By Hanna Bevis – excellesports.com
Roughly 30 players waited. Sitting in the dimmed light of the D.K. “Doc” Seaman Resource Centre at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto, these athletes listened for their names. They were only some of the 76 players who entered into this year’s draft for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. But when Boston GM Krista Patronick made her way to the microphone to announce the first overall pick, everyone watching held their breath.
Everyone waited to hear if Emerance Maschmeyer’s name would be called.
Maschmeyer, Team Canada’s goaltender of the future, was one of the stars of the CWHL draft class this year. The CWHL’s draft functions slightly differently than most other leagues: every player who registers lists their preferred cities to play. Because of this deferential nod to the athletes’ needs, most had narrowed down where they thought Maschmeyer would end up: Boston, where she spent the last four years as a goalie for the Harvard Crimson, or Calgary, just four hours away from where she grew up.
Patronick didn’t call Maschmeyer’s name. Instead, she drafted Boston University’s Kayla Tutino first overall. Tutino is another product of the Boston-area college ice hockey scene, one that teems with talent.
So when Jeff Stevenson walked up to make his first ever pick as the Calgary Inferno’s new GM, he got to choose Maschmeyer fourth overall, hand her a brand-new Inferno jersey and hat, and pose with her and commissioner Brenda Andress for the official draft photo.
Maschmeyer revealed after the draft that when she registered, the only desired location she marked down was Calgary.
“Even though I know I chose that I wanted to be playing for Calgary, getting announced to go up and finally put on that jersey, I just felt really excited,” Maschmeyer told Excelle Sports, right after the pick was official. “[We were] going up and everyone’s shaking, but it really means a lot to us. And to get to play professional women’s hockey- you wouldn’t ever think growing up that that’s going to be a possibility.”
But she wasn’t the only one shaking–Andress joked how Stevenson was jittery, too. But with a goalie like Maschmeyer on his team, he’s got good reason to be more than a little excited.
A breakout World Championship
At this year’s IIHF World Championship in Kamloops, B.C., Emerance Maschmeyer had the breakout performance of a lifetime in front of a home crowd. She allowed just four goals in five games, stopping 85 shots for a ridiculous .956 save percentage and 1.25 goals against average. Though she and Team Canada skated away with a silver medal instead of the gold after a crushing overtime loss to the United States, it was the tournament that many will point to later as the defining moment in Maschmeyer’s international and professional career.
“To play my first ever Worlds in Canada was amazing, and the crowd–you look across and you just see the Canadian flag everywhere–so that’s a pretty amazing feeling,” Maschmeyer said. “The crowd was electric and just playing at that level, it’s everything I ever dreamed of.”
But after her incredible performance, Maschmeyer was faced with a difficult decision about her future. Though she was born and raised in Canada and plays for their national team, she had been drafted seventh overall by the Boston Pride. The Pride hoped to keep her in Boston with the then-brand new National Women’s Hockey League, based entirely in the United States. The team hadn’t reached out to her before they selected her, Maschmeyer said, so she waited to see how the NWHL shaped up as time went on.
By April, she made the decision to register for the CWHL Draft.
In the end, the decision wasn’t really about picking one league over the other. Maschmeyer simply wanted to live closer to home in Canada. It was a sentiment echoed by nearly every other player drafted in the CWHL who had formerly been drafted by an NWHL club the year before. All six are Canadians, and playing close to home was important to them.
Life on the Maschmeyer farm
“I started playing when I was three years old. I have three older siblings and they were all playing at the time when I started playing [at] three years old,” Maschmeyer said. “I think the first team I played with I played with two of my older brothers, all on the same team. I played [as a] player from 3-7 and then switched to goalie at age seven, and I’ve played goalie since then.”
Maschmeyer is one of five kids, and her entire family played hockey growing up on a farm in–as Maschmeyer describes it–“the middle of nowhere” Alberta, about an hour northeast of Edmonton. Lots of siblings meant lots to do. With a rink built in their backyard, that meant playing lots of hockey.
Her fearlessness in net started at a young age. She told her parents she liked playing as a goalie while on a novice team, when she played the position one day in only her player gear. That Christmas, she got her first set of pads as a present. Now she laughs about how she wasn’t very good at first because they were too big on her, but she’s clearly grown into her own.
“You can just tell how much of a hockey family we are,” Maschmeyer said. “We’d be out [on the rink] until 12:30 at night sometimes, at ten years old. There’s pretty cool memories just growing up on the farm.”
That made it difficult when she moved across the country to play on the East Coast at Harvard, moving from a small town and farm life to a bustling city. Maschmeyer said that she loved playing at Harvard and has a lot of fond memories of her teammates and experiences there, especially playing for the legendary coach Katey Stone. But the move was something she had to adjust to, at first.
“For me, going from living on a farm to a big city, that was a big change for me,” Maschmeyer said. “I kind of have that mix where I love living on a farm and miss the farm when I’m in the city, but when I’m back home I miss. school. It was cool to have that balance in my life too. They’re kind of two different worlds, but I love both of them.”
Maschmeyer is now on the cusp of a third kind of world, the next step in her journey as a hockey player–a professional league. It’s hard to know what’s in store for Maschmeyer, but Team Canada and now Inferno teammate Rebecca Johnston thinks the future is bright for the young goalie.
“I think she emits a presence on the ice,” Johnston, on-site for the CWHL draft, told Excelle Sports. “She’s very confident and relaxed out there, which is what a goalie needs to be…it takes a lot for her to get off her game.”
Work to do
At just 21 years old, Maschmeyer has been cool, calm and collected between the pipes. Joining the defending Clarkson Cup champions and gunning for a spot in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, she has her eyes set on the hardest hardware to win in hockey: a gold medal. She finished second at Worlds this past April with Team Canada. Her junior year at Harvard, the Crimson lost the NCAA Frozen Four championship game to Minnesota 4-1. Maschmeyer allowed three goals as Minnesota won at home in Ridder Arena. Canada’s top goaltender has a lot of work to do. But she’s ready for it.
It’s why she’s coming home to Calgary, where her family and friends and coach and national teammates are. Because on home soil, she’s putting herself in the best position to succeed.
“I know that every day I’ll be pushed,” Maschmeyer said. “There’s some girls that can shoot out there, and for me that’s what I want. I want to go out against players that are going to make me work and get better.”
And an Emerance Maschmeyer that’s even better than she was at this year’s Worlds has to be a terrifying thought for her opponents. And the CWHL is about to find out just how scary.