Entering the 2015 edition of the Street Hockey World Championships (also known as ball hockey) as the defending world champions, Canada continued to deliver. A combination of veterans and new faces resulted in an unforgettable cast of characters that emerged with a second consecutive gold medal.
Although there were many key factors in its remarkable victory, the presence of a world-class goaltender between the pipes was essential. From a great NCAA career with Wayne State and Robert Morris, to her status as one of the elite backstops in the CWHL, DeLayne Brian contributed greatly to another gold medal.
Adding to the prestige of such an accomplishment was the fact that Brian has been a member of the Canadian national team that captured the 2013 World Championship on home soil in St. John’s, Newfoundland. In reflecting on the chance to be part of back-to-back world champions, Brian beams with pride,
“2013 was definitely a special year as well, because we had lost the Gold medal game two years prior, in Slovakia. We were playing in front of a home crowd and did not want to let them down, which we can proudly say we didn’t.
This year I saw more of the net than I had in previous tournaments since the layout was a little different than in the past. Although the team was amazing and did not really need me to step up too many times throughout the tournament, I still felt like I was able to do my part since I was more active in the sense of seeing more floor time and more shots.”
Another member of the 2013 championship team that returned in 2015 was a player very familiar to Brian. Having also played together on the Calgary Inferno, Chelsea Purcell, who was also one of Canada’s alternate captains, was very ecstatic at the chance to don the Canadian jersey once again.
Competing in club play in Alberta, Purcell has competed multiple times at the national stage, establishing herself as one of the veteran leaders on this Canadian contingent. Bringing a fundamentally sound game, her acumen and maturity were significant in being able to claim another title,
“Just being given the opportunity to go and represent Canada again meant so much. There are a lot of highly skilled women throughout the country and to be asked to compete for the gold was awesome! This year’s competition was definitely more challenging than the past worlds.
It is not only great for the sport but it meant so much more when we won. We battled back from being down in a couple games and able to pull out a win every time. It was just nice to know we worked hard and earned that gold medal!”
Having spent only one season with the Calgary Inferno, it proved to be a memorable one for Urban. After a rookie season with the Furies, she relocated to Western Canada to pursue her studies. Not only did she contribute to the Inferno qualifying for the Clarkson Cup playoffs, her teammates helped provide a smooth transition, as her love for hockey complemented the pursuit of her PhD,
“It was really nice to get to play with my former Inferno teammates, especially since those girls really helped me transition when I moved from Toronto to Calgary. It was a special year and a great experience both getting to play CWHL with them but also being introduced to ball hockey and playing at Nationals.”
Quite possibly one of the most underrated superstars in ball hockey has to be Elysia Desmier. Ranking fourth in tournament scoring with nine points, her hockey resume includes time with the the CWHL’s Brampton Thunder. Recently, she has carved a remarkable legacy as one of the greatest players in the history of the Ottawa Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League (OVWBHL).
Of note, the OVWBHL has been proudly represented during this decade on the Canadian national women’s ball hockey team. From Fannie Desforges winning the tournament scoring title in 2013, to the likes of Alicia Blomberg, who ranked eighth in tournament scoring (she also played CIS hockey with Desforges on the Ottawa Gee-Gees), it provides a great point of pride for Desmier to not only represent Canada, but to represent one of the sport’s most talented regions,
“Any time you get the chance to represent your country, it’s definitely something I’m proud to be a part of. Having four players from Ottawa representing Canada just shows how much talent is in the Ottawa region.
The OVWBHL continues to grow and become more competitive each year, and has always had a team represented in the top three at the national level. Being selected out of the talent from Ottawa is a tremendous honor.”
Like so many other women’s sports, the difficult reality is that pay for play, even at the highest levels of play is still an obligatory fact. Although she enjoyed the opportunity to play with former Calgary Inferno teammates such as Brian and Karolina Urban, plus fellow CWHL vets Mallory Johnston and Lexie Hoffmeyer, Purcell recounted how the financial aspects of competitive play prevented others from joining them in Zug,
“The CWHL has the best women’s hockey players in the world and it really shows when they play ball hockey. Not only are they highly skilled but they have the hockey smarts. Mal and Hoff are two defenders demonstrating that. They are so calm and smart with the ball it really helps a team settle down in tense times. They made a great pair at worlds!
There were several CWHL players that could not make the Worlds and it would have been great to play with them as well but it’s not a cheap trip to go on. The sport needs to get recognized more so we can get the top girls without worry of money,”
Although such a reality represents one of the challenges that need to be overcome for the game’s future and growth, there was another common trait that only added to the jubilation of being able to compete at such a world-class level. A common trait for all of these remarkably talented women is the feeling of pride of the Maple Leaf adorning their jerseys. Brian observed how the chance to represent Canada served as a motivational factor, yielding the championship results that everyone worked so hard towards reaching,
“Any time you get to put on a Canadian jersey and represent your country is special, I do not think it matters which sport you are playing. I know there are probably many other girls that would have loved to be in our positions, so you have to do your best to enjoy the opportunity you are given and play your heart out.
I do not think there was a single girl on the team this year that took that for granted, and I think it showed with our perseverance, and helped get us the result we were working towards.”
As the second leading scorer in the tournament, Newfoundland’s Dawn Tulk exemplifies the pride of wearing the Canadian jersey. Having played in front of friends and family in a gold medal effort at the 2013 edition of the Worlds in St. John’s, Newfoundland, being part of a second straight championship team is only enriched by the joy of wearing the Maple Leaf,
“No matter what sport or discipline you are representing, a Canadian jersey fills you with pride. I think if you were to ask anyone what it feels like to wear a Canadian jersey they would say the same.”
The feelings of national pride held even greater meaning for Urban. With family roots in Poland, Urban has not only embraced the Canadian culture with her remarkable hockey skills, she has worked assiduously off the ice, becoming a role model for young female hockey players,
“It was a pretty amazing experience to be able to get to represent Canada at world championships. It was great to get to know some incredible ladies from all over the country and come together in a short amount of time and be successful.
I really could not have asked for a better experience and the opportunity to wear a Team Canada jersey was humbling. I really think it is something everyone dreams of. As my family emigrated from Poland when I was 4 years old, I wanted nothing more than to show how proud of a Canadian I am.”
Helping to build the sport in Canada’s capital region, Desmier has proven to be a champion on and off the surface of play. As special a milestone as winning a championship represents, the chance to do it twice is even more meaningful. Highly motivated, Desmier reflects proudly on Canada’s efforts,
“Helping Canada defend its title of World Champion at ball hockey is an amazing feeling. Canada remains to be a top contender whether it’s at ice hockey or ball hockey, and to defend that title is an honor. Playing with the best women ball hockey players from across Canada, no one was getting in our way of becoming World Champions.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from: http://www.cksn.ca/2015/06/johnston-wins-gold-with-canada/