Featuring an undefeated roster that emerged golden at the 2023 ISBHF U21 Women’s Worlds, the Canadian contingent had no shortage of heroes. Among the most inspiring featured a blueliner bestowed the honour of the captaincy. Calling Newfoundland home, Brooke Lannon’s journey encompassed a combination of patience and resilience.
Originally named to Canada’s roster in 2019, the dream of wearing the Maple Leaf featured an unforeseen delay. With many facets of the sporting realm thrown into stasis, as pandemic woes altered life for untold numbers, Lannon remained in touch with many of her teammates, the mutual support enabling the dream to remain alive.
Fast forward to 2023, the realization of competing internationally took on a much grander meaning for a grateful Lannon. Remaining eligible to play on the U21 team, the opportunity to serve as team captain for Canada proved well worth the wait. Having enjoyed the 2022-23 season on the ice, earning a place on the ACHA All-Rookie Second Team as a member of the McKendree Bearcats, the milestone added momentum to an unforgettable chapter. Although there was a tinge of sadness in the fact that several of the players originally named to the roster in 2019 were no longer eligible, Lannon felt only respect for all players part of a process that was four years in the making.
“It was truly an honour to be able to be the captain of this team. This group of girls has so much leadership alone. To get to share this moment with them, have the utmost respect and trust me as their captain really hit home to me. To not only wear the Canadian flag with pride but to also wear the C with pride. I wanted to give my teammates the most unforgettable experience of their life.”
Statistically, Lannon found the back of the net twice in tournament play. Fittingly, her first goal came on the tournament’s opening day, as fellow Newfoundlander Jenni Simpson earned the assist in a 5-1 final versus Slovakia. Her second tournament goal occurred during the medal round. Battling the United States in the semifinals, she found the back of the net at the 12:28 mark. Providing Canada with a 4-1 lead, Neleh Vigneau Sargent, who also stars on the ice with the Bishop’s University Gaiters, and Cassie Drover logged the assists. Emerging victorious in a 7-4 final, the thrill of defeating their biggest rivals served as prologue for an even more exhilarating affair.
After an exciting 1-0 win versus Slovakia in the gold medal game, as Jesse Ozikowicz scored the game-winning goal, the achievement served as the exclamation point on an unbeaten showing in tournament play. Indubitably, the jubilation of lifting the championship trophy aloft her shoulders marked the culmination of a fascinating journey best defined by character. Adding a sense of fulfillment to the triumph was the fact that the leadership triumvirate was composed of two other inspiring athletes, that were also named to the 2019 roster, Alyson Thomas and Vigneau Sargent, who finished as the tournament scoring champion.
“I am lost with words to explain how I felt after that horn went off. It was literally breathtaking. I was truly thankful to be able to lift the trophy first. I was on a rollercoaster of emotions. After five years of waiting for this moment, due to Covid-19, I knew in that moment it was worth the wait.
To get to also share that trophy first with the two assistant captains, Neleh and Alyson, the only two players that were with me since this team was first selected back in 2019, I was truly grateful. It was a dream come true. A core memory I will never forget.”
In addition to the feeling of national pride, a strong sense of home served as a defining feature of the experience in Liberec. Among nine Newfoundlanders wearing the Maple Leaf, it marked an extension of the province’s growing legacy for producing elite world class talent. Sharing in the opportunity to win the gold medal alongside Julia Butler, Cassie Drover, Renee Falkner, Jayme Guy, Ashley Hayley, Jenni Simpson, assistant captain Alyson Thomas plus star goaltender Maggie Jones, who made 21 saves in the gold medal game, resulted in a cherished milestone that places this distinguished group in a highly celebrated moment in provincial sporting lore.
“It was incredibly remarkable to get to share this experience with the other Newfoundland and Labrador girls. Five years ago, there was only four of us selected for the 2019 team. So to see how much the female ball hockey association has grown in Newfoundland and Labrador makes this moment very special. I also got the chance to win U19 Nationals the summer before in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with the majority of the Newfoundland girls that were on the Canadian team.
Therefore, to share an amazing moment like this with them was so surreal. It is also awesome because it shows the girls in Newfoundland’s youth ball hockey association that they can also wear that Canadian flag on their chest, if they just put their mind to it. It is great for the growth of ball hockey in our province.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”