Haneet Parhar thought she was done with hockey after university, but through coaching, the BFL Female Coach of the Year found her way back to the game
Haneet Parhar didn’t always have hockey in her plans. But for one reason or
another, hockey always found a way back into her life. And for that, Parhar
is forever grateful for the opportunities she’s had through the game.
Her passion for giving back to the sport that gave her so much has led to
her being honoured as the BFL Female Coach of the Year in the High
“There’s been so many times in my life where I’ve told myself ‘This is it, I
don’t know if I’ll ever go back to a rink or pick up my skates,’ and then
boom, I come back to hockey,” Parhar says.
As a student-athlete at the University of British Columbia, there was a lot
of uncertainty if she would even make the Thunderbirds roster. She would
eventually have a very successful U SPORTS career, winning three Canada West
championships, but her time at UBC also kicked off a career in coaching that
she never imagined.
From wanting to just stay involved as an 18-year-old undergrad student,
working as a coach in community rink programs and UBC hockey camps in the
summer, it reminded Parhar of the joy she found in hockey, for herself and
the kids in her programs.
“Doing it throughout my school and varsity career at UBC, I coached at the
recreational level for five-and-a-half years,” she says. “When you start at
that level, I really did it because I loved it. You see the kids smile and
it’s really easy to take away that hardcore style of coaching and do it for
fun. It was a great fit for me.”
Coaching kids from ages six to 15, not only did it motivate Parhar to get
the kids to participate, but it also reminded her how special it was growing
up with hockey.
“It reminded me of when I was young when we played sports for fun, too.
Being able to provide that opportunity for kids to have a safe space for
themselves and allow them to branch out, that’s what matters.”
When her Thunderbirds career came to an end in 2017, Parhar was ready to
hang up the skates, with the expectation that she had already given
everything she had to the sport. Looking back to her time in appreciation,
she’s thankful for how all the coaching staff, led by head coach Graham
Thomas and assistant coach Mike Sommer, inspired her. It wasn’t until after
she left the UBC program that she realized how far their influence went.
A year after graduating, working full-time while coaching for fun on the
side with her hometown North Shore Avalanche, Parhar received a call from
Thomas that opened up a new path in her life.
“I didn’t think coaching would be my end-all, be-all,” Parhar explains. “I
wasn’t a star player, I wasn’t a captain, but [Thomas] said he wanted a new
voice. I came in with my experience as a player who knew the culture and the
system, what it meant to be a role player and owning it, and I was there for
the girls as someone who went through five years with the team.”
After a single season back at UBC, Parhar decided she wanted continue to
explore her career options, deciding to give up the game once again, pack up
and move to England to pursue a degree in law. And as the sport would have
it, hockey found her again.
“I was sitting in England during the pandemic, waiting for a train in
pouring rain, just two months away from graduating in May, when I received
another phone call from Graham. It had been two years since I last coached,
and he asked me if I’m coming home and if I’d be able to coach in the
upcoming year,” Parhar recalls. “Of course, I say yes, and I go to training
camp and see the players, and instantly that passion came rushing back.”
Since then, she’s been able to not only provide coaching on the hockey side,
but also bring her experience of being a former player that thought they had
nothing left to give to the sport, before realizing the importance of
sticking with her passion.
This past year, on top of holding the role of assistant coach with the
Thunderbirds, Parhar also continued to coach within the community with the
Vancouver Female Ice Hockey Association. At the community level, she’s
continues giving back and supporting young girls in hockey, much like how
she was supported growing up.
“For a lot of female hockey players now, they didn’t have a female role
model, so now that I’m in that position, I think of how cool it must be for
these girls to grow up having a role model that they can truly relate to,”
At the end of the day, although it wasn’t always her plan to be a coach,
Parhar is enjoying every moment of it, and working to share her experiences
with hockey and what it has meant to her after all these years.
“It’s always been for the kids,” Parhar concludes. “To have someone they can
see that looks like them, as tall as them, I want to be there for the girls
and show them that all they need is the right energy, positivity and