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Mariners players past and present team up on the bench

Halifax Mariners head coach Warrant Officer (retired) Charlene Arsenault, left, and assistant coach Sergeant Roxanne Lacroix took on their first year of bench duties this season, and will be headed to CAF nationals in Trenton later this month.

Mariners players past and present team up on the bench

By Sara White,
The Aurora

Two Mariners, past and present, ran the CFB Halifax bench at the recent women’s hockey regionals, acknowledging action on the tournament ice as “pretty much out of our hands” but confident in their team’s ability.

“We get them ready to play; we settle them down,” said head coach Warrant Officer (retired) Charlene Arsenault. “If they start to panic when the game may not be going their way, we just get them calmed down. They all know how to play hockey: they just have to play.”

Arsenault and assistant coach Sergeant Roxanne Lacroix’s approach seems to have worked, as the Mariners took the gold medal in the finals against Gagetown.

Lacroix, a lab technician with Canadian Forces Health Services (Atlantic) would have been on the ice with the team as an athlete, but took a bench role this season.

“This is my first year as a coach,” she said. “I bumped into Charlene at Costco earlier in the year and said, ‘Hey, Charlene, wanna coach?’ I wanted to be on the ice and catch that puck at the blue line, but it’s been really entertaining to watch the team play.”

Arsenault is glad she ran into Lacroix. She retired in 2019 after 33 years as a military dental hygienist, but played with the Mariners from the 1999 start of the women’s military hockey program until 2019.

“I grew up in Prince Edward Island, one of 16 kids with hand-me-down gear and we walked to the rink – there were no girl-only teams, and I wore figure skates until I got hit with a puck and grabbed my brother’s skates. In university, I played women’s hockey and we played town teams.”

Arsenault said leaving the military meant no contact with her hockey peers and the camaraderie she’d found in the game over 20 years, and coming back this year as a coach – with new opportunities to wear the Mariners-coloured hat, mitts and socks, knit by her 96-year-old mother – has been “heart-warming.

“Thanks to Roxanne for asking me!”

The women are thrilled with Halifax hockey this winter. Lacroix said over 40 military athletes turn out for practices, and the hardest decision was leaving some of them behind for the regional tournament. They play regularly in a city league (“We have fun,” she says of their level of success), and have nothing but praise for the impact on women’s hockey growth from Canada’s Olympic athletes, development and opportunity for girls growing up now and military supervisor support for women keen to come out for practices and competition.

“Everyone is having a good time, and there are no ranks on the team,” she says.