Columbia’s first female hockey player enjoying the ride

Columbia’s Jadie Mercille (right) plays the puck against Edwardsville earlier this season. (Greg Stanek photo)

Jadie Mercille is the only girl to ever lace up the skates for the Columbia Ice Eagles hockey program.

Mercille, a senior, is about to close a chapter of her life she says “has been a long ride, but a fun one, too.”

Jadie came into the lives of Doug and Sandy Mercille when she was 3 years old as a foster child. She was first exposed to hockey by them watching and attending Blues hockey games.

“I have always been a huge Blues fan. I loved Keith Tkachuk,” Jadie said. “But a flier I brought home from school is what really started my hockey journey.”

That paper sent home with her from school was about a program that would start her hockey experience.

“She was a little un-coordinated as a young girl and when she brought that flier home I thought this would be a good way to help her with that,” Doug said. “She did the program and fell in love with the game.”

During the course of the program, the Mercilles’ adoption of Jadie was finalized and hockey would become a dominant part of all their lives.

Jadie has played hockey ever since and also played basketball and volleyball in high school, but hockey has always been her true love.

The Mercilles lived in Barnhart, Mo., when Jadie was young, so she played her youth hockey with the Meramec Sharks. Doug coached many of her youth teams and is an assistant with the Ice Eagles. Sandy has served as team manager for several of Jadie’s teams.

Jadie has always played on a boys team, but in the sixth grade the family looked into an allgirls team, Lady Lightning, from the Twin Bridges Hockey Club.

“We looked into the all-girls team then, because at that age, checking is allowed and we didn’t know how well she would like that,” Doug said.

“We tried to start an all-girls team at Meramec but it didn’t work out.”

Jadie has played for the allgirls team ever since as well as continuing to play for a boys team. To say that hockey dominates the Mercilles’ lives would be an understatement.

Her freshman year at Columbia, Jadie played on the high school junior varsity and varsity hockey teams as well as a girls’ traveling team and also played volleyball and basketball for Columbia. She quit basketball her sophomore year to concentrate on hockey and had her busiest year by far.

“I played in 98 hockey games that season,” she said. Jadie said it was not easy her freshman year being the only girl on an all-boys high school team.

“I had played with some of the boys my age coming up in youth hockey and it was OK from their perspective, but it was harder for the older players who had never played with a girl before,” Jadie said. “It was an adjustment for them, but I just worked really hard to improve my game and show them I belong here.”

Jadie said playing on an all boys team is like “having a bunch of big brothers who are always looking out for you. They always have my back. I love all my teammates.”

It is a toss-up as to who she prefers playing hockey with. “It’s easier for me to talk with the girls and to anticipate what they would do in a certain situation because I know what I would do in that situation,” Jadie said.

The girls game is a lot different from the boys game. Since checking is not allowed, it’s more about skill and puck movement.

“She is one of the top players on the girls side, so it’s easier for her to move around the ice,” Doug said. “She is a little more challenged with the boys because it’s a faster and more physical game than the girls play.”

The highlight of her playing career happened last year when she got to attend the “American Showcase” in Pittsburgh. It is an invitation-only event held for high school players from across the country to showcase their talent for college scouts.

She went through the MVCHA and was one of only three girls from this area to attend. Jadie played on an all-girls team at the showcase with players from Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin. They played in a five-game tournament over the weekend against teams from across the country and took first place.

“It was the best experience of my life so far,” she said. When high school is over, that will not be the end of her hockey career. Jadie is looking into either McKendree or Lindenwood, where she can continue playing hockey and pursue her dream of being a creative writer. But she does have mixed emotions about her final year of high school.

“It is bittersweet. I am ready to be done with high school but I will miss the friends I have made and, most of all, I will miss playing hockey and all the friends I have made through hockey,” Jadie said.

Columbia head coach Kevin Feager has been very pleased with Jadie’s play over the years on defense for the Ice Eagles.

“You can tell she has played hockey for a long time,” he said.

“She is a very steady player for us. She knows her positioning and makes a lot of very good decisions.”

Columbia’s season is not over yet. The Ice Eagles began a best-of-three series with rival Freeburg-Waterloo Tuesday in the first round of the MVCHA playoffs.

“It’s going to be challenging, for sure,” Jadie said of facing the Raging Bulldogs “They are our biggest rival and a very good team. We will have to be on our game against them.”

Doug and Sandy have been very involved in Jadie’s hockey and are very proud of the player and young woman she has become.

“It’s consumed our lives. But it has been great,” Doug said. “I saw how much fun she had playing and started playing myself. She also got me into coaching, so it has been a lot of fun.”

Jadie has come a long way since she was that young girl living with the Mercilles as a foster child. Hockey has been a big part of their lives from day one. Even after Jadie’s playing days come to an end, it’s safe to say hockey will still be a big part of their lives.

Could we someday see the Ice Eagles with a father-daughter coaching duo?

“I would like to be a coach one day, maybe follow in my dad’s footsteps,” Jadie said. “I am very grateful for my parents always encouraging me and being there for me. I’m also very grateful for the opportunities hockey has given me and the many friends I have made through hockey. It’s been a long ride, but we made it.”


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