Deciding to hang up her skates following an epic season that culminated with a storybook ending, Fielding Montgomery brought an unmistakable smile and confident presence that made her a model teammate. Skating for the CWHL’s Thunder in both Brampton and Markham, she not only attained the 75-games played plateau, the Clarkson Cup triumph that supplied such a cherished ending added an exciting exclamation point to her professional career, forever intertwined in franchise history.
Among a group consisting of four competitors that retired from the Thunder during the offseason, each one made their mark. Whether it was Jessica Hartwick and Melissa Wronzberg, having both played for Brampton at the PWHL and CWHL levels, among other achievements, or Karolina Urban, who joins former Calgary Inferno teammate Delayne Brian among celebrated women that have captured both ISBHF World Championship gold and the coveted Clarkson Cup, Montgomery holds her own revered place.
“Winning the Clarkson Cup was so special for me. It was the first championship win in my entire hockey career, and also happened to be the highest possible trophy I’ve ever competed for. On top of that, the win for me was 4 years in the making with the Thunder. Hoisting the cup over my shoulders was so rewarding to think back to the journey that got me there.”
Representing the essence of leadership, which included stints as the program representative for the Dalhousie Varsity Council, plus the Thunder’s Players Representative with the CWHL Players Association (CWHLPA), such assiduousness involved possessing a compassionate empathy. Undeniably, Montgomery proved herself highly worthy to be the next in line to don the number 16 for the Thunder, a number made famous by Jayna Hefford, who retired as the CWHL’s all-time leading scorer. Having amassed a staggering 728 points between 1998 and 2013, a number that shall never be duplicated by another player at the club level, Hefford, who is also a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, also shares common ground with Montgomery in the fact that both competed in Canadian Interuniversity Sport hockey.
Whether it was in her revered role as captain of the Dalhousie Tigers in Atlantic University Sport (AUS), which culminated with Team MVP honors, or setting a positive example in the Thunder jersey, employing a strong work ethic and good sportsmanship, such values took on a greater meaning in Montgomery’s hockey odyssey. Enjoying the opportunity to get acquainted with so many other empowering women in the game, it was one of the defining points in which gracing the ice for the Thunder allowed her the prestigious experience of calling herself a professional.
“While playing with the Thunder I most enjoyed the friendships I built and the ability to practice and play along so many talented hockey players. I tried to seize every opportunity to learn from my teammates. I also enjoyed playing a leadership role and helping to push our team forward when the going got tough. Oh, and travelling to so many new places!”
Bringing a brilliance to the classroom, Montgomery earned Canadian Interuniversity Sport Academic All-Canadian honors. For such a highly cerebral individual, her admirable commitment to academics continued with post-graduate efforts at the CWHL level. During her time in Thunder colors, she pursued her PhD studies, specializing in biology.
Coincidentally, Montgomery’s final season in Thunder colors saw her joined by another competitor engaged in such academic endeavors. Of note, the aforementioned Urban, who joined the club in the autumn of 2017, staging a compelling comeback after concussion woes, also balanced hockey obligations with PhD studies. Coincidentally, the University of Toronto served as the backdrop for their post-graduate work. As Montgomery reflects, to have a teammate such as Urban in a similar situation certainly represented a source of encouragement.
“Having Karolina as a teammate was awesome. We often talked about our experiences in graduate school and it was nice to have someone on the team who could relate. I think Karolina would agree that there were so many girls on the team who also had to balance hockey and work life.
When we all arrived to practice after long days of work (or school) we would find comfort (and humour) in knowing everyone had just gone through the same thing in their own respect. My teammates really were my source of inspiration.”
Beyond academics, Montgomery’s Thunder career was also defined by an important role as a hockey humanitarian. The Southwestern Ontario First Nation of Walpole Island was the grateful recipient of her kindness and compassion, simultaneously serving as an intersection for two of her great interests, athletics and academics.
There was certainly a strong feeling of reciprocation for Montgomery, who was moved by the graciousness of numerous members in a previous experience. Allowing her passage on their boat, Montgomery spent a three-week visit at the First Nation, as part of her PhD research involving collecting samples for her wetlands collection. While there, she also provided a presentation on the game, which was the catalyst for a greater connection with the game for the community.
Starting with an excess of her own unused equipment, Montgomery engaged in a commendable campaign, which saw friends, family and the Thunder organization (including donation bins at their home arena) all contribute. As 42 hockey bags were filled with approximately 500 pieces of donated equipment there were even brand new jerseys and socks, plus 50 pairs of skates, among the gathered items.
Perhaps the most heartwarming element involved the fact that many inquired about donations even after the conclusion of the campaign. As Walpole Island’s Right to Play program were the beneficiaries, as the First Nation features a handful of teams that participate in the Little Native Hockey League tournament, delivering the equipment truly encompassed the essence of teamwork. Generous contributions from a GoFundMe account ensured that a cube van could be procured, as Montgomery and former AUS goaltender Philip Wright made the trek to deliver the donations in person,
“Organizing the equipment drive for Walpole felt so great to be able to do something nice for people who were completely deserving. I had so much generous help while I was doing my field work at Walpole Island and this was my way of saying thanks and bringing both worlds together (hockey and science). It is extremely rewarding seeing the happiness you can spread with hockey.”
Despite the fact that Montgomery is not an active competitor in the 2018-19 CWHL season, she remains an integral role model in the Greater Toronto Area’s hockey landscape. Of note, the Etobicoke Dolphins program (which includes icing a team in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League), feature Montgomery as the Head Coach of their Novice A team.
Even within the Dolphins, the proud culture of the Thunder remains a strong influence. With Montgomery’s background as a skills coach, she was part of numerous Dolphins development sessions which saw Thunder teammate (and fellow Clarkson Cup champion) Kristen Richards provide on-ice guidance.
Whether Montgomery’s players emulate her own success, and enjoy proud careers at the university and professional ranks, her enthusiasm and love of the game shall make their forays into hockey a much more positive experience for them. Supplying a reassuring presence, Montgomery’s acumen shall certainly allow such promising talents a chance to gain values of sportsmanship, respect and responsibility, elements that are integral beyond the ice, one which has made Montgomery a winner in all facets of her being,
“Being a coach has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. I am most looking forward to watching the girls learn how to become athletes. I obviously want them to learn how to play hockey, but more than that I want them to learn how to compete honourably and humbly, and to become great teammates.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
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