Establishing herself as one of the luminaries in the revered history of the dynastic McGill Martlets, Emilia Cotter’s final season of U SPORTS play served to cement her legacy. An outstanding leader and a highly admirable hockey humanitarian, Cotter’s efforts were celebrated in grand fashion, gaining acclaim on a national scale. Bestowed with the prestige of the Marion Hilliard Award, which recognizes a student-athlete who best combines the criteria of academics, citizenship and leadership, Cotter, who is majoring in Kinesiology, joins Shauna Denis, a 2008 recipient, as the only Martlets to have earned the celebrated honour.
Part of a distinguished group of finalists, involving one from each conference, Cotter, the RSEQ representative was joined by the likes of Erin Locke, the York Lions team captain, and eventual NWHL draft pick, on behalf of the OUA. Skating with the Dalhousie Tigers in AUS play was Annika Rose, plus Canada West’s Brooklyn Haubrich, a fifth-year player for the Saskatchewan Huskies, who also serves in the role of team captain.
WHKY | Congratulations to @USPORTS_Hockey's Marion Hillard Leadership Award recipient, Emilia Cotter from @McGillu! @MartletHockey @coachpetersmith @EmiliaCotter pic.twitter.com/7yuX9p5kHW
— McGill Athletics (@McGillAthletics) March 12, 2020
The exciting revelation that Cotter was the winner showed a tremendous and admirable humility, mirroring her work ethic and dedication to team and community alike. Graciously recognizing the fellow nominees, a sincere touch of class, the lustre of the award took on a more significant glow as Cotter was not the only Martlet on-hand at the Awards Gala.
With the anticipation of the U SPORTS National Championships in the background, which the Martlets qualified for as champions of the RSEQ Conference, the host city of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island launched the event with an opening night gala. Surrounded by supporting teammates, of which one was Jade Downie-Landry, a selection to the All-Canadian Second Team, it served as the crowning touch in Cotter’s proud career in Martlets colours.
”Honestly I was in a bit of shock. I knew I was nominated but I did not really think I was going to win. I had read the profiles of the other nominees and they have all done such amazing work in their communities and with their teams, so when the award was announced I was very surprised.
It is really such a huge honour to win an award like this on the national level. I am so happy that I got to share the moment with my teammates and coaches, as their support has been key throughout my McGill career.”
IN THE COMMUNITY
Running parallel to an exceptional on-ice career, one in which Cotter was a model teammate, her contributions to the community and student-athlete life involved a series of empathic efforts, a graceful individual whose presence truly improved other’s lives. From a university perspective, Cotter was not only the Martlets coordinator for a Motionball Fundraiser, an initiative that combines social and sporting events, aspiring to encourage young people to become involved in Special Olympics, she was also a leader for a pair of Martlets games geared towards charitable causes. Said games include the annual “Shoot for the Cure” event, which raises funds for breast cancer research along with the “Shoebox Project” game, providing gift-filled boxes for the city’s homeless women.
One of the signature events for the Martlets, the game, hosted on November 30, 2019 versus the Ottawa Gee-Gees, saw the Martlets prevail in a 3-0 shutout effort, with Tricia Deguire recording 22 saves. Fittingly, Cotter earned a point in the game, collaborating with Downie-Landry, assisting on a second period goal by Kellyane Lecours, which also stood as the game-winning tally. Coincidentally, the Gee-Gees would play another part in Cotter’s final season of Martlet hockey. A January 19, 2020 home affair, resulting in a 5-4 upset win for the visiting Gee-Gees resulted in Cotter scoring her last goal. Capitalizing on a power play opportunity, Cotter fired the puck past Alexa Gibson, as Marika Labrecque and Laura Jardin earned the assists.
Additionally, Cotter’s proud sense of devotion and empathy translated into a remarkable effort, serving as the roster’s liaison for “Bell Let’s Talk”, a mental health initiative which has become a key fundraiser in many facets of society. Worth noting, Bell Let’s Talk has also been adopted by numerous other sports teams throughout the country as a key cause, unified in the effort to stop the stigma.
Hockey practices for children with disabilities saw Cotter’s presence on the ice, while a remarkable four to five hours on a weekly basis found the native of Toronto at St. Mary’s Hospital in the Cancer Care Unit. A focus on campus efforts also saw her serve commendably in the capacity of co-president of the McGill Varsity Council, her duties involving organizing time-management workshops to assist other student-athletes, among others. Also providing leadership towards the council’s efforts involving gift-wrapping during the holidays for Sun Youth, comprising a remarkable body of work solidified by the sentiment that such efforts stand as a true labour of love.
”Giving back to the community has been extremely fulfilling. Being able to give back to the city that has given me so much has meant the world to me. I have been able to meet some amazing people along the way and it has helped me grow as a person. I am so grateful to all of the organizations that have allowed me to take part in their different programs.”
Among Cotter’s proudest achievements include a series of on-ice heroics too. Recognized as an RSEQ Second-Team All-Star in the aftermath of the 2018-19 season, the talented blueliner enjoyed another treasured milestone. Heading into her fifth and final season, she attained the proud summit of team captaincy, a highly appropriate extension of her leadership abilities. Part of an exciting lineage of notable captains, including the likes of Cathy Chartrand and Melodie Daoust, among others.
“I am pretty proud of what I have been able to accomplish over my past five years at McGill. I owe all of my successes, however, to my coaches and my teammates. I have been able to learn so much about hockey and about being a leader over my time at McGill and I really have them to thank for it.”
Reflecting on a proud career garbed in Martlets red and white, the bigger picture for Cotter is one where a personal, academic and competitive exploration configured on the values of friendship and self-discipline, coupled with a tremendous character and dedication as a remarkable hockey humanitarian, pushing her to reach new peaks.
Undeniably, the prestige of the Marion Hilliard Award and the team captaincy reflected such remarkable achievements. Including status as a finalist for the McGill Female Athlete of the Year Award, won by swimmer Daphne Danyluk, Cotter did not emerge empty handed from the Varsity Athletics Gala. Awarded the Muriel Roscoe trophy, awarded to a graduating female athlete, honouring a university career, which entailed proficiency and leadership in athletics, it marked a fitting touch, placing her in a pantheon of gregarious greats, a legacy that shall be a source of inspiration for the next generation of Martlet student-athletes.
“McGill has taught me a lot about myself and how to overcome adversity. In my first few years, I struggled with the adjustments to school and hockey. McGill is an extremely tough academic school and that alone taught me how to deal with certain challenges. Yet, because I was able to get through the hardships that McGill put me through, I came out of it a better person.
I realized that even when things get tough, if you bear down and work through them there is light at the end of the tunnel. I do not think I could summarize my time at McGill into one favourite moment as there are way too many.
What I can say, however, is that my teammates are the best thing that has ever happened to me. They have taught me the definition of friendship and acceptance, and have shown me that you do not need to be blood relatives to be family. They are the reason I made it through the toughest times in my career and I am so grateful for them.”
”All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”