O’Hara and Hickerty on the enduring strength of friendship

There are certain milestones in life that stand out. Graduations and weddings are among the notable ones that mark transitions to new phases in our lives. For Class of 2006 Edge alumni Caitlin O’Hara and Nicole McNaughton (nee Hickerty) these milestones reflect very different paths, but also the enduring strength and importance of friendship.

Caitlin and Nicole were best friends at Edge School. Together with Taryn Peacock and Jessica Shanahan, the girls had formed a tight-knit group. When they graduated in 2006, their paths were about to diverge in some unexpected ways.

Both Caitlin and Nicole acknowledge that their friendship got off to a rocky start. They were familiar with each other as hockey players, competing against each other on boys hockey teams when they were young.

“We started playing spring hockey at Foothills Elite together in grade eight,” Caitlin explains. “I wasn’t very nice to her at first.”

“When we met, I said hi and introduced myself, but she just glared at me and was so rude,” Nicole says with a laugh.

But school and hockey helped them connect and form a lifelong bond. “In high school, hockey brought us together. Our teams would play against each other and we had that connection,” Caitlin says.

“When I tell people about my high school … we were so lucky. We were a family. We all knew everybody on such a personal level, like a team,” Nicole explains.

Still, Nicole acknowledges that her last couple years of high school were not without challenges. Her parents were going through a divorce in her final year and she was able to lean on her close friends and teachers for support. “Cait was my best friend at that point. Having someone stand by you like she has solidifies a friendship.”

After graduating from Edge, Caitlin went on to the University of Calgary, playing hockey for the Dinos and pursuing her degree in education. School and hockey have been consistent aspects of life for Caitlin. Over the years she has stayed connected with Edge School as a teacher and a coach and she continues to keep close ties with the Dinos. She currently teaches grade six at Mother Mary Green School in Calgary.

Although she had offers from U.S. colleges, Nicole lost her spark for hockey near the end of high school and decided not to play in grade 12. She began working right after high school, then backpacked through Europe. Nicole met her husband and married at 20. Now living in Medicine Hat, she is the mother of a ten-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. After working with Tarpon Energy for eight years, she now runs a successful florist business.

Taking such different directions, it would have been easy to drift apart. However, the connection Caitlin and Nicole had built through high school was strong. “It’s funny to look at totally different life paths, but we are still such good friends,” Nicole says.

Caitlin identifies honesty as the glue that has kept their friendship so strong. “We are honest with each other, and it has been good to have someone to reach out to who is doing something different. There is mutual respect, and we expect the best from each other,” she says.

Reflecting their different paths, their weddings took place ten years apart. Nicole was married August 9, 2008 and Caitlin on August 4, 2018. Still, they were by each other’s side at their wedding ceremonies and continue to share milestones together.

“I have a huge family and Cait knows all of them,” Nicole explains.

Indeed, family and traditions play a big part in life’s major milestones. And sometimes, that spark that was lost finds its way back into our lives. After being away from hockey for a number of years, Nicole has found a new way to be involved with the game. “I’ve coached my son’s Timbits team the past two years,” she explains. It’s an experience she has enjoyed. “I’ll coach him as long as he is okay with it. One day it won’t it be as cool to have your mom as a coach.”