Sports Local Hockey

Long time Saint leaves big shoes to fill

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

PCI Saints captain Bailey Grantham ends her four-year career with her name atop many of the program’s all time scoring records.

PCI Saints captain Bailey Grantham ends her four-year career with her name atop many of the program’s all time scoring records.

When the Portage Collegiate Institute (PCI) Saints varsity girls hockey team had their championship dreams cut short at the hands of the Garden City Gophers early this month, so too ended the remarkable career of veteran forward Bailey Grantham - a fixture on the Saints’ top line ever since she entered the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League (WWHSHL) as a bright-eyed and bushy tailed Grade 9 student.

But her ties to the program actually go back before the Portage la Prairie native was even old enough to be eligible to play in the Manitoba High School Athletics Association (MHSAA) and was having difficulties finding the right fit in a female hockey league.

“We had her on our radar actually from about Grade 6 or 7, knowing that she was coming up,” said Jo-Anne Clark-Gillespie, long time coach of the PCI Saints varsity girls hockey team. “Her dad had asked me if she could practice with us in Grade 8 but unfortunately MHSAA rules don’t allow Grade 8s to participate so we had to say no.”

After spending that season playing boys bantam hockey, Grantham turned her focus to the Saints and kept it there throughout her entire high school career and quickly emerged as the team’s leader even as a Grade 9 rookie in a league usually dominated by older players.

“She’s always made it a priority to play Saints hockey right from Grade 9. She led our team every single year. She’s been our MVP every single year,” added the head coach.

Grantham led her team in scoring in each of her four years of service, smashing club records and even breaking the records she set. Over her four year high school playing career, Grantham tallied 89 goals and 51 assists for 140 points in just 82 games played – and that’s not counting playoffs, where her scoring touch didn’t slow down. Her final year as the captain of the PCI Saints was her most productive, as the teenager scored 31 goals and 19 assists while leading her team to a first place finish in the WWHSHL’s Winnipeg Free Press Division.

“I think it was a successful four years that I played,” said Grantham, who is currently finishing her final year at PCI. “I had fun doing it and I feel like I accomplished a lot. I’m going out happy with no regrets.”

More impressive than her play on the ice however, is perhaps the work Grantham put in just to make this past season happen. When the program met in June of 2016 to see what the roster might look like come September, just a handful of players showed up.

“We wouldn’t have had a team this year if it wasn’t for Bailey,” said Clark-Gillespie. “We knew we were losing some players this year to graduation and AAA so we were a little worried. When we had our June meeting just four skaters and two goalies showed up.”

Like any resourceful teenager, Grantham turned to social media and began recruiting throughout the summer ahead of her final season and when the Saints met in early September prior to the start of hockey season, more than two dozen players were in attendance.

“She’s an ambassador for high school hockey and what it really entails,” continued the head coach. “When you look at an MVP, yes her stats and ability fit that criteria but when it comes to the importance of this team, we wouldn’t have had a season if not for her.”

Grantham can move on knowing that many of the records she set as a Saint will go untouched for some time. The programs all-time leading scorer after Grantham amassed 65 points over here PCI playing career – Grantham tallied 62 this season if you count her 12 points in 5 post season games.

“I think her records will be safe for a little while,” joked the head coach. “It’s never easy to lose somebody, especially after four years. And its especially not easy to lose someone of her calibre but there are lots of good memories.”

Up next in the hockey career of Bailey Grantham? She plans on finding out how she stacks up with the talent in the Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League, a seven-team league based out of Winnipeg that is made up of many former WWHSHL and AAA players. And according to Clark-Gillespie, the league’s coaches have the former high school standout on their radar.

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