Rugby star Tyson Beukeboom is about to begin her hockey coaching career with the Cowichan Secondary School Thunderbirds. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Rugby star Tyson Beukeboom is about to begin her hockey coaching career with the Cowichan Secondary School Thunderbirds. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan rugby star Beukeboom hits the ice with Cowichan Secondary hockey team

A chance meeting at a restaurant landed a rugby star a position as assistant coach

A chance meeting at a restaurant landed a rugby star a position as assistant coach of Cowichan Secondary School’s girls ice hockey team.

Tyson Beukeboom was eating dinner when a man at the next table overheard her talking about hockey and introduced himself. That man was Mike Moroz, the head coach of the Cow High girls hockey team, and he eventually convinced her to join his staff.

Beukeboom has played a lot of hockey, and has coached rugby, but this will be her first time behind the bench of a hockey team.

“It should be good,” she said. “It should be interesting, at least.”

Beukeboom hasn’t really played hockey in about seven years, since her first year of university, but she’s optimistic she can help the Thunderbirds and bring a sense of fun to the team.

“Hopefully I can teach some systems and skills things,” she said. “It will be a learning experience for me as well, coaching hockey and sports in general.”

Coming from a hockey family — her dad, Jeff, retired from the NHL in 1999 with 804 games played and four Stanley Cup rings with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers — Beukeboom played the sport at the top levels growing up in Ontario, then earned a dual scholarship to play hockey and rugby at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

Playing two competitive sports and going to school full-time ended up being a huge challenge, and Beukeboom had to pick one. The choice was relatively easy.

“I knew I had a better chance of going farther in rugby,” she said.

It ended up being the right decision as Beukeboom became a fixture with the national women’s rugby team after graduation, playing for Canada at World Cups in 2014 — winning a silver medal — and 2017.

It was preparation for the 2017 World Cup that brought Beukeboom to the Cowichan Valley. She relocated to Vancouver Island to train, since B.C. is the only province that plays rugby year-round. What was supposed to be a three-month stay became more permanent.

“I liked it, so I stayed,” said Beukeboom, who plays with the Cowichan Rugby Football Club’s senior women’s team and works for Integra Support Services, an agency that provides support for people with a range of abilities.

Because of her rugby commitments, Beukeboom hasn’t even had time for recreational hockey since she stepped away from the competitive game, and she is looking forward to getting back on the ice.

“I miss playing for fun,” she said. “It will be nice to get back in.”

The Thunderbirds, who will get back in action shortly after school resumes next week, have also added Emily Vaughan to their coaching staff.

Vaughan is a product of Lake Cowichan who played last year with the female midget AAA Vancouver Island Seals and will begin studying education at VIU this fall.