By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
WEST COAST — While athletes are gearing up to attend the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, one athlete, Kristen Cooze, who hails originally from the Port au Port area, will be soon making a trip home to Kippens after competing in the 2022 ISBHF World Ball Hockey Championships.
The championship took place from June 21 to June 27 in Quebec, and the women’s final was between Canada and the Czech Republic and Canada took home the gold with a 3-2 victory.
Kristen doesn’t just come home a 2022 World Ball Hockey Champion; she also scored the game winning goal to secure the victory. A member of Team Canada for ball hockey since 2011, she has also been inducted into the International Female Ball Hockey Hall of Fame and won the All-Star Defenseman Award.
Kristen’s mother, Helen Marche, said Kristen has always had a passion for sports.
“She started ice hockey at the age of four. She played ice hockey all of her life, but through elementary school to high school, she played every other sport,” said Marche. “In high school she was Athlete of the Year. She had many Player of the Game awards in different sports. She played softball, basketball, volleyball, ball hockey. She did so much.”
While it kept them busy, Marche said that watching Kristen excel was completely worth it.
“We followed her everywhere, we loved it. With the ice hockey, when she played female ice hockey, we couldn’t wait to get on the road because they always got the gold medal. Once or twice they probably didn’t get it, but most times they got the gold medal. It was so exciting. She is such a team player. It was overwhelming just watching her.”
Marche was lucky enough to attend the championships in St. John’s in 2013, and she was also present for this years’ contest in Quebec. Kristen was informed she would be inducted into the International Female Ball Hockey Hall of Fame just a couple of days before the championship game.
“They called me down to the dressing room and when I got down there, I was told she won,” said Marche. “They have two Hall of Fames. One is the Canadian one and one is International, and Kristen is inducted into the International Hall of Fame. She was inducted on June 22, before the gold medal game they gave her the plaque,” said Marche. “I can’t even describe how proud I am. I’m just so excited for her. I couldn’t believe it when they told me – not that I couldn’t believe it – she deserves it, but it’s huge! We were just so ecstatic for her.”
Kristen’s father, Craig Cooze said he was also shocked.
“She is only 29, so to be nominated for that was very special. I was crying, don’t worry. I was watching the game and I just started bawling. It’s such a big achievement. Then she goes out and scores the winning goal in overtime in the championship game. That topped it all off.”
Marche said Kristen is not normally one who wants to be the centre of attention.
“She’s not one to be in the limelight, but I was glad that they told her before she got the award, because that was the gold medal game and I wouldn’t want her to be thrown off her game. But she was expecting the award. She knew about it. When she was told about it in the dressing room, I don’t think it hit her until 12:00 that night. This is just unbelievable.”
Cooze is obviously very proud of Kristen and the hard work she’s put in to earn recognition for her accomplishments.
“She excels in hockey and she puts all her best into it, so she gets the reward when she plays in events like that and she usually comes up big in the situation. You can’t get better than that.”
In order to be picked up for Team Canada, players have to attend the Nationals, and Kristen will be attending the Nationals in Hamilton, ON this month.
Kristen, who currently lives in New Brunswick, continues to play Ball Hockey in the men’s league in Irishtown when she isn’t competing.
In anticipation of Kristen’s arrival to the province, an event will be taking place at the Knights of Columbus in Stephenville on Wednesday evening, August 3 from 5:00 – 7:00, to celebrate her accomplishments.
Sandra Abbott, who organized the event, said the community support has been amazing.
“I decided to organize this event because I felt that Kristen’s accomplishment needed to be celebrated. We will have a formal component – with officials invited, our MHA, Chief Brendan Mitchell, mayors and councillors from Port au Port East, West, Kippens and Stephenville. We have her Junior High/High School coaches to be in attendance to offer congratulations. Provincial and national coaches have also been reached out to, and we are hoping to have congratulatory messages to be read out on that evening.”
Following the formal event there will be a luncheon and a gift basket presented to Kristen.
“We are very proud of Kristen and all that she has accomplished and would like to celebrate as a community,” said Abbott.
Cooze said he expects there will be quite a few people in attendance.
“She lived away for awhile now, and it’s a chance for everyone from around this area to come and visit, give their congratulations on what she’s achieved.”