Having recently enjoyed her fifth anniversary as a member of Canada’s national women’s ball hockey team, Gwynne Attenborough has taken on the persona of both role model and ambassador. Since making her Team Canada debut on home soil, back in 2013 at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, located inside the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens, she has amassed a remarkable wealth of experiences, complemented by numerous podium finishes.
Five fantastic years later, the privilege of wearing the Team Canada jersey remains a strong point of pride for the Windsor, Ontario raised Attenborough. Having originally donned the number 9, she has now adopted the number 88 as her own, adorned on the back of her jersey in perfect symmetry. Contributing towards Canada’s appearance in the gold medal game at the 2018 WBHF Worlds, the feeling of competition and sportsmanship combine to create rejuvenation, restoring Attenborough’s sheer pleasure of playing,
“Getting the chance to wear the Canadian jersey is something special that comes with a lot of hard work; something most of hockey players dream of when we are kids growing up. I have been very fortunate to have been part of this team since 2013 back in Toronto.
Each world championship feels like the very first, the excitement to go and represent your country, playing a sport you love with a group of people from all over (that) you are meeting for the first time.
Having the support of so many friends, family and co-workers is truly amazing. Wearing the jersey comes with being able to travel to the other side of world, sharing experiences with new teammates, representing your country playing a sport you love and memories that will last a lifetime.”
Prior to her hardcourt glories, Attenborough graced the ice with the PWHL’s Windsor/Southwest Wildcats from 2007-09. Part of a notable list of alumnae in team lore that includes Meghan Agosta, Shannon Bowman, Kendra Board, Jennifer and Jessica Hitchcock, plus Hokey Langan, among others, her competitive drive found another venue one year after her final season in Wildcats colours.
Akin to so many other wondrous women of hockey, Attenborough ventured onto the fascinating yet frozen tracks of Red Bull Crashed Ice. Competing at the March 2010 event in Quebec City, she reached the quarterfinals, posting a personal-best time of 58.25 seconds.
The lure of hockey remained strong with Attenborough. Two years following the Crashed Ice experience, she was recruited for a ball hockey team based out of the Southwestern Ontario community of Chatham, located 83 kilometers east of Windsor, participating at a provincial tournament. Unbeknownst to Attenborough was that national team scouts were on-hand, evaluating prospective players.
Making the demanding commute on a bi-weekly basis from Windsor to Toronto, part of a gruelling series of tryouts and evaluation camps held by the national team, the commitment paid positive dividends as she was gained a roster spot just prior to Christmas 2012. Playing for head coach Cindy Horton, the 2013 edition of the WBHF Worlds served as the starting point for a sterling international career. Registering a total of eight points (on the strength of seven assists), including an assist on a goal by Melissa Miller in a crucial 2-1 win versus the USA, Canada logged an undefeated mark of 7-0 at the Worlds.
The golden glories of Toronto 2013 were prologue for a thrilling three-peat atop the world’s finest. Obtaining gold at Pittsburgh 2015 and Litomerice, Czech Republic 2017, it stands as one of the crowning achievements of Attenborough’s hockey odyssey. Adding luster to the feeling of wearing the medal around one’s neck while the national anthem blares gloriously, is the fact that players also receive championship rings, providing a major league feeling to the superb attainment of supreme status on the hardcourt. Enjoying the opportunity to participate in a fourth world championship in 2018, it affirmed her status as one of the game’s modern luminaries.
Running parallel to this fascinating odyssey is the thrill of exploring the other side of the Atlantic. Travelling through Eastern Europe and Russia, among other locations, Attenborough’s interest in other cultures and their unique landmarks provides an enlightening feast of sights and sounds, simultaneously resulting in a much more profound appreciation in the gratifying aspect that such travels were enabled through her superlative hockey abilities.
Considering that Russia was also serving as host country for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the WBHF Worlds were being held mere weeks before. With the city of Moscow caught up in a euphoric feeling of sporting fever, a giant countdown clock helping usher in the world’s premier soccer tournament, one that Attenborough viewed, contributed towards a vitality that helped to set an energizing tone for the intensity of the ball hockey greats gracing the hardcourt.
“I have been fortunate enough to be part of the Canadian ball hockey team since 2013, being able to participate in the Worlds in Toronto, Pittsburgh, Prague, Czech Republic and most recently Moscow. I think it would be a tie between Prague and Moscow.
Just being able to travel to the other side of the world, experiencing the different cultures and lifestyles is amazing. Being able to see famous places around the world, like the astronomical clock in Prague and Red Square in Moscow, places that I probably would not see in my lifetime if it was not for playing ball hockey.
Being able to come home and share those experiences and memories with my friends and family is really something special.”
Subscribing to the strong notion of team building, they encompass the values that makes Attenborough proud to represent her country. Observing the bigger picture, a blend of wisdom and keenness entails how the essence of competition is only part of a much more profound narrative. Absorbing the euphoria of the events, the delight of winning gold, and the obligatory celebrations that follow, sharing in an enchanting achievement alongside a group of other highly dedicated women, it not only helps outline the purpose and prestige of belonging to the national team, it results in reminiscences that shall be treasured long after the final whistle of play.
“I would like to consider myself one of the leaders, having played since 2013, and being one of the older ones on the team. A very strong believer in team building; sharing experiences together off the floor. Wearing the Canada jersey comes with more than just playing ball hockey; it comes with experiences and memories that will last a lifetime, enjoying where you are and taking a moment to see (and) really take in where this Canadian team has brought you.”
Despite the fact that the final outcome of the 2018 Worlds resulted in a silver medal, denying Canada the chance at an historic fourth consecutive gold medal in WBHF play, there was never one sign of quit among the proud roster. Taking on a Russian team that also served as host country, a highly competitive and visceral game required an arduous shootout to determine the victor, who would emerge with well-earned bragging rights as world champions.
Although the Russian goal thwarted Canada’s ambitions, holding a haunting similarity to Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scoring on Canada’s Shannon Szabados in the gold medal game of women’s ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Games, any feelings of loss and sadness were quickly replaced by national pride. Attenborough applauds an admirable yet Amazonian effort, a courageous challenge that saw a gathering of distinguished competitors contribute a collective effort in the hopes of maintaining Canada’s status as the game’s elites.
Considering that Canada’s men’s team also reached their respective gold medal game, challenging Czech Republic, (4-2) the sweat and sacrifice exerted throughout the week in Russia reflected an heroic effort that cannot be measured by any medal. Undeniably, the character displayed served as one of the defining moments of Attenborough’s experience in Russia, providing inspiration for greater glories to come,
“Looking back at the 2018 Worlds in Russia, I would have to say my favourite moment was the last day, the championship game against Russia. Although we lost in a shootout that day, it was the rollercoaster of emotions the entire men’s and women’s teams had shown that day. The heart that went into playing those games was real (and) is something I will never forget.
Truly, I believe it brought both teams a little closer together. Also, being able seeing Red Square in Moscow is a close second, a once in a lifetime opportunity that I can check off my bucket list.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Crashed Ice image from Craig Madsen Photography
All other images obtained from Facebook
WBHF game photos can be viewed at: www.facebook.com/AlexeySizovPhotography