GENEVA – It was not the typical request a dad might anticipate from his young daughter, but Sidney Peters was adamant – she wanted hockey goaltending gear.
Initially, it was a tough sell for Peters, who said she was about 10 years old at the time.
“I always wanted to play goalie, but my dad kind of opposed the idea because he didn’t want to have to pay for the goalie pads, which are super expensive, and he didn’t know if I’d like it,” Peters said. “But once I finally talked him into it, I knew it was what I wanted to do, and I’ve loved doing it ever since.”
These days, Doug Peters is still forking over money because of his daughter’s zeal for hockey, but the haggling has stopped. The debate is over. His daughter is a natural.
Peters, a 17-year-old Geneva resident, is scheduled to leave today for Finland, where she will compete with the U.S. 18U team at the Women’s Ice Hockey World Championships. It is the second straight year she has represented the United States in the World Championships after the team took second place at last year’s event in the Czech Republic.
Peters has attended Geneva schools since elementary school but is taking a detour as a high school senior. She is spending most of the school year at the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Vt., an academy for elite, young female hockey players that also has an academic component.
She will return in March after her season with her NAHA team is through, and plans to complete her high school career with her fellow Geneva seniors. Peters already has committed to play collegiately for the University of Minnesota, the top-ranked women’s hockey program in the nation.
Peters played for the Chicago Mission travel hockey program the past five years before joining some of her Team USA teammates in September at NAHA.
“[Geneva High School] has been great with all the classes she missed because she missed like 20 days last year,” said Karen Peters, Sidney’s mother. “The school was phenomenal with it but as far as trying to make things up, she was either trying to catch up in her classes, or she was tired, so we thought this would be a way where she could combine [school and hockey]. She wouldn’t have to have the commute and always be playing catch-up.”
At NAHA, Peters and her teammates live in an old ski lodge. Their classrooms aren’t quite as quaint. Courses are taught in a partitioned, double-wide trailer in the back of the lodge.
“It’s something that we all make fun of and joke about but, at the end of the day, it’s a great way to do it,” Peters said. “It’s like being tutored. You have like two other people in your class. ... Everything is quicker. The classes are quicker and getting your homework done is easier because there is such a low ratio between the teachers and students.”
The NAHA team competes against U.S. and Canadian opponents and keeps a rigorous training regimen when on campus. The demographics of some of her teammates are a bit exotic for a midwestern girl; the goaltender with whom Peters splits time, Ashley Wilkes, hails from North Pole, Alaska.
Little did Peters know that hockey would expose her to so much of the world when she became intrigued by the sport watching her younger brother, Jake, play for the Fox Valley Ice Arena-based Cyclones when he was little.
Peters played on boys-dominated teams until she was 12 and there was an option to play for an all-girls team, the Flames. She later switched to the Woodridge-based Chicago Mission for the five years leading up to her acceptance at NAHA.
It was during her years with the Mission that Peters said goaltending coach Glenn Hoff developed her into an elite goaltender. Hoff said Peters has massive upside, even mentioning the Olympics as a possibility.
“She was just a step ahead of everybody else,” Hoff said. “You tell her something once, and she remembered and focused on her weaknesses and everything else. She was weak going to the left side on butterfly pad saves, and she’d work twice as hard at that until it was as strong as her right side.”
Naturally, few of Peters’ peers in Geneva can relate to her hockey-centric lifestyle, but she said she doesn’t mind filling in interested classmates on “what the hockey world’s like.”
She had a chance to do so during her two-week break in Geneva before departing for Helsinki.
“It’s always nice seeing everybody again but, at the same time, I miss my team back in Vermont,” Peters said. “It’s kind of like you’re always going to be missing somebody, but you always have people there for you, too, at the same time.”
The World Championships will take place from Dec. 29 to Jan. 5. Her family plans to fly to Finland separately to root on Peters, who still hasn’t completely let her dad off the hook for his initial reluctance to buy her gear.
“It’s always something I’m going to give him crap for,” Peters said.