A proven winner at all levels, Nathalie Girouard represented a superb standard of excellence. With a brilliant career that spanned over a distinguished decade, defined by three National championships and six ISBHF gold medals, the gregarious goaltender reached an exceptional summit. Inducted into the Canadian Ball Hockey Association Hall of Fame, the honor holds multiple meanings.
From affirming Girouard’s place as a female Canadian sporting icon, to the crowning touch in a brilliant career, including the Sarah Butterworth Award plus International Player of the Year in 2019, the induction required an aspect of patience. Earning the call last autumn, the honor took on a sense of authenticity during the 2022 CBHA Nationals. Formally inducted during the event, alongside long-time teammate Elysia Desmier and Christine Pellerin, a distinguished builder for the game, this tremendous trio earned their rightful place among the most celebrated women in Canadian ball hockey.
After absorbing the initial revelation, Girouard’s sentiments turned towards aspects of gratitude. With such a lengthy list of championships and honors, her thoughts on the journey encompass more than the triumphs. Attributed to a remarkable number of teammates,
Throughout the unfolding narrative, many of Girouard’s teammates garbed in the Team Canada jersey hailed from Ottawa, where they collectively excelled in the OVWBHL. Wondrous women such as Fannie Desforges, Isabelle Aube, Jessica O’Grady, Danika Smith and the aforementioned Desmier, among others.
“I received the call back in the fall of 2021, it definitely came as a surprise as it felt like Covid had put everything including ball hockey on hold for such a long time. It was emotional as ball hockey has been a big part of my life for such a long time and a great honour to be one of the few chosen ones all while doing something that I love.
Although it is an individual award you cannot truly enjoy the moment without remembering all the great people you have met along the way. Great coaches, therapists, awesome teammates and support staff that made this journey an unforgettable one.”
Having excelled in basketball and soccer during her teens in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, recruited to compete in university, hockey was destined to be the stage of Girouard’s greatest sporting glories. Although her competitive journey began at the forward position, she found her niche between the pipes, gravitating to elite status. First appearing at the CBHA Nationals in 2010, standing between the pipes for Vanier United, it marked the start of an unfolding narrative, Girouard rising to a place among the game’s luminaries.
Reflecting on the experience of competing among the nation’s finest, the recollections combine a series of inspiring glories and treasured highlights. An intense semifinal game versus the Manitoba Rage, featuring future Team Canada goalie Delayne Brian guarding the opposing crease, resulted in a legendary shootout round. With Erika Pouliot capturing the scoring title, Leslie MacArthur earning the Best Defender Award, plus Aube gaining Tournament MVP, Girouard’s poise in the shootout proved equally impactful.
“Absolutely! It was during my first National tournament in 2010 in St. John’s Newfoundland. The women’s semi-final game ended up being the most exciting game of the whole tournament.
We were ahead 2-1 and the Manitoba Team ended tying the game with 3 seconds left in the game. We played an overtime period and then moved on to the shoot-outs. Five players went for each team and both teams were able to score twice requiring a sudden death shoot-out. It required 12 more shooters for a grand total of 17 and we were able to secure the win. We moved on to win the Gold Medal. (My first 🙂 and quite memorable).”
Although Girouard earned a place on Canada’s roster for the 2022 edition of the ISBHF Women’s Worlds, hosted in her home province of Quebec, an amazing display of maturity and a highly admirable team first approach occurred. Despite her superlative resume and exceptional skill set, a tremendous honesty resulted in a visceral withdrawal. In her own way, facilitating a passing of the torch, it was the type of unselfish act that provided tremendous inspiration for the goalie tandem of Julianna Thomson and Serena Vilde.
“A month prior to the competition I called the coach and pulled myself out of the starting line-up. I had limited access to ball hockey and felt that I was not at my best. It felt like the right decision although a difficult one. We had two young goalies that were at the top of their games and flying in from another part of Canada and felt that they would be in a better position at continuing our golden journey.”
The element of teamwork remained a key theme in 2022 for Girouard. Adding luster to her Hall of Fame honor involved the cherished opportunity to share it with Elysia Desmier, simultaneously adding another layer of achievement to the legacy of star power from the OVWBHL.
Also a former ice hockey competitor, playing professionally with the Brampton Thunder Desmier crafted an exceptional career on the slab, playing for Canada six times. With four national championships burnishing her Hall of Fame nod, her presence proved invaluable.
A tremendous teammate and highly coveted friend, there was a strong feeling of serendipity that both belonged to the same Hall of Fame class. Having worn the same jersey not only at the club team level, also at Nationals and World championship play, the presence of Elysia Desmier added a highly cherished aspect. Affirming their distinguished careers as teammates, the unique parallels throughout their careers saw an element of serendipity as fellow inductees.
“Elysia is a great athlete, an accomplished hockey/ball hockey player and we have shared so many wonderful and at challenging moments at times that it made the whole experience even more special. I could not think of a better person/teammate/friend that I would have liked to share this with.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”