Halifax Mariners return to the ice at Vince Ryan Memorial Hockey Tournament
By Capt Dawn Macauley,
The last Canadian Armed Forces Women’s Hockey National Championship game was played on March 13, 2020; just as the COVID-19 pandemic was arriving in Canada. This point in history has impacted countless aspects of our lives, including putting a pause on social connectedness and involvement in physical activity with team sports. Sports and physical activity boosts fitness, mood and cognitive function. While it was essential to reduce close contacts in order to stop the spread of the virus, halting team sports has created a host of new problems related to the deterioration of physical, emotional and mental wellness within our organization and society at large. The time has come to start rebuilding our individual and collective wellness through sport participation.
The Halifax Mariners Women’s and Men’s base hockey teams recently participated in one of the largest recreational adult hockey tournaments in the world; the Vince Ryan Memorial Hockey Tournament in Sydney, Nova Scotia. As a member of the Women’s base team, I was thrilled to join the team for our first hockey trip away since before the pandemic. Normally, at this time of year, we would all be preparing to battle other military teams in the Atlantic Region in order to win the prize of attending the CAF National Championship. These tournaments require physical fitness and strength, but also serve as opportunities to create bonds, deep friendships and healthy acquaintances within the CAF. Participating in sport also develops resilience, leadership skills and competitiveness, which are skills that transfer nicely into a military setting. Though the CAF Regional and National tournaments are still on pause, the members of these teams took to the ice to represent themselves, their teammates, their units and the organization as a whole. The focus was on rebuilding team unity and individual wellbeing through a balance of relaxed fun and intense competitiveness.
In preparation for the first game of the tournament, our Women’s team went for a picturesque shoreline hike. The salty air and cool sea breeze brought life to our team spirit and helped to clear our minds while preparing for the weekend of competition. It was a fitting beginning to a weekend of social, mental and physical wellness that was long overdue.
We spent the weekend improving on-ice and off-ice skills. Since there are no ranks in hockey, many players stepped up into roles that they had never performed before and it amplified their individual confidence. Two players, Angelina Bertrand & Alexis Brewer, scored their first goals during competitive Mariners hockey! The young athletes began to recognize their potential for improvement and leadership. I saw the effectiveness of my teammates embracing their roles on the team in order to achieve our ultimate goals.
We lost our first game in the tournament, but bounced back by winning our second. We employed our strengths and adjusted our strategies in order to achieve personal and team success. We emphasized the importance of battling for rebounds in front of the net and holding the blue line in both offensive and defensive zones. Our competitiveness and drive was unearthed and we accomplished specific objectives that led to the victory. We grew stronger as a team through positive reinforcement, accountability and self-discipline. This is the character that will be crucial to the future manifestation of a winning team.
The third round robin game was the biggest challenge of the weekend. Our opponents were skilled and quick. Bumps, bruises and sore muscles from the physical requirements of the sport forced each individual to dig deep within themselves to overcome the pain and adversity. We displayed grit through out, skating and outshooting the other team. We showed incredible sportsmanship, class and cohesion throughout the game. Unfortunately, we gave up a short handed goal towards the end that was left unanswered. It was a tough defeat, but it was also an extremely positive learning experience for our team.
Looking ahead, we are focused on the development of the Women’s hockey program in the Canadian Armed Forces and the rejuvenation of organizational wellness through sport. By encouraging new members to join the team, we will be spreading the love of sport and fitness along with the development of long lasting friendships and professional skills that are uniquely enhanced through team sports. The next time there is a CAF Women’s National Championship, you can bet that there will be representation from the Halifax Mariner’s Women’s base team.