Throughout her youth, Alyssa Godin had many athletic gifts. From being a nationally prominent competitor in martial arts as a preteen to guarding the crease for various hockey teams in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region, her potential was limitless. Although this autumn should have represented Godin’s opportunity to compete in women’s hockey at the NCAA or CIS level, she suffered an accident which left her disabled. Despite such an unfortunate setback, another of Godin’s gifts rose to the surface.
Employing the gift of perseverance and maturity, Godin refused to let her accident sideline her athletic aspirations. Starting a new chapter in her life, she has transferred her love of hockey to the rapidly growing sport of women’s ice sledge hockey. Competing with the Hamilton Sledge Hammers, it has not only provided her with an outlet to remain involved with sport, but it has brought a positive outlook in her life.
“After my accident, sledge hockey helped me in many ways. I was already playing before my accident, but after it gave me hope. It gave me a reason to wake up and a reason to keep pushing forward. Sledge Hockey was my world. Even before I was able to skate again, I had both my stand-up hockey team and sledge hockey team visiting me every day.
Honestly, without sledge hockey I do not know where I would be. Every day while in the hospital I kept asking my doctors, "can I go to the rink today?" That first time I got back on the ice surface, I felt complete again. Sledge hockey made me feel like I belonged, and what happened to me did not matter. I was back to my old self, and most importantly I was happy again.”
As a former member of the PWHL’s Hamilton Hawks, Godin had many memorable experiences, including the opportunity to play against the Chinese national women’s team. After her accident, her Hawks teammates showed her the true meaning of team spirit. They were an essential aspect to making an emotional recovery and having the confidence to return to the rink.
“My former teammates, the Hawks, were extremely supportive. They brought me stuffed animals to the hospital, took turns visiting me every day and gave me full support. When they realized I was going to focus on sledge hockey, they were completely supportive. Some gave me their old equipment to improve on my old stuff. Some came to watch my practices. Yet not importantly, they came to try out the sport.
Once I was back in action, my former teammates came to play my new ones in a game of sledge hockey. Both teams played in sledges and had a great time. The Hawks lost 6-1 to my new team the Sledgehammers, but they loved it. It gave them an idea of how hard I had to train and practice to get to the level I wanted to be. It showed them how hard the sport really was. I miss those girls. Some of the best teammates in stand-up I ever had.”
Growing up, Godin was already an athlete with international experience. Having represented Canada in martial arts at the 2008 WKA World Championships, the chance to take the international stage once again is a treasured one for Godin. With the International Paralympic Committee sanctioning the first-ever IPC Women’s Championships, it is a great point of pride for Godin to be part of the Canadian contingent. Being hosted on Canadian soil in Brampton, Ontario, it only adds to the feelings of excitement and anticipation,
“Already competing in martial arts was an exciting experience but I cannot wait to be in the first ever IPC women’s championship! It means the world to me. It gives me hope again to one day be an Olympic athlete, just this time in the Paralympics. I cannot wait to get on that ice and have everything back that was taken from me.
Being on this team is like my dream of playing for the women’s national team. Well now I am! Every Wednesday, I go out to Burlington and play sledge with a few men from the national men’s team. They just encourage me and get me more pumped for the tournament. When they talk about their tournaments and Paralympic experiences it gives me the goose bumps. I cannot wait!”
As women’s ice sledge hockey players, coaches and administrators hope that the sport shall find its way as part of the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games schedule, the tournament is a significant step forward. For players such as Godin, it is the culmination of an effort that provides hope and inspiration for disabled female athletes to pursue their dreams.
Godin grew up dreaming of being part of the Canadian national team. While her dream takes on a different aspect, it is one that brings great excitement. Godin’s feelings of jubilation in donning the Canadian jersey for the first time were highly treasured. With her athletic gifts and remarkably positive and inspiring attitude, there will likely be many more exciting times to come,
”That first time I put on that jersey. Wow. I can remember that moment to a tee. I opened up the jersey bag, picked my favourite number and put it on. I had the biggest smile on my face. It was a moment to remember. I was so proud they basically had to pry it away from me for practice! No way was I taking it off. I felt like a queen. I was a national athlete again. I was a team Canada hockey player.
How many people can say that? Especially, in a country where hockey is so high of importance. It was the moment I was like "OMG this is for real." It was the moment everything clicked. Ever since I got that phone call, it never really set in. But then, then it did. The only more exciting thing, will be putting on that jersey the day of the tournament. Looking onto that ice, and knowing that it is time. It’s time to play.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photos courtesy of Alyssa Godin