With a proud tradition of exceptional role models bestowed the honour of the York Lions captaincy, Kelsey McHolm accepted the privilege with pride. A two-time U Sports Academic All-Canadian, the privilege of adding the C on her jersey during the 2021-22 Lions season served as a crowning touch to a brilliant run.
During previous seasons, McHolm, the product of East St. Paul, Manitoba, where she starred for the Winnipeg Avros, enjoyed the privilege of playing alongside several highly influential Lions captains. Serving as mentors and inspirations, the likes of Jenna Gray, and the celebrated Locke sisters, all provided the values and direction that McHolm proudly emulated.
Taking on the role of alternate captain during a groundbreaking 2019-20, which saw McHolm rank second in the OUA with 13 goals, the Lions roared into the McCaw Cup Finals. Qualifying for Nationals, an historic first in program lore, the season proved highly meaningful.
Following it up in 2021 as a finalist for the Charles Saundercook Memorial Trophy, also known as the Heart of a Lion Award, testament to McHolm’s strong leadership and character. Perhaps the most admirable facet of her character involved the strength and courage to persevere after an infection caused partial hearing loss.
Reflecting on the oportunity to serve in the role of team captain, setting a positive example through work ethic and perseverance, McHolm’s outlook is one that definitely pays tribute to her predecessors. Undoubtedly, a future Lions captain shall find the same respect and gratitude towardsfor McHolm.
“Being the Lions captain this season was an honour. Coming into this season, there were definitely some big shoes to fill from my past captains (Amy Locke, Jenna Gray, and Erin Locke).
All three of those girls really taught me the importance of what leadership is both on and off the ice. I carried what I learnt from each of them into this past season with the Lions.”
With the 2020 Nationals wiped out due to pandemic concerns, preventing the Lions from enjoying the privilege of reaching such a summit, the feeling of frustration continued into autumn. Compounded by the 2020-21 season shelved, McHolm hoped that she could conclude her career on the ice.
The opportunity to grace the ice at Canlan Ice Sports York, a second home for McHolm, in the autumn of 2021 provided a strong sense of elation. Back to competitive play on October 22, with the Brock Badgers providing the opposition, feelings of rejuvenation and homecoming encompassed a riveting return.
“I mean it was very upsetting that last season was cancelled. Yet, I knew in my heart that there was nowhere else I would rather finish out my playing career than here at York.
So, it was a pretty special moment to come back and play this season. I am super proud to call this place home and grateful to have been given the opportunity to play one more season in the Lions jersey.”
Of note, the opportunity for one more season provided a gracious McHolm with several more treasured highlights. In addition to opening night versus Brock, a statistical highlight involved a brilliant three point effort that propelled McHolm towards acclaim.
With a pair of goals and an assist, McHolm was the offensive catalyst in a highly exhilarating 4-3 overtime win on February 11 versus the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. A see saw battle throughout regulation, which saw McHolm contribute a pair of points, she led the way in overtime.
Recording the game winning tally past at the 2:26 mark of the extra frame, scoring on Zoe McGee, Courtney Gardiner logged the assist. For her superlative efforts, McHolm earned recognition as the York Lions Female Athlete of the Week, accentuating her proud season as team captain.
Fittingly, McHolm’s last goal in Lions paraphernalia allowed for treasured heroics. Facing off against the Queen’s Golden Gaels on March 4, she found the back of the net at the 6:38 mark of the third period.
With assists credited to Rebecca Lopes and Courtney Gardiner, McHolm’s goal not only marked the first of a four goal outburst for the victorious Lions, it stood as the game winning tally. Providing one more cherished opportunity to savour the thrill of glory, the emotion of such an exhilarating goal solidified her brilliant legacy.
Despite the final whistle, there remains exciting milestones for McHolm. With participation in Hockey Canada’s Athlete to Coach transitional program, an empowering opportunity allows her to remain a positive influence in the game.
Capturing the 2022 Heart of a Lion award, McHolm joins the previous captains she looked up to, taking her own place as role model and celebrated member of the student athlete community. Part of a distinguished group featuring fellow nominees Jana Codrington and Lauren Golding, the award win served as the ultimate tribute to a career built on the pillars of loyalty and continuous effort. Fittingly, the year allowed for another group of exceptional women to share a proud linkage with McHolm.
Belonging to a Senior Class featuring forwards Brooke Anderson, Madison Davey, Ellen Donaldson, Courtney Gardiner, and Tayler Murphy, plus blueliner Caroline Eagles (of note, senior Kailey Lapensee was a transfer student from the Ottawa Gee-Gees), all intertwined with a special place in Lions history. Part of the magical 2020 roster that qualified for both, the McCaw Cup Finals and U Sports Nationals, their collective achievement holds a treasured place in Lions athletics lore, contributing to its heritage Remaining a seminal moment for the proud McHugh, the opportunity to have shared it with her fellow seniors stands out as her favorite facet.
“Looking back at my time at York, I would have to say our playoff run and road to Nationals in the 2019-2020 season was my favorite moment. It was such an amazing group of girls to go on that run with. It is definitely a memory I will carry with me forever.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”