Professional Women's Hockey League

How hard work on family farm led Emerance Maschmeyer to starting role with PWHL Ottawa

Long the backup to Ann-Renée Desbiens on Team Canada, Emerance Maschmeyer now has the chance to chart her own path as the starting goaltender with Ottawa in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL).

29-year-old goaltender from Bruderheim, Alta., leans on drive, consistency to succeed

A female goaltender looks upward through her mask. Her mask is red and white with the Hockey Canada logo on it.
Emerance Maschmeyer was one of PWHL Ottawa's first three marquee free-agent signings ahead of the league's first draft earlier this year. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Erick Robertson remembers nine-year-old Emerance Maschmeyer setting a lofty goal for herself.

She wasn't even in high school yet, but Maschmeyer knew she wanted to play hockey for Harvard University.

"I've never had a nine year old ever have that as a goal or that much foresight or looking into the future," said Robertson, who runs Level Up Goaltending in Edmonton and coached Maschmeyer for years.

The Ivy League is exactly where Maschmeyer found herself a decade later, eventually breaking the Harvard women's hockey program's saves record, which she still holds.

But she didn't stop there. Next was an Olympic gold medal, a goal Maschmeyer achieved in 2022 after being cut from the 2018 roster.

Two female Canadian hockey players, wearing red and black Team Canada jerseys, pose with gold medals.
Maschmeyer, left, poses with teammate Natalie Spooner after winning Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2022. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Long the backup to Ann-Renée Desbiens on Team Canada, 29-year-old Maschmeyer now has the chance to chart her own path as the starting goaltender with Ottawa in the new Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL). 

When Ottawa had the chance to sign three free agents ahead of the league's inaugural draft, Maschmeyer was one of them.

On that day in September, when three-year deals were announced for Maschmeyer and forwards Emily Clark and Brianne Jenner, Ottawa GM Mike Hirshfeld said the team believes Maschmeyer's best years in the net are ahead of her. But that's not the only reason why the team used one of its slots on her.

"We talked to a lot of people and they raved about her personality, they raved about her as a teammate and as a leader and again, that was critically important for us," Hirshfeld said in September.

Ottawa is the next chapter in a career built on hard work, and it all started on a big grain farm just outside Bruderheim, Alta.

Life on the farm

About 1,300 people live in the small, tight-knit community outside Edmonton near where Maschmeyer grew up with her four siblings.

She remembers two seasons in Bruderheim: hockey season and farming season.

The Maschmeyer kids approached both with a work ethic. In the winter, they spent hours skating on a homemade rink on the farm. Their father designed a training program for them.

"This sounds a little bit crazy, but it's something we actually really enjoyed as siblings and made us become really close," Maschmeyer said.

One night, her father told her she had to stay on the rink until she learned how to lift the puck while shooting. She tried and tried, but couldn't figure it out. Her siblings gathered around Maschmeyer, the fourth youngest, to show her how to do it.

Finally, with a flick of the wrist, the puck lifted off the ground.

"We were all so happy that I could do it," she said. "I had that support system from my siblings and my parents, and we have so many amazing memories on the farm."

In addition to Maschmeyer, three of her other siblings played high-level hockey. Her sister, Brittaney, has played professionally in Canada and Switzerland, most recently in the Calgary hub with the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA). Brothers Brock and Bronson also played professionally in Germany.

An X factor

Maschmeyer was six or seven years old when Robertson started coaching her. She switched to goaltending full time when she was about 10 years old, drawn to the chance to be a difference-maker on the team and to pick out fun gear.

From the beginning, Robertson knew there was something special about her. She had what he describes as an X factor in her drive and determination to improve.

"[For] people like Emerance, it's not a battle to go out and work hard," Robertson said. "It's something that they enjoy. It's almost like that's what she's meant to do."

Even after getting cut from the Olympic team in 2018, and having few opportunities to play after the Canadian Women's Hockey League folded a year later, Robertson feels she's taken her game to another level.

Standing five-foot-six, Maschmeyer is the shortest goalie on Team Canada. But what she lacks in size, she makes up for in speed, Robertson said.

"I don't know if it's the thousands and thousands of shots she would have taken from her brothers and sister, but she really has a strong ability to read the play and be able to make certain saves that other goalies can't," Robertson said.

For Ottawa teammate Clark, the journey to the nation's capital with Maschmeyer is the continuation of a friendship that started with Hockey Canada in 2012, when the two won U18 gold together.

Two female hockey players pose near the ice surface. The goaltender is wearing a black jersey with PWHL written on it, while the skater is wearing a white jersey with PWHL on it.
Maschmeyer and Emily Clark's journey together to Ottawa is a continuation of a friendship that began more than a decade ago. The two are pictured during PWHL Ottawa training camp. (Courtesy of PWHL Ottawa)

They've won three more gold medals together since then. Over that time, Clark has found Maschmeyer to be one of the most consistent teammates she's ever had.

Off the ice, they spent time living and training in Montreal together, and have been roommates. Clark described her as someone who's grown into a sister.

"As a person, friend and teammate, she's one of my favourite people in the world," Clark said. "But as a teammate and on the ice … she's reliable, dependable. You know what you're going to get on and off the ice."

New chapter

Taking her first strides on the ice at TD Place earlier this month, Maschmeyer described it as a "pinch me" moment.

"I just can't believe we're actually here after all these years and dreaming about this," she said after that first on-ice session.

After four seasons with Hockey Canada and the PWHPA, and a pandemic thrown in for good measure, the PWHL will give Maschmeyer the structure of a team to train with every day.

A female goaltender wearing a white jersey is pictured over the shoulder of a skater wearing a black jersey, with Howran written on it.
Defender Victoria Howran and goalie Emerance Maschmeyer are pictured at the Ottawa team's first practice earlier this month. (Kim Valliere/Radio-Canada)

Maschmeyer chose Ottawa because she liked Hirshfeld's vision for the team, but she was also drawn to the city itself. Her mother is from Gatineau and her wife, former national team goaltender Geneviève Lacasse, is from Kingston.

Lacasse and Maschmeyer competed against each other for years for a coveted spot on the national team, and had to learn how to both support and challenge each other. Lacasse won Olympic gold and silver with Team Canada in 2014 and 2018.

"Even when we were on the same team we were competing for roles whether we were starting, backing up, third goalie," Maschmeyer said.

"But the way we kind of approached it was if you give everything you have, and I do, the decision who plays and who makes the team is not up to us."

Lacasse has now retired from professional hockey and taken a job with the league. But don't expect her to become Maschmeyer's goalie coach. The two have long had a rule that one of them has to ask for feedback on their play to receive it.

Instead, she'll be cheering Maschmeyer on as she takes the reins of Ottawa's net, with the goal of bringing the city its first-ever professional women's hockey championship.

"I'm happy that we've finally touched down — we're going, our legs are moving on the ice," Maschmeyer said. "I think that we're going to create something really special here."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. You can reach her at karissa.donkin@cbc.ca.

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