As the gathering of world-class women at the 2018 ISBHF Masters in Bermuda added an exceptional chapter to the high quality of elite global play, one of the event’s hallmarks allowed for such distinguished competitors to become acquainted. Such circumstance served to solidify a bond between two of Alberta’s elite competitors: Colleen Gamache and Keeley Prockiw.
Both recruited to compete for Calgary United at this year’s Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA) Nationals, calling each other teammates for the first time, the results were golden. The contingent from Alberta’s sporting capital bested their eastern rivals from Ottawa with solid contributions from Gamache, who competed for the Edmonton Fusion in last year’s finals. Gaining a spot on the 2018 CBHA Nationals All-Star Team, Prockiw, a highly accomplished goaltender on the ice and on the slab, has a daughter, Meghan Cornwell who emulated her by also standing between the pipes in seasons past.
Prior to this year’s CBHA Nationals and the ISBHF Masters, Gamache reveals that she had only known Prockiw primarily as a rival, each competing with their respective teams for supremacy on Alberta’s ball hockey slabs. During the 2018 Women’s Ball Hockey of Edmonton season, the rivalry still had some legs. Prockiw was a goaltender for a club known as The Big Chill, while Gamache won the scoring title, amassing 42 points with her team, identified by the sobriquet, Fusion.
As 2018 represented a whirlwind time for Gamache, experiencing the jubilation of marriage, along with a CBHA national championship and Masters Gold, the sprouting of a new friendship enriched such a meaningful series of substantial events.
“I actually met Keeley after we found out (about) the roster. We had played against each other but never really connected till then. It was great having someone in town to discuss and prepare with. Even got to be picked up with her to head to Nationals with Calgary United, even though we left the day after my wedding (laughs).”
In addition to the joy of wedded bliss, Gamache experienced another proud milestone. Heading into the Masters, it marked her debut donning Canada’s colors on the international stage. Akin to any athlete from the vast Canadian landscape, the chance to have the word “Canada” emblazoned on their jersey reflects a sense of achievement and a feeling of honour that cannot be duplicated. Undeniably, it marked a dream come true for the proud Gamache,
“Wearing the Maple Leaf for the first time was amazing! As a kid every athlete dreams of it. The pride you have is overwhelming and you get to stand beside some pretty amazing women.”
Certainly, Prockiw is worthy of amazing status. A veteran of both Canada’s national team and numerous CBHA tournaments, one of her career highlights involved standing between the pipes at the 2017 ISBHF World Championships, one which resulted in another podium finish for the powerhouse program. Gaining the chance to call Gamache a teammate in Masters play was only part of a very profound narrative in this latest chapter of her hockey odyssey.
After playing against Nathalie Girouard in the gold medal game of the CBHA Nationals, with Prockiw standing between the pipes for Calgary United, while Girouard enjoyed another appearance representing the ball hockey hotbed of Ottawa, rivalries dissolved as these goaltending luminaries were reunited once again in Canadian colors. Having called each other teammates at numerous ISBHF tournaments prior, the chance to be teammates again in Bermuda brought with it a sense of pride.
“Natty is an amazing goalie, teammate, and (as we fondly refer to ourselves) a linemate. I was so happy to play against her in an incredible final game at Nationals. It was so great to be at that special of a game with someone I already knew and had so much respect for as a person and a goalie. It was so much more special knowing we would be sharing the net only a few short weeks after to represent our country.”
Seeing action in three games, Prockiw needed only five saves in an 8-1 whitewashing against the second Canadian contingent in Bermuda (representing the region of New Tecumseth, Ontario) as Mandi Duhamel and Colleen McQuaid, who also participated at the 2018 CrossFit International Games, each recorded two goals, while 12 players logged at least one point in the contest. Candy Goodman would foil Prockiw’s bid for a shutout, scoring at the 21:50 mark.
Against Team USA Red, Prockiw enjoyed another winning performance. Despite Colleen Redi providing USA Red with the early advantage, scoring at the 4:48 mark, Canada would respond with a stirring five goals in just under 20 minutes. Requiring merely seven saves in a 5-1 final,
For Prockiw, along with all participants at the Masters, the opportunity to play in an exotic venue like Bermuda certainly represented a unique career highlight. Playing outdoors, under a bright, shiny sky, as the breeze from the Atlantic Ocean cradled the playing surface, tensions from the game could easily dissolved by the opportunity to walk in the ocean, enjoying the luxurious beaches, abandoning shoulder pads and helmets for swimsuits and sunglasses.
“I cannot describe what it was like to play in Bermuda. We knew going into this tournament that it was going to be an experience of a lifetime but it was so much more.
The ocean view behind the rink, the salt breeze when you were playing, the sun on your face, everything about that week was unique. Being able to share these memories with Colleen, Nat, and every other teammate was incredible. We grew and bonded as a family that week.”
Logging significant playing time in Bermuda, Gamache also noted how the venue painted a unique portrait which saw the playing surface as part of the canvas. While the elements also presented an element of adjustment, the post game activity of plunging into the Atlantic was a rewarding remedy, drawing the players to its mesmerizing waters,
“Bermuda was venue like no other. The beauty of the turquoise water and colourful scenery was worth any other obstacles it provided. Dealing with the heat, humidity, rain, or sun in your eyes was completely worth it when you could jump in the ocean post game!”
With the final game of the Masters resulting in Canada defeating Team USA Blue, simultaneously making history with its third consecutive gold medal at the event, there was an enhanced feeling of attainment for Gamache and Prockiw. Accumulating double gold in a calendar year, reaching the celebrated summit while donning the Canadian jersey at Bermuda, such an opportunity supplied an additional benefit.
As Prockiw emphasizes, the journey towards such a peak was made richer by the chance to get know Gamache as more than a teammate. With a friendship that vibrantly bloomed, the golden bond is destined to be treasured, a proud highlight in their storied careers that shall supply memories worth preserving,
“This summer has been amazing not only playing and winning two golds with Colleen, but also having the opportunity to get to know her. We share memories and a bond with each other that is special and will last a lifetime! We knew each other through hockey but had never been teammates and now we are not only teammates, but family! I am honored to have won both golds with her!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from Facebook