As a charter member of the Canadian women’s ice sledge hockey program, Ashley Goure holds a special place in the modern resurgence of women’s sports, especially hockey. As one of the game’s most remarkable competitors, Goure is helping to propel it towards a bright future. With a new generation of women, able-bodied and disabled finding a new group of admirable sports heroes to root for; Goure is more than just an elite competitor, but an ambassador.
Upon mounting the sled, a combination of force and grace allows her to brilliantly navigate the frozen perimeter with precision. With instincts sharpened, as an output of skill suddenly complicates and overwhelms opposing defenses, she demonstrates that the heart can wield great power. Pushing boundaries and extending the possibilities of what was once considered impossible, Goure personifies perseverance.
Reflecting on the early years of women’s ice sledge hockey, Goure is very proud to have helped set the foundation for the game today. Having first tried the game in Sarnia, Ontario during 1998, she quickly became intrigued by the sport. A pioneer in the sport akin to what Geraldine Heaney and Angela James meant for women’s hockey during the 1990’s, Goure holds a special connection with the two Hockey Hall of Famers.
While the inaugural IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships took place in Ottawa back in 1990, it was also the setting for the first-ever all-female sledge hockey contest in Canadian women’s hockey history. The chance to not only be part of history, but add to the game’s growing lore was a remarkable milestone in her career,
“In May 2007, the first ever all female game of sledge hockey took place in Ottawa. I was one of the participants and have been on the Canadian Women’s sledge hockey team ever since then. It is amazing to be a pioneer for our sport. I love knowing that I have created a path for future generations of female sledge hockey players to come.
Being a part of the Canadian Women’s sledge hockey team means a lot to me because my dream and goal is to represent my country in the Paralympics playing the sport I love. Over the years I have become a leader and as a leader I can pass on all my knowledge and experience to my fellow teammates to help them become the best players they can be.”
Fast forward seven years, and Goure remains an essential figure in the growing history of women’s ice sledge hockey in Canada. With the city of Brampton, Ontario as the backdrop, the inaugural 2014 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Women’s International Cup was hosted, providing ice sledge hockey players with the chance to compete for a long overdue world championship.
Leading all Canadian competitors with 11 goals, scoring in every game, Goure was a force on the ice. Although the Canadian contingent emerged with a silver medal, the true victory was in the progress made for the game’s growth. During the event, Goure was one of the most consistent and prolific scorers for Canada. With the announcement at the event that women’s ice sledge hockey would become a demonstration sport at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympic Games, it only added to a feeling of jubilation shared by player of all nationalities.
“The 2014 IPC Worlds was a huge step for women’s sledge hockey as we get closer toward our goal of being a recognized medal sport in the Paralympics. We are going to be a demo sport at the 2018 Paralympics in Korea and by 2022 we are hoping to be a medal sport.
Also the IPC Worlds allowed us to get more awareness out to the public about our sport. I hope that through the media coverage during the event we were able to inspire females to join sledge if they are not already playing and eventually they can come and try out for the team.The IPC Worlds was an amazing experience. We got to wear the official Team Canada jerseys that have been used by the stand up women’s hockey team. All girls from every team enjoyed the tournament as we got to show off our talent.”
Quite possibly the most unique aspect of her career consists of the connection to Derek Whitson. More than just a member of the Canadian men’s ice sledge hockey team, he also serves as the assistant coach for the women’s team. Both Goure and Whitson hail from Chatham, Ontario, a community that has developed elite ice sledge hockey talent.
Adding to this unique sporting connection is the fact that the two have also been teammates at numerous levels of the game. Without doubt, Whitson (a bronze medalist at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games) has proven to be not only a mentor in Goure’s prolific career, but a positive influence. Such mutual respect helps to bridge the men’s and women’s game in a way that can only build a stronger future.
“Derek has been and continues to be a positive influence in my career. We both started sledge at the same time and became friends quickly. We actually have a positive influence on each other’s sledge career. We both played on different teams together: Chatham-Kent Sledge Hammers as juniors, Essex-Kent Ice Bullets for intermediate, Sledge Team Ontario and Team West for Ontario Winter Games.
We pushed each other to become faster, stronger and smarter. We have been through and overcome a lot of challenges and obstacles together. I think that he probably has had more influence on me than I did on him.
I am really glad that he is our assistant coach as he can continue to help not only me but all the girls on our team grow.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images supplied by Ashley Goure