Over the last several years, the Ottawa-Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League has produced talent for the Canadian national ball hockey team. With the 2013 World Ball Hockey Championships being held in St. John’s, Newfoundland this June, the OVWBHL will be proudly represented again.
A total of eight players and one coach have been named to the Canadian roster. In alphabetical order, the OVWBHL players named included: Alicia Blomberg, Fannie Desforges, Elysia Desmier, Nathalie Girouard, Lesley MacArthur, Jessica O’Grady, Erika Pouliot and Danika Smith. The coach named to Team Canada was Nicole Latreille.
The OVWBHL is a summer league that has served as a social outing, as well as an offseason conditioning program for many women’s ice hockey players. Former NCAA players such as Marianna Locke and Kendra Antony have also competed in the league, along with several Canadian Interuniversity Sport players such as Mandi Duhamel.
Of all the players named to the roster, Desforges and Blomberg are also competitive in the Red Bull Crashed Ice Circuit. Having finished her final season with the Gee Gees (including serving as team captain), Desforges is very excited about being named to the team.
“It is a huge honor to be representing your country. I am very humbled and very proud to be representing my country again,” proclaimed Desforges. This will signify her second nod on the team and she is very determined to claim a gold, “As the home team, we have to defend our ground. Nothing will stop us.”
Melissa Boufounos-Milonow, a 2011 CWHL draft pick, has found new life in the OVWBHL. During the 2012 season, she was named the Most Valuable Player of her team, and is aspiring for an opportunity to compete on the national team in 2015. She may still be part of the 2013 event as her grandmother was born in Greece, and is considering competing for them in order to gain experience.
Jessica O’Grady, a women’s ice hockey player for the Carleton Ravens, was one of the Ottawa-based players named to the national ball hockey team. This will mark O’Grady’s debut with the Canadian contingent:
“I am the only Carleton Ravens player on the team. Some of the Gee Gees include Fannie Desforges and Alicia Blomberg.”
She started the sport at the urging of her friends, “There were just a few friends who asked if I wanted to play. That was almost four to five years ago. I said sure, and I loved it. I have kept playing in the Ottawa Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League every summer,” stated Jessica O’Grady.
An alternate captain for the Ottawa Gee Gees women’s ice hockey team, Alicia Blomberg started ball hockey for fitness. “When I moved to Ottawa, in my first summer, I wanted to play a summer sport. There were several players from the Gee Gees that played ball hockey, and they got me into it.”
In addition, former Gee Gees captains Erika Pouliot and Danika Smith will be serving their second tour of duty on the Canadian squad. Currently serving as an assistant coach for the Gee Gees, Pouliot is proud of being named to the national team. “Well, first representing Canada is a huge honor for me. So winning the gold would be a big achievement and being (named) the world champion."
The opportunity to win gold on home soil is one that is not lost on O’Grady. “It would mean everything. How amazing would it be to win gold in your home country? It would be a dream come true for anybody.”
For Blomberg, the opportunity to win gold would be redemption for her. Like many of fellow OVWBHL competitors, this represents her second time on the squad. Her debut was as part of the Canadian team that won a silver medal in 2011. “Winning at home would be great. Especially because we lost to Slovakia.”
Desforges is also eager for the chance for retribution against the rival Slovaks, “Slovakia is a good team, but we are on a quest for gold right now. Nothing can stop us.” Blomberg also mentioned that the rivalry with Slovakia adds extra incentive for the team because the Slovaks captured the gold on their home soil in 2011. “There is a big rivalry. We lost in Slovakia in 2011. It would be great to beat them in Canada.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”