By Doug Kennedy
Kaitlyn McDonnell’s work ethic and competitive spirit, along with her hockey skills, have combined to take her on a journey to many places in Canada and Europe. As her KDSS coach Dianne Pennington has said, she’s still affectionately known as Kait Mac.
McDonnell grew up in Kincardine with her brother Jason, and her parents Tracy and Glen. She played in the Kincardine Minor Hockey Association from Timbit through midget and then played intermediate C hockey with the Tiverton Thunder. She was also a member of very good KDSS teams, coached by the aforementioned Pennington.
“Whether it was basketball or hockey, Kait was an extremely hard worker and dedicated team player,” said Pennington. “She was the captain of our OFSAA hockey team that won a bronze medal. She was also a huge part of many BAA championship basketball teams that went on to compete at the CWOSSA championships.”
From 2011-2016, McDonnell played for the University of Waterloo’s women’s hockey team. One of her favourite highlights was making the playoffs in her third year – only the second-ever OUA playoff appearance for the Warriors.
When she joined the Warriors, the program hadn’t had much success for a long time. That playoff season was the start of a competitive run. I only got to one game in her five years at Waterloo, but it was no surprise to Cathy and I that she was one of the hardest-working players on the ice in that game.
If you don’t know, McDonnell made the Warriors as a walk-on – a rare achievement in university sports. Her leadership skills made her stand out among her teammates when she was named team captain for the final two years.
Her biggest role models were Caitlin Brydges and Kelly MacLean, two veterans of the Waterloo team during her first two years. She credits Brydges and MacLean with being instrumental in the development of the work ethic she has to this day, along with the importance of being a good teammate. Not surprisingly, her two biggest supporters are her mom and dad, who no doubt could make the drive from Kincardine to Waterloo, blindfolded.
“I wouldn’t have gone as far as I have in hockey without their guidance,” McDonnell said.
After graduating from Waterloo, McDonnell played three years of senior hockey in Kitchener-Waterloo before heading overseas to play one season with the Neuberg Highlanders in the European Women’s Hockey League. The Euro league includes teams from Austria, Italy, Denmark, Hungary, Slovakia and Kazakhstan. She enjoyed her year in the small Austrian community and the opportunity to travel in Europe.
Her future plans are to continue playing hockey in the K/W area. She would love to return to the athletics department at the University of Waterloo and be involved in some capacity with varsity athletics programs.
Now back in the K-W area, McDonnell just finished her third season with the Kitchener Rangers in the OWHA senior women’s league. She is hoping to return to the University of Waterloo in some capacity with the school’s athletic program.
As a young person growing up in Kincardine and working for me, she showed a maturity beyond her years that fed those leadership skills and, of course, that incredible drive. Just as important, her personality made her the type of person that folks wanted to be around.
What I realized about McDonnell, when she worked for me at a young age, was that she was a really good athlete. She always had a solid work effort. She has a personality you would always want to be around and always showed leadership skills at a young age. Today’s crop of Warriors would certainly benefit from having Kaitlyn McDonnell back on campus.