Team Canada hockey stars score for patients

National women's hockey teammates donate blood in three cities

July 7, 2020

Blayre Turnbull of Canada's national women's hockey team donated blood in June.

Blayre Turnbull of Canada’s national women’s hockey team donated blood in June.

Members of Canada’s national women’s hockey team recently rolled up their sleeves to help patients in need.

Goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer inspired two of her teammates, as well as former team captain Cassie Campbell-Pascall, to book their very first blood donation appointments in June. Emerance had donated for the first time herself earlier this year, after a visit to a Canadian Blood Services donor centre. That visit was part of “Community Day” programming during the Canadian Women’s Hockey League All-Star game weekend in Toronto.

“We had a presentation from Hockey Gives Blood and the chance to meet some of the people who were donating,” said Emerance, a 25-year-old Alberta native. “I couldn’t believe that donating blood had never crossed my mind.”

Hockey Gives Blood is a non-profit society that has partnered with Canadian Blood Services to engage and educate the hockey community about the importance of blood and stem cell donation. Emerance’s conversations with Stu Middleton, co-founder of the organization, as well as director Luke Pierce, helped inspire her to donate blood for the first time earlier this year.

“I told myself that I needed to make the effort to donate and was excited that I was healthy enough to be able to help,” said Emerance, who joined the women’s national hockey team in 2014.

Emerance Maschmeyer, right, advocates for blood donation to help recipients such as her mother Christine Maschmeyer, left.

Emerance Maschmeyer, right, advocates for blood donation to help recipients such as her mother Christine Maschmeyer, left.

Emerance also draws inspiration from her own mother, Christine Maschmeyer, who once required blood products to recover from complications related to a hysterectomy.

“After a long road to recovery, my mom is healthy and active today – thanks to the blood she received,” said Emerance.

Christine Maschmeyer is grateful to the donors who helped her, for the blood she received and proud of the role her daughter is taking to help others.

"Not every transfusion is planned, and many become a necessity in a blink of an eye,” she said. “I'm so proud of my daughter for realizing the urgent need for blood. Blood is life saving! Someone out there saved my life, and I am so very grateful for them and their selflessness."

A call to help during the COVID-19 pandemic

As Canadians experienced the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and blood donations dropped, Hockey Gives Blood player ambassadors from across the country posted a video message on social media to encourage people to donate. Emerance shared that message on Twitter, where teammate Blayre Turnbull spotted it and passed it on to former team captain Cassie Campbell-Pascall.

“Neither one of us had ever donated, but we wanted to help,” said Cassie, a sports broadcaster who won two Olympic gold medals and a silver medal with Team Canada before her retirement. “Blayre asked everyone on the team to join us.”

Making the decision to donate

Through her life as an elite athlete, wife, mother and broadcaster, Cassie had thought about donating but had never made the time to do it. Like many people, she was concerned about both the experience and the recovery time. But after Turnbull donated first, she felt reassured.

“Blayre told me that it didn’t hurt at all and that the actual donation lasted about 10 minutes,” said Cassie. “I think being encouraged by Blayre and hearing interest from other players to do it together made it seem like the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

Since she had never donated before, Cassie thought it would be fun to share the first-time donor experience with fellow Calgarian and Team Canada member Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid. The two booked appointments to donate at the Eau Claire donor centre in Calgary.

Blood donation had already been on Meaghan’s mind for some time.

“My mom had donated for years. She is 0-negative and knew that was a blood type that was in high demand,” said Meaghan. “I knew it was something that I probably should think about doing, but never had. Being encouraged and supported by others is what I needed to take this first step."

Cassie was pleased to support her teammate on the big day but found out during the appointment that she will have to wait a little longer to donate herself because of a medication she is taking. She plans to book a new appointment when she is eligible.

Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid donates blood at the Eau Claire donor centre in Calgary.

Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid donates blood at the Eau Claire donor centre in Calgary.

A seamless first donation experience

Meaghan described her first donation experience as “easy,” “seamless,” and “safe,” with staff and donors wearing masks and adhering to physical distancing guidelines.

“Everyone was super friendly and nice. The chairs were extremely comfortable,” said Meaghan. "I didn’t know that it would only take 10 minutes to draw the blood. And afterwards the snacks are a nice little plus, to treat yourself after doing something nice.”

She strongly encourages other healthy eligible donors to book appointments, noting that as little as an hour of one’s time can save a life.

“Because of the pandemic, 2020 has been a very difficult year for so many and I have been thinking about how I can help others,” said Meaghan. “This is a very easy way to be able to do that.”

Micah Zandee-Hart rounds out this group of first time donors by donating in Victoria, BC.

Micah Zandee-Hart rounds out this group of first time donors by donating in Victoria, BC. 

Future inspiration

Emerance Maschmeyer is thrilled to be at the heart of the movement to promote blood donation among women who play hockey in Canada.

“I am happy that I could encourage other members of the team to donate blood and am glad to see them posting about it and inspiring others to donate,” she said.

Emerance’s Team Canada teammates have now donated in Kelowna, Calgary, and Victoria, where Micah Zandee-Hart made her first donation in June. Emerance anticipates more will follow, based on the inquiries she’s already received.

“I think the more that the national team and the women that I play with can post about it and get the information out, the more people will consider donating blood.”

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