By Mark Staffieri
Belonging to a gregarious generation that established Newfoundland as a place of prominence on Canada’s ball hockey landscape, Kristen Cooze, the pride of Kippens, proved just as prominent on the global scale. A member of the Canadian national team since 2011, an unforgettable 2022 saw Cooze enjoy a highly prestigious, and very rare, double. A member of this year’s ISBHF Hall of Fame class, the honor took on an exciting prestige with the thrill of a world championship.
During the event, contested on home soil in the Montreal-Laval region, national pride took on a much greater meaning. With acclaim emerging as a key theme, the announcement of teammates Elysia Desmier and Nathalie Girouard as the newest inductees into the Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA) Hall of Fame inspired, accentuating a pair of brilliant careers.
Before the tournament expired, another exciting announcement elevated a star player to greater prominence. Gaining a place in the pantheon of ISBHF greats, the revelation provided a humbled yet honoured with a multitude of emotion. As a side note, Cooze would also finish the 2022 ISBHF Women’s Worlds with a place on the Tournament All-Star team.
“I was extremely surprised, to be honest. The coaches came in after the game against Lebanon and announced that a couple of our teammates were getting inducted into the CBHA Hall of Fame. Everyone was super pumped for them as it was an awesome moment!
Then, right after all this, the coaches said there was someone else who was being recognized for another award. I remember thinking at that moment, ‘What could be as good as being inducted into the CBHA Hall of Fame?’
Afterwards, they went on to say that a player was going to be inducted into the ISBHF Hall of Fame. Still, my thoughts were trying to figure out who it could possibly be. When my name was announced, I could hardly believe it.
Once the shock wore off, I was able to celebrate with the team, my wife Laura and my mom. I felt very proud and grateful to have even been considered. In the moment, I knew it was a big deal, but I did not really process it until I arrived home, and was able to reflect on it.”
As the 2022 edition of the ISBHF World Championships marked the first since Kosice, Slovakia served as host in 2019, the opportunity to wear the Canadian jersey after three long years proved highly fulfilling. Jubilant over the opportunity to represent Canada for the sixth sensational time in her distinguished career, the experience also provided Cooze with perspective.
“It feels very surreal that both of these achievements were able to happen in one tournament. The goal every time that I wear the Maple Leaf on my chest is to come home with a gold medal around my neck. It takes the hard work and dedication of everyone involved for that to happen.
In my eyes, the team’s success is the most important to me. I would not be in the Hall of Fame if it was not for my teammates, past and present. They have taught me the things along the way to be where I am now. A lot of my individual success is attributed to the people who have been with me every step of the way.
You always feel on top of the world after a championship win. Adding the reception of the Hall of Fame honour in Canada, with my family in attendance, it was very important to me. A moment that I will not soon forget.”
With Canada entering the tournament as defending world champions, Cooze emerged as an instrumental factor in an undefeated run towards gold in 2022. Amassing 10 points, one of only three Canadian competitors to reach double digits, including Melanie Jue and Carol-Ann Upshall, Cooze demonstrated the offensive consistency that reinforced her standing as an essential member of the national team for over a decade.
Undeniably, the highlight of the event occurred during the gold medal game. With archrival Czech Republic holding a 2-0 advantage, Canada managed an exhilarating comeback. Tying the game at the 24:48 mark, nearly 16 minutes of scoreless play followed.
In pure storybook fashion, Cooze added to her legend, reaching an exciting new summit by scoring the golden goal. Fittingly, Upshall, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, earned the assist, the two intertwined in another compelling chapter of Canadian ball hockey glory.
Adding lustre to such a monumental goal involved the presence of another talented Newfoundlander on the Canadian contingent. Shae-Lynn Clarke, a native of Bell Island, enjoyed her international debut, amassing six points during tournament play. Recording Canada’s second goal in the gold medal game, the unique tinge of coincidence was not lost on Cooze.
Considering the tremendous impact of Newfoundlanders on ball hockey’s national and international stage, the dual presence of a promising rookie such as Clarke, plus the veteran skill of Cooze saw the golden outcome of 2022 bridge generations.
“It is one of those things you dream about, right? When the game is on the line, you want to be out there on the floor to push for the win.
You want to play those minutes that mean the most. We were fortunate enough to get a 5-on-3 during the last five minutes of the game. Upshall fed me the ball at the top and the rest is history! Giving the team the extra goal we needed to claim the lead with a few minutes remaining felt great!
It was awesome to see Shae-Lynn crack the roster this year. She showed that she was good enough to be there. A proud moment for me to see her contribute on the big stage. She has a bright future ahead.”
Pondering the exciting possibilities in the future, the most recent ISBHF Women’s Worlds provide for cherished reflections. Among a rare group to have captured a world championship twice on home soil, excelling on ball hockey’s biggest stage, perhaps the most impressive aspect involves the time span between.
Considering that Canada last served as host country was in 2013, her contributions towards golden glory in both events stand as testament to Cooze’s durability. Undeniably, the 2013 event held plenty of emotion. Hosted in Cooze’s home province of Newfoundland, one of three stars from the province playing for Canada, along with Amanda Kean and Dawn Tulk, also a member of the 2022 roster, the event holds a cherished place in her heart. Signifying the first gold medal for the future Hall of Famer, it marked the beginning of a glorious path.
Fast forward to 2022, contributing to another success on home soil, scoring the golden goal, Cooze stands as the proud owner of four ISBHF gold medals. Fittingly, both events serve as bookends in a brilliant career, firmly entrenching her place in the unfolding mythology of the national team. Simultaneously emerging as one of Newfoundland’s most celebrated athletes, such a body of work gains a prestigious place among the empowering women in the ISBHF Hall of Fame.
“I believe that every time you get to represent Canada, that in itself is something to be very proud of. Not everyone gets the opportunity, therefore, every time that I get the chance, I am proud and grateful.
Regarding a favorite moment, I have to pick two. My second World Championships appearance, back in 2013, was hosted in St John’s. It marked my first gold medal. We had lost in the gold medal game to Slovakia two years before. Being able to beat them in 2013, as well as playing alongside two of my best friends (and fellow Newfoundlanders) in Amanda Kean and Dawn Tulk. Not only did we win the gold medal in Canada, but to do so in our home province is something that I will never forget.
The other moment involved the past World Championships in the Montreal area. It is hard to beat the thrill of winning the title in my home country.
To be able to win the World Championships, score the game winning goal in the gold medal game, plus the prestige of induction in the ISBHF Hall of Fame is a lot of success for one person to have. All in a single tournament is something for which I am forever grateful.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated“