No matter how long Julia Flinton spends away from her hometown, she’ll always call Williams Lake home.
The 19-year-old hockey star, who has deep-seeded roots in Williams Lake, is heading into her second season of an athletic scholarship with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association.
“Williams Lake will always be home to me,” she said.
“Lots of people I’m friends with can’t wait to get out and leave and never come back, but I didn’t have as many years there to start with and I think, yeah, probably, I’d live somewhere else career-wise if I had to, but my final goal is to move back there and live there for the rest of my life — just like my parents and my grandparents.”
Flinton began her journey in Williams Lake before relocating to Wilcox, Sask. to play hockey starting in Grade 8 with the Notre Dame Hounds.
Her parents, Hugh and Jane, and her youngest brother, Nicholas, 9, still live in Williams Lake. Her other brother, Cameron Flinton, 15, attends Notre Dame College.
“Back in Williams Lake, before hockey, I was involved with the Williams Lake Blue Fins and the Williams Lake Figure Skating Club,” she said.
“When I was nine, after both the Canadian women’s and men’s teams won gold medals in hockey at the Olympics in Salt Lake City, I switched to hockey and pretty much just played soccer and hockey.”
The switch to hockey — while not extremely popular for girls in Williams Lake to even play the sport at the time — ultimately, led Flinton down a path she’ll cherish for the rest of her life.
In 2011, Flinton, as a defenceman with the Notre Dame Hounds, won a women’s national midget championship, becoming the top team in the country.
While beginning her hockey career in Williams Lake, following a year of disappointment after slipping and breaking her leg at a hockey camp the previous summer, she made the local atom development team.
“That’s when I kind of knew hockey was going to be my sport,” she said.
She credits her parents, along with her coaches, for helping her reach her goals.
“When I first started it wasn’t a big thing for girls to play hockey,” she said. “The only other girl on my team in Williams Lake was Julie Palmantier, and that was in my first year of peewee.”
She said winning a national championship was an amazing experience.
“I definitely won’t forget something like that and it will definitely be one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of my hockey career,” she said. “My best friend was on the team, and to win something like that with 18 of your best friends, the feeling is unexplainable.”
This past summer Flinton returned home to Williams Lake to work, where she got a job as a fire fighter for BC Forests.
“It was unreal,” she said of the experience. “I definitely enjoyed myself and I’m definitely going back next year. It was awesome.”
Aside from hockey, Flinton is working on completing an agriculture degree at the University of Saskatchewan. She also spent some time this past summer picking up a few new hobbies.
“I tried to learn how to rope, because my little brother is into rodeo,” she said. “I just kind of try new things as I go because I’m able to.”
Flinton and the Huskies open their season this weekend against the Mount Royal Cougars.
“We’re a good team,” she said. “We’re very young. We have quite a few rookies this year but I think that will be a weapon for us because teams maybe won’t expect all the talent we have.”
As for what’s in store for the future, Flinton said she’s going to take things as they come.
“[Playing for Team Canada] was always a dream of mine but your dreams change,” she said.
“I think after five years playing hockey here and getting my degree I’ll be ready to settle down and get a job and hopefully start a family.”