By Mark Staffieri
During a distinguished decade that has seen Elysia Desmier establish herself as a mainstay on Canada’s national women’s ball hockey team, a quintet of appearances at the IBSHF World Championships represents a precious pinnacle. Enjoying a podium finish in each appearance, the most recent may have been the most satisfying.
Following a bronze medal at the 2017 edition of the Worlds, an unexpected result, compounded by the fact that the proud Canadian roster suffered its first-ever loss to the United States in tournament history, the subsequent two years were predicated on redemption.
In pure storybook fashion, a riveting rematch took place on the grandest stage in ISBHF play. With Kosice, Slovakia, serving as the backdrop, the gold medal game at the 2019 Worlds consisted of Canadian and their American opponents renewing rivalries, bringing a thrilling decade of the female game to a thrilling denouement.
“2017 felt like unfinished business. The loss in the semifinals didn’t sit right with me. The game was in our hands and for whatever reason it just slipped away. I knew this year’s world championships were gold or bust. We were not settling for anything less. This group of women put their all in and we got the job done. Could not have been prouder to be a part of this team.”
Bouncing back from a 2-0 deficit, Desmier led the charge in an emotional comeback. Scoring Canada’s second goal of the game, Melanie Jue, who also plays ice hockey with the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays in China, and Edie Brenning, appearing in her first ISBHF tournament for Canada, supplied the assists.
Prevailing by a 4-2 tally, with Brenning recording the game-winning goal, the result was one of the most pulse-pounding gold medal games in ISBHF lore. With the jubilation supplied by a gold medal draped around her neck, Desmier felt a gratifying feeling of achievement that was well worth the two years wait.
“Every year we always have a mix of veterans and rookies. This being my 5th world championships I felt like I had some experience that could help some of the rookies know what to expect and how to prepare for each game. We had a lot of new girls from Ottawa this year, and seeing them almost weekly throughout the spring/summer leading up the world championships, I was able to help ease their nerves and to know what to expect.”
Enhancing the summit of a golden victory was the fact that Desmier was surrounded by an assortment of familiar faces. Currently based in Canada’s Capital Region, following a series of on-ice heroics with the celebrated Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks, and the CWHL’s Brampton Thunder, Desmier reinvented herself as one of the elite superstars of the Ottawa-Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League (OVWBHL).
Starring for the Vanier Mooseheads, one of the league’s elite clubs, having achieved the summit of a CBHA National Championship in 2014, there was a definitely a strong local element in Kosice. Among the talented women that comprised the 2019 Canadian roster, Desmier was joined by four other stars from OVWBHL play.
Including gregarious goaltender Nathalie Girouard, also a longtime teammate from the Mooseheads, the Canadian contingent also featured Brenning, who all were familiar faces for Desmier. Providing mentoring for the young Brenning, who finished tied as Canada’s leading scorer in Kosice, an exciting glimpse of the future, it added an enriching sense of purpose for the veteran leader,
“It is always nice having a lot of local girls from Ottawa represent Canada. It shows the depth of our league and it’s always nice having some familiar faces to travel with and see on the bench. Also, since most of us play on different teams in our league it’s a nice change to play with them on the same team. As they’re all so skilled, so for once I didn’t have to worry about going against them.”
With such a distinguished career in Canadian colours, one filled with a seemingly endless list of memorable highlights, Desmier reflects on such a proud body of work with an emphasis on observing one of the signature rivals of ISBHF competition. Considering that the rivalry between Canada and the United States was among the key storylines at the 2017 and 2019 ISBHF Worlds, along with their golden collisions in Masters Play, the unfolding narrative is destined to reach even greater heights in subsequent competitions.
Such a sense of competition is one that has seen Desmier rise to the occasion. Contributing greatly in the rise of this new rivalry, the level of motivation, combined by a resiliency, has resulted in some of her most determined performances. As both countries are bound to experience even greater matches in the decade to come, the legacy of players such as Desmier, whose career also reached a superlative summit with a podium finish during every ISBHF World Championship from the 2010s, established a foundation bound to grow in magnitude and scope, destined to inspire a new generation to build on an expanding legend,
“This being my fifth world championships it would be easy to say every championship win. Yet, I feel like whenever we play the Americans I get an extra surge of energy or step that allows me to play even better. Playing against your continental rivals is always fun and I do pretty well on the scoresheet against them than I think I do against any other country.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
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