One of the rising stars in ice sledge hockey, Veronique Major enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2015-16. Not only did Major earn a spot on the Canadian national women’s team, she was an alternate captain along with Myriam Adam on Les Quebecoises, the provincial all-female ice sledge hockey team, an unprecedented first in La Belle Province.
With Les Quebecoises, Major experienced the thrill of a pair of interprovincial series against Team Ontario (comprised of national team members such as Claire Buchanan, Danica McPhee and Christina Picton, among others) along with the chance to compete in an ice sledge hockey tournament in London, Ontario. Such opportunities provided Major with the chance to grow not only as a player but as a leader.
“I am very proud of my team. This was our first season playing together as a team. Some players were playing for the first time ever, although some of us were not in our first season, having played before. I was excited at how we shared the same passion. Even the first-year players had that same sense and everyone blended well together.”
Major’s efforts may serve as the spark to empathically enhance the confidence of the young players while displaying tremendous teamwork skills. Subsequently, it symbolizes more than just mentoring but friendship, a positive example that the young players of Les Quebecoises can definitely learn from.
‘We like to encourage the young players. Personally, I try to instill a positive attitude. I like to point out things they could have done better. Having played for three years, I like to be able to give advice to help them improve. They motivate me as well. I always look to improve my game and many of the players have become very good.”
During the final home series for the CWHL’s Canadiennes de Montreal, a sweep against the Boston Blades, the bigger victory resulted in a tremendous opportunity to strike a new friendship, perhaps a key moment in Quebec women’s hockey history. Les Quebecoises were not only invited to the Saturday evening contest, team captain Vanessa Racine got to grace the ice in the pre-game skate.
Following the game, members of Les Canadiennes ventured into the stands to engage in a meet-and-greet with the enthusiastic members of Les Quebecoises. While Les Quebecoises may have felt like fans at the game, there is no question that their expanding legacy in sport makes them role models as well. As Major reflects, the chance to speak to the remarkable women of Les Canadiennes was one defined by empowerment and inspiration, as both teams are unified in helping grow the game in their native province.
“Truly, it was a great moment for our team. We took a picture with them and I have that as a souvenir. We were invited as a team to attend the game. To see them play professional hockey was inspiring. Like us, they are an all-female team with a strong sense of solidarity.
When the players visited us after the game, we were happy to meet them and we felt that they respected our efforts (as players). To see them play their match was important for us and they were very good. We were happy to be invited and in turn, they have been invited to come out next season and try to play in the sled. It was gratifying for us, and they taught us through the spirit that they display.”
Before the season would expire, there was another opportunity for Major to get acquainted with other stars in women’s hockey. This event took place during the national team’s final event of their season in Calgary, Alberta. Truly defining the growing acceptance of women’s ice sledge hockey, it served as a fitting end to Major’s dream season.
With a training and evaluation camp taking place in both Medicine Hat and Calgary, Alberta, Major and the rest of the national team were granted the privilege of visiting Winsport Arena, the on-ice home of Hockey Canada. To be able to visit such an elite facility only added to the feeling of acceptance that women’s ice sledge hockey has experienced in the last few seasons.
While there were also on-ice obligations, as the national team engaged in a two-game series against the Calgary Scorpions ice sledge hockey team, off the ice both clubs were in awe at what awaited them. Jenna Cunningham and Kelsey Webster of the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno were on-hand with the Clarkson Cup, which both won as teammates in 2016. This treasured day with the Cup allowed players from both teams access to one of the most treasured prizes in women’s hockey, while Cunningham and Webster provided friendship and words of encouragement.
“It is great to be with the team. This was my first season with the team and we wrapped things up with the camp (in Calgary). I wanted to benefit as much as possible and try to make the team again next season. It is always a great opportunity to keep learning and keep improving.”
In reflecting on such a landmark season, the first time that Major wore the Team Canada jersey symbolized a great personal milestone and athletic achievement. Although she also felt the obligatory jitters that comes with ascending to a new level of competition, it was a sign of her commitment and dedication,
“It was so exciting to wear the jersey. It truly meant a lot to me, but I felt pressure as I wanted to prove that I deserved to be there. I was determined to prove myself. To realize that you play for your country is an honor.”
The road towards the national team has resulted in several positive influences along with the way. Even with the team, Major has proven that one never stops learning, finding another remarkable influence among her teammates. A charter member of the national team, Ashley Goure, has proven to be a key person in Major’s time with the squad. As both are double amputees from the knees down, it is a disability that each understands very well, as both courageously enjoy life with tremendous dignity, setting an exceptional example for both disabled and able-bodied individuals.
“I started playing in Quebec City and Melanie Beaudoin from Adaptavie was one of the first to instruct me. Since I have gotten to know the players from the national team, Ashley Goure has truly been my inspiration. She has the same handicap like me and she has allowed me to understand how far you can go.”
Despite being a double amputee, Major has an amazing zest for life, driven to succeed while refusing to wallow in self-pity. With an enthusiastic smile that sets a bright, positive tone, she charges through life, while embodying the valuable life lesson of hard work.
Sport has resulted in a reinventing progression for Major, who has also excelled in swimming. The result is one where Major has emerged as a leader and inspiring pillar in her community. Subsequently, it will always generate eminently appropriate feelings of achievement. Such feelings resulted in a great series of personal victories this season, as Major has blossomed into an accomplished athlete whose efforts found a special place in the hearts of teammates and fans,
“As an athlete, being on the national team is my proudest achievement. I have never been on any national team before and to play with people from other cities, and to train and travel in other provinces, it is a great feeling to realize this and I am proud of it.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Facebook