Running parallel to the growth of ball hockey as a world-class sport is the fascinating number of players that have attained legendary status. Among such luminaries that have graced the court for Canada at numerous WBHF competitions includes the highly accomplished Melissa Miller.
A former competitor in women’s ice hockey at Brock University, coincidentally, this year’s version of Team Canada featured Lisa Buratynski, who is currently in her senior season with the Brock Badgers. For Buratynski, a former Ontario Scholar whose university career has also included competition for the Castleton Spartans in Vermont, she certainly had a tremendous role model to look up to in Miller.
With a career built on achievement, complemented by dedication to the sport and teammates alike, Miller has become a cornerstone for Canadian ball hockey and an unforgettable competitor. In such a distinguished career, Miller has never forgotten the honored privilege of representing Canada, reflecting gleefully on the tremendous honor of wearing the jersey,
“When I first put on the Team Canada jersey, it was a great sense of accomplishment. It had been a lifelong goal of mine to be able to represent my country and putting on that jersey for the first time was such an honour for me and also a reminder that all of the hard work and dedication I have put into sports from an early age had paid off.”
With the 2017 edition of the WBHF World Championships providing Miller with another cherished gold medal, it is part of a much more compelling narrative. One, in which her love of the game and tremendous consistency as a leader and elite competitor have transformed her into one of the national team’s living legends, a seemingly unconquerable force that is an invaluable asset to any team that she competes for.
Undoubtedly, there was a tremendous sense of fulfillment on numerous levels for the jubilant Miller. From the outset, this year signified Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations. Gaining the opportunity to represent Canada internationally during such a landmark time was a tremendous source of national pride.
That sense of pride was accentuated by the fact that Canada showed a tremendous display of character in the gold medal game. Taking on the host Czech Republic (which was also the host nation for the ISBHF Worlds), Canada was behind for the first time in the entire tournament. In a display of character, Miller and her Canadian teammates bounced back, reclaiming the lead en route to a golden outcome. Taking into account that the men’s team captured the gold medal, it was an inspiring golden sweep that mirrored the efforts of Canada in ice hockey at the 2014 Winter Games.
“The gold medal this year in the Czech Republic was arguably the most memorable. It was my first time traveling to Europe and having to adjust to different food, different routines, time change and jet lag made this one more challenging, and as a result, more rewarding.
It was my third World Championship and each one is different, but the feeling of having a gold medal being put around your neck never gets old. We played a tough Czech Republic team in the gold medal game. They went up on us in this game, which was an experience we did not have through the rest of the tournament. It was actually the first goal that we allowed.
We had a great mix of veteran leadership and young talent that was able to bounce back and win the gold medal with a 4-1 win. The men completed the gold medal sweep immediately after our game, also defeating the Czech Republic. It was a great moment, with both teams being able to celebrate our gold medal victories in enemy territory.”
Fittingly, the origins of Miller’s legend were first formed on home soil. Raised in Enterprise, Ontario, located 25 miles northwest of Kingston, Miller would later make her mark in Mississauga, where she served as the team captain for the Senior BB Chiefs. Of note, the neighboring city of Toronto served as the host city for the 2013 edition of the World Championships, resulting in an important chapter in the city’s narrative as a key hub for women’s hockey. Heralding an important milestone in Miller’s hockey narrative, it also provided one of her most unforgettable moments.
With the treasured opportunity to compete at the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens (MLG), multiple milestones were attained. In addition to donning her country’s colors on home soil, there was also a chance to emulate the hockey heroes from generations before, scoring in the hallowed shrine of hockey, complemented by Game MVP honors in a victorious semi-final against the United States.
Followed by triumph in the gold medal game on June 13, a 5-2 victory versus the Netherlands, it shall stand as one of the defining moments in Miller’s career. Recording a goal and an assist in the victory, it was part of an opportunity for Miller to contribute towards another new chapter in MLG history. Considering that the restored venue would play host to Ryerson women’s ice hockey, along with a captivating gold medal game between Canada and the United States in women’s basketball at the 2015 Pan American Games, Miller was equally part of an important chapter for the presence of women at MLG.
“The 2013 tournament was special in many ways. It was in Toronto, so lots of friends and family were able to attend the event and watch me play and live out my lifelong goal of competing for my country. It was also special because it was held at the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens. Knowing the history of the arena and all of the great memories that had already been made there made it extra special for me.
I was named the MVP of the semi-final game against the Americans. I was definitely more excited after that game that we had advanced to play in the gold medal game the following day than I was about winning the MVP award.
Although individual accomplishments are always nice, I relish in the opportunity to accomplish something with my teammates, showing that we were able to work together and achieve a common goal.”
Equally important in Miller’s ball hockey legacy has involved her success in another prestigious championship. Capturing Outdoor World Championships on four separate occasions (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017); it represents a unique versatility for the accomplished Miller.
In 2013 and 2014, Miller was part of the Niagara Falls Rocky Mountaineers, sharing the back-to-back wins alongside the likes of Michelle Edgar and Brittany Nagy. As a side note, Jenny Brine, a Harvard Crimson graduate who would also compete internationally in ball hockey, along with the gold medal clinching goal at the 2015 CBHA Nationals, was Miller’s team on the 2013 edition of the Rocky Mountaineers. Competing with the Niagara Beastie B*tches in 2016, Miller captured gold in the Women’s B Division.
Taking into account the possible impact of the elements, blue-line flooring, and in some cases, dek flooring, the game can be an adjustment for even the most seasoned indoor ball hockey competitors. This year’s edition of the Outdoor Championships presented a significant challenge in terms of heat and humidity, certainly testing the limits of its competitors.
With the annual event contested in Barrie, Ontario, the fans on-hand witnessed a unique double, as Miller became part of a unique sorority of accomplished competitors to capture both the WBHF gold and an Outdoor Championship in the same year, along with the OBHA crown, adding to the unforgettable legacy for one of ball hockey’s most lauded competitors.
“The Outdoor Championships are one of the tournaments that I look forward to the most every year. The outdoor game is definitely different from the indoor, with having to battle the weather, smaller floor and with the icing line being your own blue line.
I have had the opportunity to play on great teams in the Outdoor Championships. This year was definitely special with being able to win the WBHF World Championship, OBHA Provincial Championship and the World Outdoor Championship in the same year.
The Outdoor Championships this year were held during the heat wave in September. We played a great round robin and advanced to the gold medal game after defeating Pittsburgh in the semi-finals. We played a tough team from Barrie in 40 degree heat.
Both teams were definitely struggling with the heat, goalies especially. The game was deadlocked at 1 until we scored with 1.2 seconds left in the game to win.
We definitely wanted to avoid going into OT in that heat and fearing dehydration so I was very happy to see the ball go in the net. I was also able to share the experience with several other members from the World Championship team.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Bruised Camera (Outdoor Worlds), Other images obtained from Facebook