One of the most talented ball hockey players in Canada, the chance to compete on home soil was a cherished milestone for Jessica O’Grady. A member of the Canadian national team that captured the gold medal at the 2013 ISBHF Ball Hockey Worlds in St. John’s, Newfoundland, O’Grady followed it up by scoring the gold medal clinching goal for the Vanier Mooseheads at the 2014 Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA) Nationals.
Such a legendary goal only complemented another amazing milestone in O’Grady’s hockey career. As a forward with the Carleton Ravens in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, O’Grady once scored three shootout goals in one game, a January 21, 2013 victory against the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Although such a prodigious performer as O’Grady was given the opportunity to play for Team Canada at the 2015 Worlds in Zug, real-world obligations prevented her from contributing to another gold medal for Canada. Despite such heartbreak, O’Grady cherishes the chance to help Canada prevail at the 2013 Worlds.
“I was invited to play at the 2015 Worlds, due to work and school; I was not able to make it. Winning in Canada in 2013 was (and will) always be indescribable. The atmosphere was amazing and it was so great to do it in your home country.
Heading into the 2015 edition of the CBHA Nationals, O’Grady was back in her hometown of Ottawa. As the nation’s capital served as the host city, it was a chance for O’Grady to get in touch with her roots.
Currently residing in Toronto for work and school, she was more than proud to suit up for the Ottawa Rebels. Of note, the squad finished in first place in preliminary round play with a 4-0-1 mark, accumulating 13 points.
“It has been great. It is always fun to get to compete with family and friends in the stands. The first few days were great so far, I cannot wait to keep going.”
Competing in the Greater Toronto Women’s Ball Hockey League with the Spartans, O’Grady has not only extended her own ball hockey legacy, but has established herself as an ambassador for the sport. The chance to return home for the nationals was an opportunity to play alongside another ambassador and good friend, Fannie Desforges.
Although the two have been rivals in the CIS, as Desforges played for the Ottawa Gee-Gees, while the CWHL saw O’Grady with Calgary and Desforges in Montreal, their strong friendship has seen them play together at the ball hockey level. Not only were the two teammates on Team Canada 2013, they were also part of the Mooseheads run to the national title in 2014.
This year, the two donned the scarlet and black colors of the Ottawa Rebels jersey. As a side note, they were not the only CWHL players on the Rebels roster. Both former members of the now defunct Ottawa Lady Senators, Isabelle Aube and Erika Pouliot
“It is always fun to play with your friends, always a great time. To play in the nats and the worlds with friends like Fannie Desforges for awhile, it is great to be able to play again.
In the CIS and the CWHL, we were always after each other on the ice, so in ball hockey; it is a great chance to play with each other again. Being from Ottawa, it is only right to play with the home team, especially when the nationals are in Ottawa.”
Part of a group of highly experienced and seasoned players with the Rebels, O’Grady works towards setting a positive example through a solid work ethic that has made her one of Ottawa’s most accomplished women’s hockey players. Testament to her team-first approach is the ability to also recognize the efforts of those around her, who all work together for one common goal,
“I feel like one for sure but everyone is a leader on our team. Everyone here works together as a team and it sets a better example for the younger kids.
We do have a core leadership. Our captains are Isabelle Aube, Susie Laska, Ashley Burrill and BD (Stephanie Brunette-D’Souza). We try to keep calm and everyone makes it what it is by clicking together and playing together. We enjoy our game.”
Upon finishing her final season with the Carleton Ravens program in 2013, O’Grady joined the Calgary Inferno for one season. Selected 26th overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft, the chance to play for the Inferno represented a new chapter in her playing career,
“I wanted a change of scenery and to expand, see more of the country. I had a couple of friends out there. Everything fell into place. I loved it and it was a great experience.”
Her first career CWHL point came in a February 1, 2014 home game against the Montreal Stars as she assisted on a goal scored by Chelsea Purcell. Coincidentally, Purcell was one of O’Grady’s teammates with Team Canada 2013. In addition, Desforges also played in the game for the Montreal Stars.
By season’s end, O’Grady had helped the Calgary Inferno qualify for its first-ever appearance in the Clarkson Cup playoffs. It was part of a memorable experience for O’Grady, helping contribute to a new chapter of women’s hockey in Western Canada,
“The teammates make it what it is. I was lucky to have great teammates. Everyone got along so well. Seeing the club make the Clarkson Cup playoffs was incredible. A great moment for Inferno hockey fans. No doubt they will bring one home soon.”
While O’Grady has been pursuing her post graduate degree at George Brown College, she is still making contributions in the women’s ice hockey community. Despite being forced to hang up her hockey skates due to a premature injury, she is still carving a strong legacy in the game. Currently, she works with the CWHL as the manager of hockey operations, helping to contribute to the league’s strong growth while retaining the strong values of teamwork.
“I am happy to be working there. I started there a couple of months ago and did an internship. Afterwards, I had an opportunity to start working there full-time.”
Whether it is as a competitor or teammate, one common quality about O’Grady is that she is a valued friend among her peers, exemplifying the essence of sportsmanship. The chance to be part of the Rebels roster and compete on one of ball hockey’s biggest stages on home soil is a pleasant opportunity to return to her roots, while helping such an exciting game builds on the strong momentum over the last few years.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo (Left to right): Toronto Shamrocks forward Jenny Brine, Newfoundland United players Kristen Cooze, Dawn Tulk and Amanda Kean joined by O’Grady at closing ceremony of 2015 CBHA Nationals. Image obtained from Instagram