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Monumental Memories on Anniversary of Canada’s Fifth Gold Medal at Inline Worlds

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With Canada looking to capture a gold medal at the 2017 ISBHF Women’s World Championships, the roster can find great inspiration in the achievements of its hockey sisters; the Canadian national women’s inline team. Last year, this amazing group captured its fifth gold medal in the history of the FIRS Inline Hockey World Championships.

As the gold medal attained at Asiago, Italy in 2016 adds luster to the wins from 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2012, the national Inline team is part of an amazing golden generation for all forms of women’s hockey in Canada. Of note, it was a roster that consisted of numerous players whose career achievements also extended to the ice.
Among such players was Lindsay Grigg, who was also a member of Canada’s roster which obtained silver at the 2014 Women’s FIRS World Inline Championships. Part of ten players from the 2014 roster who returned in 2016, the time span of two years represented more than just a road towards golden redemption. For Grigg, it also brought with it a sense of history.

Having served as the captain of the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers women’s ice hockey team at the NCAA level, Grigg’s career had evolved considerably by 2016. The 2015-16 season saw Grigg continue her career in Western New York, making the jump to the professional ranks, suiting up for the Buffalo Beauts of the newly launched NWHL.

With an eventful 2016 that also saw Grigg skate in the inaugural Isobel Cup finals, she would become the first player in NWHL history to capture gold at the Women’s FIRS World Inline Championships. Taking into account that she was also Canada’s scoring leader at the event, it only added to the sense of achievement, while affirming her contributions towards a glorious outcome.

“It is a special knowing that and it’s something to be proud of. Except I would say that I really have the best teammates that helped me do that. I’m just happy that I could help contribute to help Canada achieve a gold medal!

Our goalies were also a huge factor. They stood on their heads for us every game and really kept us in games.”

Another player from the 2014 roster would also supply her own hockey heroics for a jubilant Canadian squad in 2016. Part of an accomplished generation of star players that competed in women’s ice hockey for the St. Francis Xavier X-Women in the Atlantic University Sport conference, Brayden Ferguson added to her own athletic legacy.

A former draft pick of the Toronto Furies (former St. FX teammate Rebecca Davies currently serves as the Furies GM), Ferguson also won a gold medal for Canada in women’s ice hockey at the 2009 Winter Universiade in Harbin, China. The opportunity to represent Canada once again in another unique facet of the game places her in the same rarified air as former CIS competitor Amanda Parkins, whose hockey resume also includes gold at both events.

Scoring the championship clinching goal in a visceral gold medal rematch with their eternal rivals United States, it represented one of the tremendous achievements in Ferguson’s hockey career, inline or ice. Reflecting on such a monumental goal with a combination of humility and jubilation, the high energy on such an emotional day is one that Ferguson will never forget,

“I did not even remember until my family and boyfriend reminded me that I scored the game winning goal. The feeling of scoring in that type of game is already exciting enough but to know it was the goal that ultimately won the gold makes that accomplishment that much greater.

Scoring the winning goal in the gold medal game is one of the highlights of my inline career however it’s the team I won gold with that I will always remember.”

The roster in 2016 also brought with it an arrival of new faces, gaining the unique distinction of having captured a world championship in their debuts for Canada. Among such a group included a pair of competitors from diverse backgrounds, each influenced from previous championship glories, both unified in the pursuit of gold.

Hailing from British Columbia, Alexandra Frisk first competed at the tender age of nine years old, strongly influenced by her father, who competed at the Inline level in the NARCH finals. Raised in Ontario, Alyssa Baldin holds the rare prestige of having served as a captain in women’s ice hockey at both the NCAA and Canadian Interuniversity Sport levels.

Having captured a Clarkson Cup in her rookie season with the Toronto Furies in 2014, the Inline Gold in her 2016 debut with the national team brought with it a serendipitous sense of realization for Alyssa Baldin. To capture two major championships in a sensational span of just two years will forever stand as one of the major hallmarks in her career.

The fact that fellow Furies teammate (and 2014 Clarkson Cup champion) Michelle Bonello was also part of this roster only made such a milestone more treasured for Baldin. Of note, it was Bonello’s encouragement that was the catalyst to augment Baldin’s dreams of inline glory,

“It was such an incredible experience being in Asiago and competing against the best teams in the world. Winning gold made the experience that much better. We had a vision going into the tournament and as a team, we pulled together and made that vision happen.

I don’t think I could have asked for a more memorable tournament for my debut at Worlds. There are a lot of my teammates who have been working towards winning that championship and it was such an honour to be able to experience it with them.”

That feeling of honour is one that also defined Frisk’s inaugural sojourn with the national team. Considering that so much of the inline roster is composed of talent from Central Canada, Frisk’s golden outcome added to the inline legacy for the Pacific Coast,

“Winning the gold medal in my first year is an unbelievable experience because even though I have not been on the team prior to this year, I have worked hard and always dreamed of playing at the highest level of women’s inline possible. I knew this day would come and when it did it was more than I could have imagined.

Inline hockey is my second nature; I started playing when I was 9 years old as my dad had also played pro in NARCH finals back in his day. To play for team Canada and to have won gold is a true honour and I thank God for providing such incredible opportunities.”

Akin to Baldin, there was also the feeling for Frisk of finding inspiration in the team’s veteran corps. From their presence providing belief that gold was possible, it was also an influence that allowed Frisk to grow as a player, potentially one day taking on the veteran role herself, being looked up to and possibly emulated,

“Team Canada had many veterans on the team, they seemed very tight knit and passionate about the game. Being from BC I did not know many of the vets prior to the tournament since majority of the team is from Ontario.

As I got to know them, I would have to say I looked to Keely Brown (the assistant coach) and I observed a lot of our number one goalie Fisher. Those two are the best goaltenders in the history of Canada inline so far. It would be a dream to be able to fill those shoes to some extent one day.”

Such a veteran presence was enhanced by a pair of legendary performers who are more than just the cornerstone of the national team, they are its avatars. Both from Ontario, Michelle Bonello and Jackie Jarrell each boast a decade’s experience, helping to shape the inline team’s mythology.

Part of Canada’s last two gold medal winning teams, the previous taking place at Bucaramanga, Colombia in 2012, Bonello and Jarrell have actually crossed paths prior to their inline legacies, calling each other teammates at the NCAA ice hockey level. Wearing the colors of the Mercyhurst Lakers, the two were among the first stars in program history.

Gaining All-Conference honors in her Lakers career, Bonello would go on to become a charter of the Toronto Furies, and a participant in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game, held at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Undoubtedly one of the living legends on Canada’s roster, the ability to add a second gold medal in her career only helps to affirm what she means to this program.

“Winning gold at Worlds is like a dream. All the training beforehand, playing every game during the tournament like it’s the final game, all the bumps and bruises are all worth it in the end.

The ultimate reward for all the hard work put in is better than anyone can imagine. Getting to represent your country and hearing the fans chant go Canada go in the stands gives me chills. When putting on the Canadian jersey I’m so thankful that I get to experience all this.”

Although Jarrell shared in an amazing inline path with Bonello, the jarring reality is that her career was almost sidelined permanently. Diagnosed with a concussion during her time at Mercyhurst, the road back to recovery was one defined by character and grit.

Having bounced back with a stellar run on Canada’s inline team, Jarrell definitely takes on the moniker of role model. Currently engaging in an entrepreneurial spirit, Jarrell runs her own fitness facility. The ability to balance sporting glory, while grooming a new generation is testament to her devotion to the game, while retaining a strong leadership ability. To be able to bring Canada back to the pinnacle of inline hockey only represents a new chapter in her own admirable hockey legacy,

"I have been incredibly fortunate to be on the National Team for a decade and play in 9 World Championships winning (2 G, 6 S, 1 B) medals. Obviously winning the Gold is very special and something that I am extremely proud of.

The scarifies that myself and my teammates make to train and play at that level is unbelievable so being a World Champion makes it so worth it.

We have an amazing core group of veterans who have been in the program for a long time, it is always fun playing with new faces and having them involved in our program. I do my best to lead by example on an off the floor and do whatever is asked of me as a player."

Having played with Jarrell in 2014, Grigg returned as a veteran in 2016, working tirelessly to collaborate towards a glorious redemption. Considering that there was a seven year drought in between Canada’s third and fourth ascensions towards the gold, the challenge to win gold in 2016 was only elevated by the rivalry that only intensified with the United States.

After losing to their American rivals on their own home soil in 2013, as the Worlds were contested in Anaheim, California, the sense of loss took on an even more profound sense of sullenness. A second straight loss at the hands of the American roster would take place  at Toulouse, France in 2014.

Of note, it marked their fourth straight confrontation, ninth overall, for the gold medal, developing a monumental rivalry that mirrors the on-ice version between the Canadian and American women. As Grigg recounts, the chance to reclaim the gold and return to the game’s summit is one that definitely stands as the most revered in tournament play,

“My favourite moment hands down is winning the gold medal. Every year at worlds it is our goal to win a gold medal. Prior to this Worlds, we have not won a gold medal since Colombia in 2012.

Every year we would come so close but come up short. That is why winning that gold medal this year, there is no better feeling. Wearing a maple leaf on your chest and representing your country, not much beats that.

Winning that gold really means everything and I’m so proud to have done it with Canada inline. Not only did we win a gold medal but we did it with a close group of people that will be forever my family.”

That sense of family is one that also encompasses the journey for Ferguson. While the bonds of friendship made with her teammates in 2016 are only made stronger by the satisfaction of a gold medal, one that shall link each player for the remainder of their competitive careers, the support of friends off the court added to the journey as well.

Grateful to have been part of such an important win in national team history, Ferguson reflects how the confident momentum that helped propel this team towards such an exciting result was only made more special by friends and family. It was an element that not only fostered a stronger sense of teamwork, it allowed for an experience that shall put into perspective the meaning of such a monumental achievement,

“It’s almost a feeling you have to experience in order to explain but honour is one word to describe it. Proud of your teammates and all the hard work we put in all year long to win. Thankful for your family and friends who were supporting you back at home and sending inspirational messages every day! It’s something you never forget and a story everyone wants to hear!”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credits: Audrey Colthard-Smith, Lidia Power

The roster for the 2016 Canadian Women’s Inline Hockey Team featured: Alyssa Andres, Alyssa Baldin, Michelle Bonello, LaToya Clarke, Brayden Ferguson, Kendra Fisher, Alexandra Frisk, Lindsay Grigg, Jackie Jarrell, Brooke Ludolph, Montana Merante, Sarah Power, Amanda Reid, Dana Somerville, Christina Sorbara and Jessica Sorensen

Head Coach: Dave Hammond, Assistant Coaches: Keely Brown & Michael Hunt, Team Managers: Donna Forbes & Meka Trepanier and Canada Inline President: Ben Frank.

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