Growing up in Regina, Bisons women’s hockey captain Erica Rieder had the stereotypical hockey family experience.
“My brother was big into hockey, and then my parents put me into hockey, and my sister went into hockey — so we were a big hockey family,” said Rieder.
Now in her final year with the brown-and-gold, Rieder’s hockey journey went from normal beginnings to a championship pinnacle.
The 22-year-old was playing hockey in Saskatchewan when Bisons head coach Jon Rempel recruited her to the University of Manitoba.
“Jon Rempel […] was really good at recruiting, he was probably the best and he gave me the best offer, so I took it,” said Rieder.
She was also recruited by the UBC Thunderbirds prior to committing with Manitoba, even flying out for a campus visit, but decided the distance was too much.
Although Winnipeg is much closer to home, allowing her parents to drive in and see her play, the move was not without hang-ups.
“Winnipeg was all new and I didn’t know anyone,” said Rieder.
“But I took a leap and it paid off.”
The decision to join the Bisons paid off in the best way possible last season, when the herd captured its first national championship.
Though for Rieder, winning Canada West meant a tad more.
“I think being in [London] and winning nationals was one thing,” said Rieder.
“But winning [Canada West] here in our building with all of our fans and all of the other sports teams here, that was, I think, my most favourite memory from last year.”
The two championships did not come easily.
Rieder and the rest of the Bisons endured their fair share of hardship — the team lost a Canada West finals in 2016 and was bounced in the second round the year after — but she admits it brought the team closer together.
“We’ve become so close over the past couple of years and we’ve been through a lot,” said Rieder.
“We didn’t always win. I know it’s a theme now, we’re always winning but […] us core as a group, we’ve lost a lot and so last year was really nice to get that win.”
The defender was named Bisons captain in the offseason following the departure of her long-time defensive partner Caitlin Fyten.
The most important thing, said Rieder, is to “lead by example.”
“Going out there every day and making sure I have more good days than bad days,” she said.
“Just trying to go into the dressing room and maybe helping those younger players be integrated into the program.”
One way she leads is by bringing her environmentally conscious attitude to the Bisons dressing room.
“I’m very sticky about recycling in our dressing room,” said Rieder.
“The other girls don’t really like that. I call them out on it.”
This drive to protect the planet comes from her education.
Rieder will graduate with an environmental studies degree in the spring.
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten more passionate about the environment and saving the environment,” said Rieder.
The end of her Bisons career does not mean the end of her hockey career. Rieder plans to take a shot at playing professionally.
“My plan is to go to Europe next year and play hockey,” said Rieder.
“I don’t really know exactly where yet, maybe Sweden, but that’s my plan, to just further pursue hockey.”
The 22-year-old has already been planning ahead and emailing some coaches in European leagues. Rieder also has some in-house resources helping her transition to play overseas.
“I have Venla Hovi from last year, she’s a good contact,” said Rieder.
“And Maggie [Litchfield-Medd], our assistant coach, she coached and played in Sweden.”
Rieder has become a pillar for the herd during her career and feels ready for the professional grind, but knows she can grow even more as a pro.
“My game right now has really improved and I feel really good about it,” said Rieder.
“I think to just stop it right here, I wouldn’t be so happy with that.”
For now, though, the Bisons captain is focused on the post-season ahead. The Bisons enter the Canada West playoffs with a bye to the semi-finals.
“I think we have that core group in there that knows what it takes,” said Rieder.
“We won’t stop. We won’t stop pushing and I think we’re in for an exciting playoff run.”