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Ball hockey icons unified with Ontario Panthers

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In the realm of ball hockey, the paths of Melissa Miller and Isabel Ménard have intersected more than once. Weaving a fascinating brilliance, mutually enhancing their proud careers, milestones have been reached together. Whether as players for the Canadian national team in WBHF play, or as coaches with Canada’s U20 team, their collaboration represents a key foundation.

Among the core leaders for the Ontario Panthers, sporting an undefeated mark at the 2021 World Outdoor Ball Hockey Championships (WOBHC) in Barrie, Ontario, there is a unique tinge of coincidence in the fact that both were raised in Eastern Ontario. Miller grew up in the hockey hotbed of Kingston, while Ménard honed her skills in Canada’s capital, Ottawa.

Having attained championships gained in league, provincial and world competition, Miller is highly worthy of the moniker “living legend”. Named team captain for Canada’s entry at the 2022 WBHF Worlds in Bratislava, Slovakia, Ménard is also part of the leadership picture, named an alternate captain.

A member of the Panthers championship team at the 2019 WOBHC, the prestige of another championship proved to be worth the wait for an elated Miller. Rekindling glorious feelings, the return to the slab provided other pleasant memories, most notably, the sense of friendship and reunion,

“This tournament has always been one of my favourites and this year was extra special due to the fact that many of us have not been able to play for the last year and a half because of the pandemic.It felt like a reunion for the ball hockey community. It is always special to win it and this year was no exception. We had a great team that really came together quickly on and off the floor. It was a fun group to play with and being able to bring home the trophy is special with this group of girls.”

With an exceptional hockey resume that included celebrated standing as one of the first scoring sensations for the Syracuse Orange ice hockey program, Ménard later called Marie-Philip Poulin a teammate at Boston University. Holding the rare prestige of having played internationally for Canada on the ice and on the slab, Ménard’s competitive calendar has seen her bring her offensive wizardry to La Belle Province. Staying sharp with competition in Quebec’s DEK Hockey circuit, 2021 has resulted in DEK tournament victories too.

Also a member of the 2019 championship team, Ménard’s reflections concerning the journey towards hoisting another title included a flood of emotion. As the WOBHC was shelved for two years due to pandemic concerns, feelings of a glorious aftermath rose to the surface. Happily absorbing the jubilation of a fait accompli, returning to elite competition proved highly fulfilling,

“Winning the World Outdoor Ball Hockey Championships this time around was definitely bittersweet! Having to hold off playing for two years, and then, getting the chance reconnect with national team players made it extra special.”

With tremendous gratitude, the sense of achievement for Miller is only eclipsed by a graceful sense of sportsmanship. Admirably employing the type of team-first approach that makes her a valued asset regardless of the jersey she wears, Miller acknowledges the unified effort that made victory possible.

Finding an appreciation in the journey, hopefully in the beginning of a compelling new narrative for the sport’s evolution, Miller’s reflections encompass the game’s spirit,

“…My favourite part of the tournament is definitely the moment when the final buzzer goes and the celebration starts. This tournament was full of great moments though because of the way that the team was comprised. We had a lot of fun and came away with the trophy so it doesn’t get any better than that.”

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