Submitted by Jenelle Manitowabe
The name ‘Gardner’ has been earning a solid reputation in Hockeytown, USA — Warroad, MN — where Eagle Lake’s Kayla Gardner, her hockey playing sisters and her parents relocated to help them to develop their on-ice skills.
Once a former Dryden AA Paper King at the age of nine, Kayla Gardner is preparing for her CWHL debut with the Calgary Inferno after being drafted 33rd overall in the fifth round.
The 23 year-old University of North Dakota alumnus says many years of discipline and sacrifice between herself and her family have led to this exciting moment in her hockey career.
“When I found out I got drafted by the Calgary Inferno I was surrounded by family who were just as excited as me, which motivated me to want to do well for both them and myself,” said Gardner. “If you have a goal or a dream, chase it and never give up. It may not be easy or you may not achieve it right away but continue to work hard and do everything you can in order to achieve that goal. In the end all your hard work and sacrifices will be worth it.”
The Gardners made the choice to relocate to Warroad when Kayla was in eighth grade.
She and her sisters started their careers with the Warroad Lady Warriors of the Minnesota High School Hockey League, helping them qualify to the state championships all four years as well as qualifying for all-state teams in her junior and senior years. In her final year as a Warroad Lady Warrior, Kayla served as captain ending her high school career with 211 points in 75 games with an average of 2.8. points per game.
Moving into Division 1 NCAA play at UND, the Criminal Justice major wrapped up her college career with 32 points in 146 games.
Determined to go farther in hockey, Gardner, staying true to her roots, credits a big part of who she is today to the influence and overwhelming support from her parents, grandparent and community of Eagle Lake since the beginning. Gardner finds motivation from being looked up to as a role model to be the best she can be on and off the ice.
“I am proud to be Anishinaabe and I am proud to represent First Nation people.”