As Canada reached dynasty status with its third consecutive gold at the ISBHF Masters, the combination of achievement and reaching legendary standing generated intrigue by a remarkable element of subplots, composing a compelling narrative. Among such players who contributed towards this triumphant chapter included Colleen McQuaid, whose brilliant performance allowed the ball hockey world to catch up to her, simultaneously appreciating her sensational skillfulness on the slab.
The opportunity to wear the Team Canada jersey brought an empowering finish to a memorable summer. One which saw McQuaid, who has balanced her athletic endeavors with an entrepreneurial spirit that has established her as the co-proprietor of Complete Balance Physiotherapy, qualify for the 2018 International CrossFit Games at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
After giving birth to her third child, McQuaid employed CrossFit as a strategic resource to become highly conditioned for a return to ball hockey. Eventually, CrossFit developed into a passion, becoming a Level One coach. Placing 20th in a regional qualifier during the summer of 2018, McQuaid made history by becoming the first person from Atlantic Canada to qualify for the CrossFit Games. Worth noting, she would enjoy a top 10 finish at the Games in the Division of Women 35-39, and her overall rank in Canada among women of this age group is an impressive third.
The sense of Atlantic Pride took on more luster heading into the 2018 ISBHF Worlds. Joined by Sandi Desrosiers, Sheila Elliott-Kirkpatrick (who won gold at the 2014 and 2016 Masters), Maryelle Hannam, Shelley Leahy, Sara Ross and Sherry Rowe, McQuaid, a resident of Quispamsis, was one of seven players from New Brunswick (and eight from Atlantic Canada including Newfoundland’s Susan Stuckless), competing on the Canadian contingent. In addition, General Manager Sarah Hayward, who has also worked tirelessly for the CBHA, is another proud resident of New Brunswick.
While this presence allowed for a remarkable feeling of solidarity and unity among the Maritime players, such feelings were only surpassed by the sense of national pride. As McQuaid recounts, the feeling of wearing the Canadian jersey for the first time was one that brought with it a flood of emotions,
“It was surreal to wear the Maple Leaf. It made me want to win that much more because I was playing for all of Canada and it is an honour to represent my country. I had just met the girls on my team the day before and I was so excited to see their talent, skill and passion we all shared.”
Competing in Bermuda, the dream venue also presented elements of acclimatization. From the outset, games were contested outdoors, requiring the accoutrement of sunglasses, adorning the visages of the talented women, adjusting their vision.
Adapting to the physical demands of playing outdoors, as the subtropical heat presented new scenarios for even the most experienced of players, the aftermath of games providing a respite that felt like a reward after exertion in high stakes competition. Submerging into the Atlantic Ocean allowed for a refreshing relief, providing a blend of physical and spiritual therapy,
“The heat and sun made it much harder to play than indoors and definitely took some time to adapt. I still have bruises on my nose from jamming sunglasses under my helmet! (laughs)
Keeping hydrated was a challenge as well and we had to use ice and cold towels to cool us down between shifts. It was a great venue and an incredible experience. After every game we would walk down the hill to a beach and jump in the ocean, it was amazing!”
Finishing as Canada’s leading scorer at the Masters, McQuaid posted an impressive nine points, including goals in key wins against rivals Slovakia and the United States (Blue team). Trailing behind her were the likes of Stuckless with seven points, while Isabelle Aube and Sivlia Traversa, who have also won gold for Canada at the ISBHF World Championships, registered six points each.
Recording at least one point in four of five games, which included at least one goal in the four games, McQuaid’s finest performance was a four-point output in a highly poignant contest. In addition to the United States, who supplied a Blue Team and a Red Team, Canada was also represented by a duo of teams. In addition to the national team, the ball hockey hotbed of New Tecumseth, Ontario, provided a roster of world-class talent.
With Team Canada opposing their brethren from New Tecumseth, McQuaid scored twice, while adding a pair of assists. Generating a fantastic four-point output in a convincing 8-1 triumph, McQuaid collaborated with Maryelle Hannam, both assisting on the game’s first goal, scored by Mandi Duhamel, who juggled coaching duties with a role as an emergency player. Before the first period would expire, McQuaid would assist on Duhamel’s second goal of the game, scored at the 13:51 mark.
Coincidentally, Duhamel would reciprocate McQuaid’s playmaking efforts. Along with Stuckless, both assisted on McQuaid’s first goal of the game. Fittingly, she would score the last goal of the game, with Duhamel earning the assist, both earning four-point status.
In the race for the scoring title, the only player in Bermuda that racked up more points that McQuaid was Team USA Blue’s Cherie Stewart. Making her Masters debut, Stewart, an alum of the relaunched NWHL, logged 11 points, enabling her to capture Top Forward honors.
Undoubtedly, the bragging rights would be defined by the color of the medals. With Canada and USA Blue facing off in the gold medal game, marking the third straight time that Canada and a team from the USA have contested each other for gold, McQuaid would score the game’s first goal, as Stuckless and Sutherland registered the assists on said goal. Although Stewart would gain the assist on a goal by Kristen Patenaude, it was newly minted CBHA Hall of Famer Shelley Cockerill that resolved the 1-1 deadlock (one which persisted for over 20 minutes) by scoring at the 30:31 mark, logging what proved to be the game-winning tally.
Although the summit of the gold medal allowed McQuaid to add another remarkable achievement to her standing as a world-class athlete, her proudest realization is being a proud mother of three boys. Indubitably, winning a gold medal became a tremendous source of inspiration for her boys. The reunion at the airport definitely provided a storybook finish for a jubilant McQuaid, ecstatic to see her family again, while displaying her newest haul of hockey hardware, the enthusiastic reaction among the boys certainly placed into perspective the reason that she played.
“If there is anyone I want to make proud in this world, it is my three boys. They met me at the airport with the biggest hugs and kisses and were quickly discussing and negotiating who got to bring my medal and trophy to school the next day. They were MY inspiration to play my heart out.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from Facebook