, there is a lot of truth behind, if you see it you can believe it. When I was coming out of university basically there was only females coaching…there were no females in the NHL hockey administration, so I had a hard time figuring out what I was going to do with my career because there wasn’t any females in those roles,” Hunter says.

“I don’t really think of myself as a trailblazer, I’m just working my way up,” she tells The Independent. “I don’t take it lightly…I have a little niece who is four years old now who plays for the Lambton Attack and that’s the coolest thing… I just want to be a role model for her.”

Hunter urges her niece and the girls she plays with to “keep chasing your dream and working hard, you never know what’s going to happen,” she says. It might even lead to your hometown honouring you by putting your photo on the Wall of Fame, like Hunter.

“I was just overwhelmed, shocked humbled proud..I’m just a small town girl from Oil Springs, I just can’t believe I’d be up on the wall,” she says adding when she was young she “would walk in here and you idolize those people on the wall.”