Sophomore goalie Camille Leonard stepped into a larger role in her second season with the Cardinals and has found great success, posting a 15-2 record and a 1.17 goals-against average to go with a half-dozen shutouts.
Leonard’s hockey success, however, she attributes to her family.
Her grandfather, Martin Börner, or “Opi,” as his 13 grandchildren called him, passed away Nov. 8. However, he left behind a lasting impression on the person Leonard is today.
“He was my father figure growing up,” she said. “He just showed me what a good man is supposed to be.”
Leonard described her grandfather as a goofy, selfless and positive man who made sure to instill the importance of family in his children and grandchildren.
“He was just an amazing human and always ready to put a smile on somebody’s face,” she said. “He would just be happy and find the silver lining in everything.
“Just don’t be afraid to chase your dream — that was his main thing — but never to forget the people who helped you get there. It’s also why I’m so close to my mom and my siblings. He always made sure we knew how important family was.”
This closeness with family is also shared by Leonard’s mother, Hilary Börner, and Leonard said that she and her three siblings — Emilie, Olivier and Gabrielle — have been the beneficiaries of their mother’s support, sacrifice and hard work.
“She’s the most caring person I’ve ever met… I can’t even put it into words,” Leonard said. “Anything we want to do, she works so hard to make that possible. She learned that from my grandfather, and now she’s passing it down to us. She has a huge heart.”
After moving from Montreal when she was a bit over a year old, Leonard’s path truly began growing up in Oakville, Ontario, where she took interest in sports at a young age.
Swimming, soccer, basketball and, most of all, hockey played a large role in her life, as Leonard continued with the latter three throughout high school.
However, hockey always had a special place in her heart.
“With hockey, I was just able to get lost in the game,” Leonard said. “I just got to the rink and nothing else mattered.”
Leonard received a unique opportunity to play hockey overseas when she was 14, competing in Sweden, Iceland and Finland.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I went by myself with the rest of the team and got to see what it’s like to play in Europe, which ultimately led to my end goal now to continue my playing career in Europe.”
When it came to choosing a school, deciding on Plattsburgh State to continue her hockey career had a lot to do with how comfortable she felt when she visited the school, Leonard said.
Head coach Kevin Houle also has a history of success recruiting from her junior team, the Oakville Jr. Hornets, as Leonard is one of four current Cardinals — Mia Favretto, Andrea Ziesmann and Caitlin Gilligan are the other three — to play for the Hornets.
“We got a chance to watch her on several occasions the previous year and we thought she was definitely a quality goaltender,” Houle said. “She’s calm, she doesn’t get too up or too down when she gives up a goal or makes a big play. She’s steady back there.”
Last year, Leonard didn’t find much playing time with three-time All-American goalie Sydney Aveson helping lead the Cards to an NCAA Division III Championship. However, Leonard’s time on the bench allowed her to learn, she said.
“My role was way different last year and I learned how to be a good teammate,” Leonard said. “I think every goalie wants to have a career like Sydney had here. It just motivated me to be the best goalie I can be.”
Off the ice, sophomore forward Katelyn Turk, Leonard’s roommate for the past two years, said she has enjoyed getting the opportunity to become closer to her teammate and friend.
“She’s very easy to get along with,” Turk said. “Freshmen look up to her and come to her for advice, even about stuff that isn’t related to hockey.”
Now comfortable in her role with the Cards, Leonard has continued to find comfort at the rink, which she says brings together her love for both her family and hockey.
Her grandfather was Leonard’s No. 1 fan on the ice, even though distance prevented him from regularly attending games.
However, his support was always felt by Leonard, even if he wasn’t there in the stands.
“Every time before a big game, he would tell me to ‘catch some pucks’ for him,” she said. “He would say that that was our way of communicating, no matter how far apart we were.”
Her grandfather’s example of always finding the silver lining in life and chasing your dream, Leonard said, has given her reason to pursue her interest in playing in Europe, especially in her grandfather’s home country of Germany, after graduation.
And although she keeps the birthdates of her mother, siblings, niece and grandparents on her hockey stick and “Opi” written on the inside of her glove since she came to PSUC, Leonard decided to add some further sentimental value to her gear after her grandfather’s passing.
“I added his initials to the back of my helmet when he passed away,” she said. “It’s just something extra that helps me know that he’s always there.”
Email Zachary Ripple at email@example.com