June 23rd, 2024

Mental health takes centre ice to honour teammate

By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on November 30, 2021.

Emily Middagh was a quiet person until you got her to open up.
On Saturday afternoon as they remembered their teammate, the U22 Lethbridge Eagles female hockey team let their game – and their message – speak loudly.
The Eagles hosted the Calgary Titans in Alberta Junior Female Hockey League action, but wins and losses took a back seat as the team hosted a memorial game and fundraiser for mental health awareness in memory of Middagh, who was lost to suicide Feb. 7 of this year.
The Eagles held a silent auction in the days leading up to the game and on Saturday, Middagh’s number 14 jersey hung in the lobby of the ATB Centre with fans attending the game able to donate to the cause with funds raised going to Companion Paws and Youth One.
The Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association will also match the funds raised in Saturday’s game.
As well, Cabinet Expressions in Coalhurst – where Middagh worked – performed the ceremonial pre-game puck drop while Eagles assistant captain and Middagh’s roommate Tenelle Lind said a few words.
“It was kind of a surreal thing with COVID and everything,” said Lind. “We weren’t able to get together and celebrate Emily as a person. So it was great as a community. We had so much support out there today to come and celebrate Emily, the person and the hockey player that she was.”
Someone who also played guitar and sang in addition to playing hockey, Lind said Middagh was a quiet person until you got to know her.
“Probably the first week I lived with her, we said five words to each other,” said Lind. “After that, it was just gates open and we did everything together. She honestly was truly a people-first kind of person. She always walked through the front door and asked me and our other roommate how our day was. She would never tell us about hers unless we asked. She was just the most kind-hearted person you had ever met.”
The Eagles went on to win the game 4-2 and improve their record to 12-2-1-0 this season, but the final tally on the scoreboard was secondary on Saturday.
“Just go out there and have fun today was our main goal,” said Lind. “Winning is great, but we really just wanted to go out there and have fun in her honour. Winning is great for our stats, but we all said that was probably the most fun game we’ve played all season together and that’s truly what matters to us.”
Eagles captain Skylar Colonna’s time with Middagh was short, but nonetheless impacted Colonna.
“I wish I could have known her a lot longer than I did, but we had two or three months together as a team,” she said. “She was one the quietest, most kind-hearted people ever. I remember having the team over for breakfast at the beginning of last season when COVID happened and she maybe said a couple of words. She would talk if you asked her. We loved hearing about her artistry, tattoos and everything. They were all incredible. But I do wish I got to know her a lot longer than I did.”
Colonna noted the community support for Saturday’s game as well as some of her current teammates who didn’t get a chance to play with Middagh.
“We are incredibly grateful we do play a team sport so we can be that support for each other and lean on each other no matter what,” she said. “Most of our team is made up of rookies, and they took this on like it was their own. It was truly incredible to know that a team, whether they knew the person or not, that they were going to come together and you had them all behind you.”
The goal is to make Saturday’s memorial game a yearly event.
“Mental health is such a big thing and it’s not a topic talked about very much,” said Lind. “To do this, we’re just hoping to inspire everyone to get the help they need. What we hoped we could have given Emily, we hope we can give that to everyone else who truly needs it right now and we hope the money we raise goes to the great causes we have and can continue to keep donating to them.”
“I think this all taught us a lesson as a team and as a community that everything you say or do, whether you think it’s small or not, can make an impact on someone and to tread a little in your everyday life and to just be kind hearted no matter where you go,” added Colonna. “I think Emily would have said the exact same. She was so kind and I think that’s what the message from all of this was, just to be good people.”

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