The old trope about hockey greats learning to skate before they can run gets told so often it could be an urban legend. But in Tristan Thompson’s case, it couldn’t be truer.
Inspired by her hockey and rugby-playing dad, Jarrett, Tristan first laced up skates at age three, briefly played ringette, then found her passion in hockey.
Since then, the poised 16-year-old has won gold for Team Ontario in lacrosse (she also lit the Canada Summer Games flame on Parliament Hill that year), represents the province in women’s hockey, and despite being in high school, is already committed to Boston’s Northeastern University, where she’ll play hockey and pursue a degree in criminal science and history. And if you don’t recognize her from her many appearances in the media and on TSN, you soon will.
With aspirations to one day play women’s hockey for Team Canada, Tristan tells CAA Magazine about how she manages competitive sports, driving her siblings around and being a role model to young women.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What sports do you play at the moment?
I play in U22 Elite Ontario Women’s Hockey League, the highest level you can go to in girls‘ hockey before a university or college level. I’m moving to Toronto to pursue that a little further. I also play lacrosse and some other sports. (Editor’s note: She plays five sports competitively – lacrosse, hockey, volleyball, basketball and football.)
You were on Team Ontario at the Canada Summer Games in 2022, how was that experience?
We won gold, which was awesome. It was the first-time girls’ lacrosse had been introduced at the games, so I think it was an honour. It was just a great experience.
Your name is being mentioned at lot in competitive sport for one day representing Canada and going even further internationally. How does representing Canada in competitive sports feel like as a 16-year-old?
I think it’s still like a dream. Like, it’s been a goal of mine for such a long time. I’m just very excited to see where everything goes.
So, let’s take it back to childhood. You’re just a little one and your dad is into sport, and your brothers are into sport. Where do you enter that whole world and figure out, you’re naturally gifted?
So, I actually started as a ringette player. I started having skates at the age of three because Dad was a hockey player. I didn’t really love playing [ringette], so he introduced me to hockey. Mum said I’m never going to be a crazy hockey mum. Little did we know, but she is now!
Explain to people who are maybe not athletic what the allure is of playing some of these sports?
Hockey is a team sport. You make lifelong friendships, but you also get to develop leadership skills, which I think is a huge draw for me. Time management is also a huge, a huge thing that you gain from sports.
You're quite young to be so poised and you've been interviewed on TSN across the country. Do you just approach that with the same level of confidence that you do when you're getting out on the ice?
I think my parents are huge help with that. But it’s a certain amount of confidence in yourself. When it comes to sports in general, you have a certain confidence in yourself. And I kind of think I bring that to anything I pursue, and I’m hoping that kind of stays the same throughout my career.
Speaking of confidence, you got your driver’s license recently. What does that mean to you in terms of independence? What was the first thing you dad did, as a young CAA Member?
He put me in CAA Head Start, which is for new drivers. So, I am insured, of course; I feel a little safer on that. But it was very exciting to get my driver’s license as a taxi for my siblings. They were very excited about that and having just the freedom of driving.
So, heroes, people that you look up to. Who is doing what you want to be doing?
Megan Keller. She’s a defender. She is a huge advocate for women in sports. She has her own podcast. She kind of talks about everything, and she is very close to my playing style. And then of course Marie Phillip Poulin or Natalie Spooner, who are huge advocates for women in sports, which I also hope to do later as my career kicks off.
As a role model yourself, it’s an unusual place to be when you’re 16. How do you sort of view that position?
I find a sense of pride when anybody comes up to me and says that they love my playing style or they were watching me play. But when it comes to being a role model, I have two siblings, so they always look up to me. Then I coached a few teams. It’s always great to see these little kids grow up to achieve their dreams and what they aspire to be. It’s a great thing to see.