Everyone has their own thoughts, opinions and definitions when it comes to the word authentic. Some strive to be authentic while others constantly search for their true selves. Being yourself is incredibly difficult in all walks of life, notwithstanding the game of hockey. Authenticity is rare, it’s never fully understood and often criticized. Those that dare to be authentic are never hiding, they are out in the open and exposed, but that’s exactly what them so special. Amherst, Nova Scotia’s Carly Jackson epitomizes the word authentic. Her path to authenticity continues to define her journey and inspire others.
“Being able to be yourself is one of the most powerful things in the world,” Jackson said.
“Character, humour, love and effort are things I think of when I think of authenticity.”
“I remember growing up and trying to fit into a mold, or societal standards and it was awful. I really broke out as an athlete when I started loving who I was and celebrating it,” explained Jackson.
“There is a lot of power in having faith in who you are and what you bring to a team. Being an athlete and being loved by my people and my friends helped me grow that confidence over time and still does to this day. That’s one of the reasons I feel so strongly about creating a safe space in hockey, to give back to people what this sport has given me. Being in the rink, on the ice, is my happy place, getting to do that every day is a dream,” confessed Jackson.
Jackson starred at the University of Maine for four seasons before turning pro and signing with the Buffalo Beauts of the Premier Hockey Federation after they selected her in the 1st round, 3rd round in 2020. The 25-year-old backstop tested free agency and signed with the Toronto Six in May.
“I will sincerely miss Buffalo, the people, friends, and memories I made are something very important to me. I did a lot of growing up during my time there, I will remember my experience in the best way,” Jackson said.
Jackson is beyond excited to start her journey with the Six.
“I am thrilled to be going to Toronto!”
“When I entered free agency, I was intimidated and it was certainly nerve racking, but being a member of the Six is everything I hoped it would be and more.”
“Playing for Toronto has been the spark I needed to push my game to the next level. Playing for this organization and working with the people within it is so much fun. I have so much to learn and lots to grow from so truly I couldn’t be more excited to be a Six.”
“It feels like I’m falling in love with the game all over again and I couldn’t be happier to be where I am right now.”
The whirlwind that has been Carly Jackson’s life and playing career continues. From amazing goaltender during hockey season to amazing baseball player, the two-sport athlete never really stops. How does Jackson handle the quiet moments and downtime?
“Typically, I do not have a lot of down time, and I really do love it. However, I definitely struggle during the quiet times.”
“It’s been challenging for me to transition between the craziness of a hockey season of travelling every weekend, sometimes a job, personal priorities, and maintaining relationships along with training, sleeping and maintaining a healthy diet.”
“It feels endless and that can be fun, but it can also be very difficult managing emotions when you go for long periods of time distracted by the hustle and bustle of life.”
Life behind the mask isn’t always easy. The solitude of the position can be daunting.
“Goaltending has its own battles, it’s a very isolated position and after games I’m always more mentally exhausted than physically.”
“Yes, the bumps and bruises are part of the position, but so is the mental battle. I think quiet times are difficult for a lot of people because it forces you to face things you’ve been procrastinating,” Jackson said.
“Whether that is a part of your mental health, the relationships with the people in your life, or anything you’ve been neglecting in general. When life gets calm is when you really have to face the noise of who you are and what you do.”
“That’s why I think it’s important to prioritize time for you. Time to do what you like with no questions asked. Time to just exist and reflect on who you are and what you like to do.”
“In my eyes it’s like going to the doctor, drinking enough water, and getting a healthy amount of exercise. It’s important to care for your mind just as you do your physical health. For me, that looks like playing video games for hours on end, often accompanied by my cat Fiona who provides a calming and loving presence while she watches me play. This is a safe space for me because it provides a quiet, and creative environment for my mind to function comfortably while doing an activity I enjoy.”
From the baseball diamond, to the blue paint, to every relationship in her life Jackson continues to strives to get better.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to play with Pro Evolution Hockey this summer. I was invited to the summer league through a friend and shooter while I was training with Alexander Goaltending. Derek(Cormier) and Rick (Leger) welcomed me in with open arms.”
“I was able to play at an elite level with some of the best in the Maritimes. The speed and challenge of playing against these guys has certainly improved my game and is pushing me to the next level.”
“They provided me the highest level of competition I’ve ever had during the offseason. The opportunity to work with PEH has been an absolute pleasure,” Jackson said.
“It was definitely great to have Carly out this summer for our summer league,” said Cormier.
“She was always ready and competed hard every night.”
“It was her compete level that jumped out every night and that really shows why she has had success,” explained Cormier who played eighteen seasons in Europe.
From Cumberland County, Nova Scotia to Orono Maine, to the professional ranks, it’s been long and winding for Carly Jackson. From the backyard rink to between the pipes, Jackson was destined to be behind the mask, destine to be her authentic self. The adversity Jackson faced early on in the game helped her progression and development not only as a goaltender, but has a person. Storage closets, boiler rooms, and concession areas were always a cold and dark reality. They were Jackson’s second home coming up through the minor hockey ranks. The harsh reality of being separated from her teammates and the only girl on the team never derailed her unwavering passion and love for the game.
“Most of the adversity I faced through my minor hockey career was being the only girl. That often meant that I was typically judged because of my gender, not because of my ability.”
Being judged can be overwhelming for anyone especially when the spotlight is constantly fixated in one place. There’s no question Jackson’s authentic self was forged in those moments of resiliency within the game and life.
Raw and real, that’s Carly Jackson, the goaltender and person. She’s opinionated, courageous, open and honest when it comes to playing the game and living her life. With the ongoing controversies surrounding hockey culture, how does Jackson hope to navigate that in her new surroundings in the game while carrying the torch of change and empowerment?
“I hope that the people within the game will understand the importance of why hockey culture needs to change and we understand how to do it.”
“It’s important that we take those steps every day to make it better for everyone,” Jackson said.
“To me that looks like creating an environment where people can feel safe, and be themselves.”
“This means eliminating toxic language, creating equal opportunity for all, and providing resources and programs for those who wish to try and play the sport.”
“There are many ways to improve the culture in sport, and the first that always comes to mind for me is to bring positivity and love to the rink.”
“It’s important to ask ourselves how we are affecting those around us.”
Many along the way told me to always “leave a place better than how you found it” and that is a valuable thing to keep in mind. Simply put, spread the joy you feel from playing the game you love, I think that would be a great place to start for everyone.”
“The game is for everyone” has become the common lexicon within the sporting world.
That phrase (“the game is for everyone”) creates mixed feelings for me.”
“I do believe the game should be for everyone, but currently I do not think that it is.”
“We have work to do in order to make that statement true.
“A great place to start in my eyes is asking those who work with the Women’s National Paralympic ice hockey team, who receive no funding, what the best way to support them would be.”
“In terms of a regular hockey fan, player, or maybe family member who wants to improve the culture of our great game, well it’s all about love, and go love some more,” Jackson said.
“We always need to be thinking of the big picture and why we play this game, because it is fun and the more people, we have included who are having fun, the even greater it becomes for everyone,” explained Jackson.
It’s surprising that Hockey Canada haven’t given Jackson an opportunity over the last few years to potentially landing a roster spot?
“Was I surprised, yes and no,” laughed Jackson said when asked that question.
“I’m a very competitive person and I like to think I can compete with the best and if I’m not there yet I certainly believe that I can grow to be.”
“There’s a lot of very talented goaltenders in Canada, which makes for incredibly fun competition. I loved my experiences and have always hoped to get another opportunity to represent my country as I think it would be a lot of fun, a chance to learn, and a great honour.”
“That being said I also love where I am at and the teams I’ve had the blessing of playing for. I get to do something I love for a living, and I am happy.”
“Wearing a maple leaf would be icing on the cake, but it’s also important to me that some changes are made within the organization.”
“The recent news of sexual assaults has been incredibly concerning. Justice needs to come to light and action needs to be taken so this will never happen again.”
Authenticity is rare, it’s never fully understood and often criticized. Those that dare to be authentic are never hiding, they are out in the open and exposed, but that’s exactly what them so special. Carly Jackson is the definition of authentic and that’s what makes her so special on and off the ice.