The women’s Bisons hockey team finished the 2019-20 season with a disappointing 10-18 record. This put the team one point above the University of Lethbridge for second last in the Canada West division for women’s hockey.
The team was filled with young players — it had 13 first-year or second-year players which made up over half of the overall team.
One bright spot on the squad last year was third-year player Emilie Masse. The former Shaftesbury Titan tied for third on the team in goals and took the season as a chance to really become a leader for the young Bisons.
“Being a vet last year was kind of a similar experience of when I was in my first year, except switched,” Masse said.
“My first year, I was on a very veteran team that opened my eyes drastically to what it takes to be a great leader.
“Constantly observing my teammates and their composure through the past three years has allowed me to get a greater understanding on what it means to be a veteran,” she said.
Due to the decision from U-Sports to cancel the 2020-21 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Masse and the Bisons will not be lacing up their skates starting in January. It will end up being a longer off-season for the team and the Bisons will prepare them to come out better than ever when the 2021-22 season rolls around.
Masse, a leader on the team, knew that she had to step up during the pandemic and really help out the younger players on the team.
“Being a leader on a team during a pandemic isn’t much different besides just being more vocal on Zoom or social media,” Masse said. She said this means “coming up with different ideas on how to stay connected as a team and […] doing our best [to make sure] that we give the rookies that ‘Bison experience.’”
For the Bisons, COVID-19 has had many negative impacts this year, but Masse believes that some good has come out of it as well.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put an end to our 2020-21 season,” Masse said. “We do still practice, however, within smaller groups based off of safety precautions.
“COVID has positively impacted our training this year as it has allowed us to meet prior to the season in June where we got to meet a bunch of the new incoming players through Zoom,” she added.
This is a great step to take for a young team that could use a little bit of chemistry and rebuilding to shake off the tough 2019-20 season.
“Honestly, our team is just taking it step by step and that’s really all we can do,” said Masse.
“We do communicate often and strive to motivate each other in any way possible, but it is in times like this that we must remind ourselves that you can’t really prepare for anything.”
Another way to have a better next season is to continue to train and better themselves as a team and as individuals.
Although this is not possible right now due to the COVID-19 restrictions that the Manitoba government has set in place for its citizens, it will be possible once the restrictions are lifted, and Masse and the Bisons will be ready.
“Once restrictions are lifted, we will start to practice as a team while maintaining social distance,” Masse said. “This is important for us to get on the ice and train if we want to go into next season without missing a step.”
Nobody likes losing, but Masse takes those losses and wants to turn those into positives for any new young Bisons.
“My advice to any upcoming Bison player is to not take it to heart and get discouraged,” she said. “A lot of the time, you go from being top of your midget team playing many minutes to getting scratched often your first year.
“Everyone goes through it and, if anything, I believe it’s a very humbling experience that allows you to grow.”