The distance between Ottawa and Montreal has proven to be a pipeline for remarkable hockey talent, reciprocated in both directions. Following in the footsteps of other prominent players from Eastern Ontario, most notably goaltender Amey Doyle, to have donned Martlets colors, Alison MacKenzie has evolved into a key figure on the McGill Martlets defensive unit.
Raised in the community of Osgoode, Ontario, MacKenzie first gained notice as a talented blueliner with the PWHL’s Nepean Wildcats, contributing towards a time of consistent competitiveness for the proud program. Finding great fulfillment in Martlets colors, MacKenzie enjoys life as a student-athlete with one of Canada’s most prestigious universities,
“The balance McGill has between athletics and academics, we are driven and able to play at such an elite level is very, very nice. To be part of this team is awe inspiring. The people are so successful and to see how hard they work, really an inspiration. The work ethic can be applied to any aspect of your life.”
As MacKenzie engages in her third season with the Martlets, which was signified by the honor of being named alternate captain, a role that she proudly accepts with equal parts enthusiasm and responsibility. Of note, her season would start on a very positive note as she gained an assist on Marie-Philip Lavoie’s game-winning goal against UBC on September 16, providing the Martlets with their first win of the season.
Displaying remarkable wisdom beyond her years, MacKenzie proves to be a compelling individual. While glory is often limited to the final score, MacKenzie comprehends a greater understanding, revealing an admirable authenticity. Also employing a philosophical approach to the game, it also defines her positive outlook on life.
“Hockey is all about the journey. Winning nationals would be such an honour. I play not just for the big events, but for the fun, teammates and the structure that it (hockey) can also give you in life. I am more focused on the journey than the end.“
Such sincerity towards the game and the admiration of her teammates, has added an aspect of enjoyment as MacKenzie continues to develop into an exceptional leader for a young Martlets team that consists of nine freshmen and seven sophomores. The presence of such youth only strengthens the outlook for the future, coupled with the optimism of remaining in the championship picture.
“It is definitely a huge learning experience. I had been an alternate captain before, but at the university level there is a lot more responsibility. We show by experience on our team. The younger players look up to us to see what they are supposed to be doing.”
Considering that two of the Martlets’ rivals in RSEQ Conference play are based in Canada’s capital region (the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens), MacKenzie is never far from her hockey roots. During the years that she graced the ice with the Wildcats, developing the strong leadership skills that would serve her well at McGill, several home games were contested at the Carleton Ice House, the home rink for the now-rival Ravens.
Skating alongside the likes of Cassidy Campeau, Sam Cogan and Josianne Pozzebon (among others), the defensive contributions of MacKenzie helped to transform the Wildcats into a prodigious gathering of superlative talent. While the opportunity to revisit the Ice House as a member of the opposition Martlets allows for a degree of jubilant reflection on a time that helped define her junior hockey experience, the reality that the newest chapter of her hockey career has resulted in becoming a member of the visiting team is not lost on her.
“It is very interesting to have the visiting jersey on (at the Ice House). I do not know how to describe it. I was very nostalgic in my first year but now I am more used to it. When I come here, I feel like I should see my old Nepean teammates.”
In discussing the element of nostalgia, MacKenzie reflects on her return to Ottawa in her freshman campaign with the Martlets. An October 26, 2014 match against the Ottawa Gee-Gees resulted in a 4-3 final, as Marie-Philip Lavoie logged the game-winning tally in the third period.
Returning to her hometown roots represented a proud milestone. Adding to such jubilation was the fact that she had a group of fans in the stands at the Minto Sports Complex, comprising of ecstatic family, always prevalent whenever she graces the ice in Canada’s capital. Such a game holds a treasured place in MacKenzie’s Martlets career, forever grateful for the experience,
“My family and friends are a big part and it is very nice. I remember the first game I ever played against OttawaU. I had my aunts and uncles there, my four sisters, brother-in-law and my parents. All had signs, it was just an honor to be able to play in front of them.”
Still keeping in touch with several Wildcats teammates, the bonds of friendship developed as teammates during that influential time have remained strong, regardless of the varied directions that propelled the next chapters in their playing careers. “There are some of them that I do keep in touch with. Some have gone on to NCAA schools.”
Among the skaters that also donned the Wildcats colors alongside MacKenzie was Addi Halladay. Currently with the Queen’s Golden Gaels, where she was recognized with OUA All-Rookie Team Honors in 2014-15, providing an impressive 23 points in 24 games played, the two were reunited on the ice at Kingston’s INVISTA Arena for a September 19, 2015 exhibition game between their respective university teams.
Despite being on opposite ends of the ice as the puck was dropped for a preseason, there was no shortage of mutual respect between them, although the element of competitiveness was still prevalent. Although the 3-1 final was in the Martlets favor, Halladay shall get the opportunity for redemption as Queen’s visits McConnell Arena on January 1, 2017, kicking off the New Year at the McGill Invitational.
“I know most of her strengths and weaknesses which is a bonus (laughs). That is part of the journey. You switch teams and play different people but it adds another element of fun and compete level. You always want to beat your old teammates. ”
Considering that the Martlets are one of Canada’s most accomplished programs in women’s ice hockey, it brings with it increased expectations. While some programs aim for a postseason berth, MacKenzie is part of a collective focus aimed towards an annual ambition of attaining the national championship. Having skated at nationals on multiple occasions in her Martlets career, the elusive Golden Path trophy represents the summit,
“There is a lot of pressure, especially in do or die situations. If you lose your first game, you are out of contention. It is what you always work towards the entire season. There is a lot of excitement (at nationals).”
This season, the chance to qualify for nationals holds a more profound meaning for MacKenzie. With the hockey hotbed of Kingston, Ontario serving as host city, not only would the event be within close proximity for the Martlets (less than 200 miles from Montreal), it is also an area very accessible from Ottawa.
As many memories from MacKenzie’s youth include summers spent in Kingston, it would represent an opportunity for family to see her skate for the biggest prize in Canadian university women’s ice hockey, adding a prized denouement to her gloried career with the Martlets.
“I am very excited. To compete there would be great and my family would definitely be a huge part of it. We have a cottage about 20 minutes away so they will be there.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Mark Staffieri