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Grizzlies captain Ella Stamer leads her senior season drive for Founders Cup

By Ross Forman, 12/18/23, 7:30AM CST


Ella Stamer played in her first-ever hockey game years ago in what was only her fifth time ever skating. She was playing house league on an outdoor rink and laughs that she had to “wiggle my butt to get across the ice.” Her teammates were mostly all boys, as were her opponents and she was pushed around the whole game and had just a few seconds with the puck.

Still, she was smiling ear to ear after the game.

“I was barely mobile on the ice but was cheered on the whole time by my teammates,” she said. “It showed me I had a real family on the ice. I had never had more fun; I had never wanted to work at something more. At that moment I was inevitable, unhurtable hockey turned into my love.”

The 17-year-old Stamer – who lives in LaGrange Park and is a senior at Lyons Township High School – started playing on a YMCA co-ed team, in an outdoor league in 2017 at age 11. She played there for one season and said it was “a great experience.”

There was one other girl on the team and all the boys were super welcoming, she said. “I remember one boy on my team who played club and just did house league for fun; his name was Vinny,” Stamer said. “Every single game, I would barely be able to skate to the end of the ice and he would wait for me to get to the net and pass it to me every single time. Instead of taking the shot and scoring, knowing I would most likely not score, but (he) did it because he knew scoring would mean more to me than to him. It was those selfless moments that made me love the sport and want to continue playing.”

She then moved to the Sabres, Bruins, Chiefs and ultimately, for the past three seasons, the co-op Burlington Central Grizzlies, a Metro Girls club filled with students from Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Lyons Township and Willowbrook.

The Grizzlies are skating for the Founders Cup against Loyola, Lake Forest, Maine, Lake Forest Academy and Evanston.

Stamer is the Grizzlies’ captain, just as she was last season.

“Getting to lead these groups of girls,” is her career highlight, she said. “There are so many strong, outspoken, responsible and respectful women (on the team). They all have changed my life in numerous ways, and getting to lead them is just amazing.”

The right-handed shooting Stamer plays defense, usually right defense, but due to a limited number of left-handed shooting teammates, she has played both sides of the ice. She is a defensive-focused player who “(is) always making sure the puck doesn’t go into the back of the net.” She is loud on the ice, always calling teammates by name for passes, or calling play.

“(My) positivity,” is a key asset, she said. “I am always everyone’s cheerleader during games, practices and warmups. I love hyping up my teammates.

“My favorite on-ice moment came during the last four minutes of our semi-final tiering-round game. We were up by 1 and the last few minutes consisted of play in our zone. I put everything into those last few moments. Then, at the last minute, a girl on my team hit an empty netter and instantly chilled my nerves. Fifteen seconds later, another teammate scored and the celebration was surreal because we knew we had won. It was a huge win for the underdogs, as it was only year two of the Grizzlies.”

Stamer’s on-ice drive comes from her dad, she said. “He fully supported my decision in 7th grade to play hockey and quit swimming. He found a place for me to play and spent the money on gear. He has yet to miss one of my games or (my) siblings who play water polo and soccer. Even when he had my little sister’s tournament. my game was streamed on Live Barn. And I still got the classic dad talk after (he watched). He is my biggest cheerleader and spent hours upon hours driving me around from practice to practice, game to game, tournament to tournament.”

The Grizzlies are poised for a run at the Founder Cup crown. Though the team is filled with newcomers, she said the chemistry has been solid, on and off the ice.

“We are a very supportive team; we always back our teammates and protect them. We are so close; everyone knows everyone and we’ve created a Grizzlies family. I would consider all those girls my sisters,” she said.

Stamer is still undecided on her college plans for next fall, though she is looking at colleges in the Midwest and wants to play Division III or club hockey. She plans to major in biology (molecular and cellular) as a prerequisite to medical school. She wants to be a pediatrician.

Slapshots With … Grizzlies defenseman Ella Stamer

Hockey Superstitions: “I am super big on not saying something before it happens like ‘We’ll win’ or ‘We’ll lose’ in fear of jinxing anything. I always tie my skates outside of the locker room; I’ve always done this as a quick head clear before the game, and it has turned into a must before every game.”

Off The Ice: She sails competitively. “I started my sophomore year of high school on the varsity team; I am not sailing this fall season because of time (constraints), but plan to continue this spring.”

Off The Ice, Round 2: “I run the Older Adult Connections Club at my school. I have been involved since my sophomore year and (have been) the events coordinator (since) the end of my sophomore year. Older Adult Connections brings companionship to local retirement home residents by playing games, writing letters and hosting social events with them. This club has been my favorite thing about high school; I have met so many amazing people and have learned so much,” through the club.

Off The Ice, Round 3: Has been on the board of Pack Leaders since the end of her junior year, participating since her sophomore year. Pack Leaders show exchange and transfer students the school and it is “another club where I have met so many people.”

Summertime: Goes to Camp Crosley, an Indiana YMCA camp that she has been going to since she was 10. The past two years, she has been a counselor-in-training.

Work Time: She worked at Antonino’s, a local pizza restaurant, for close to three years as a hostess.

Study Time: Is a member of the National Honor Society and French National Honor Society.

More Studying: Was an exchange student in France for two weeks this past spring. “I stayed with an amazing family in Rennes and was so welcomed.”

Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks

Favorite NHL Player: Duncan Keith

Favorite Sports-themed Movies: Miracle and Blindside

Favorite TV Show: Big Bang Theory

Favorite Pre-game Meal: “I get super nervous before games and prefer to play on an empty stomach so my pre-game (meal) is usually fruit or a granola bar. Post-game, my go-to is Portillo’s with the girls, and the chopped salad is my favorite.”

Favorite app: Helix Jump

Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Drew Barrymore

Best Hockey Tip: “It was my first-ever travel practice and I was in sweats. I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes and my stomach was (in knots); you could see it all over my face. Coach Thompson came up to me and said, ‘This first practice is going to be the hardest, if you can do this, you can do the rest.’ That chilled all my anxiety, all I had to do was get through that practice and it would be easier from there. I still think this way about everything: my first week of camp, my first day on the job, or my first anything.”

Hardest Slapshot on Grizzlies: Bella Brogan

Most Accurate Shot on Grizzlies: Amelia Laskowski – “She can go bar-down from anywhere and everywhere.”

Grizzlies Player Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Ashley Ashbaugh

Best High School Uniform (other than Grizzlies): Lake Forest