Today (March 8) is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate women and their achievements. On this day, and throughout the year, Hockey Alberta celebrates women at all levels of the game.
To commemorate the day, Hockey Alberta spoke with two noteworthy Team Alberta alumnae - 2022 Olympic Gold Medalist Emerance Maschmeyer and three-time Olympic medalist, Meaghan Mikkelson.
Mikkelson, from St. Albert, is a two-time Gold-medal Olympian (2010, 2014) and won silver in 2018. She is one of the greatest players to hit the ice with a national career that spanned over 15 years. She looks back to the importance of being exposed to female role models in hockey that pushed her to be the player she is today.
“I look back and think about camps that I went to. There was one at the University of Calgary and I remember Hayley Wickenheiser was there and Danielle Goyette. That was huge for me,” said Mikkelson. “Back then there was no social media, you couldn’t follow these players and see what they were up to or be inspired by what they were doing on a daily basis to become better.”
“Now I think it’s great for young females because they have more access to female hockey players. There’s a lot more visibility in terms of marketing and advertising, companies have made it a priority to put these females out there because they understand the value in how they serve as role models for young hockey players everywhere and not just females, but males as well.”
Maschmeyer, from Bruderheim, is fresh off a Gold Medal performance at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and is no stranger to the international stage. But she points to her Alberta roots as a key to her success to date.
“I’ve met some incredible people along the way through my journey in Alberta. Growing up in minor hockey, playing in Alberta,” said Maschmeyer. “I’ve had so much support, and this is where my game really grew. As I got older, obviously the small details of my game got better, but where I really became a hockey player was in Alberta.”
Maschmeyer made her debut with Canada’s U18 Women’s Team in 2012. Since then, her journey is similar to other women’s professional hockey players.
After honing her skills in the NCAA with Harvard, Maschmeyer found success in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), where she won a Clarkson Cup before the league folded in 2019. As a member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association (PWHPA), Maschmeyer has joined forces with the top females in the game to advocate for a sustainable professional women’s hockey league for the next generation.
“The Olympics came at a great time for us, especially with the last couple years with our professional league folding and with COVID where there has been a little bit of a lull,” said Maschmeyer. “It’s been a tough world for women’s hockey. Seeing the viewership for the games and the amount of support that we had, it really reassures that what we’re doing is great for the game and that we do have that support. It’s awesome to see.”
For Mikkelson, a decorated veteran of the game, the time is now for a professional league.
“To build off of that momentum from the Olympics, we say that every four years, but I think right now we have the most momentum that we’ve ever had,” said Mikkelson. “For there to be a professional women’s league, there needs to be support, there needs to be belief. I really do believe that’s the only way that we’re going to keep that momentum and that we’re going to continue to grow the game. We’re at a pivotal point where the game has grown so much.”
Mikkelson has built her own presence on social media and strives to share the ups and downs of life as a mom, athlete and career-woman. Sharing her journey, she’s considered a role model of many.
“I try to have the most positive impact that I can because I know what a positive impact it had for me as a young player and honestly, it’s an honour to have someone come up to me and so you’re my role model,” said Mikkelson. “I’m lucky that I have two children that I have to serve as a positive role model for them every single day and I take a lot of time and pride in thinking about what do I want that to look like?”
Mikkelson takes the responsibility of being a role model seriously and encourages everyone to set the bar high. And she now takes inspiration from a new set of role models, who are trailblazing in the National Hockey League.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be the GM of an NHL team. That was something that I never vocalized, I never talked about it because I never thought that it was possible. But now recently you see women like Émilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato and what they’re doing as assistant general managers with the Vancouver Canucks, Hayley Wickenheiser with the Toronto Maple Leafs and there are these trailblazing women who are leaving their mark on the game at an extremely high level and it’s showing that they are great hockey minds first,” said Mikkelson. “For me, seeing those women doing what they’re doing, it’s extremely inspiring and it inspired me to be vocal about my passion and my aspirations and my goals.”
Maschmeyer and Mikkelson have become household names in the female hockey world and like all females, wear many hats and have a variety of roles. Mikkelson reminds everyone to take a moment each day and check in on themselves because self-care is important and you’re at your best when your glass is full.
Take the opportunity today to celebrate the women in your life and their achievements in all their roles.