Victoria Bach doesn’t have a lot of free time these days.
In addition to her activities with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’
Association (PWHPA), Bach is working towards her professional master’s
degree in education at Queen’s University and, not least of all, preparing
to chase a gold medal at the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship and a
roster spot for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Who says life is boring during a global pandemic?
But in recent months, another task has taken centre stage in Bach’s life –
working with Indigenous communities across the country.
A proud member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation near
Belleville, Ont., the 24-year-old is driven by the memory of her late
grandmother as she looks to give back.
“My grandmother, Shirley, was born and raised in Tyendinaga,” Bach says.
“She's always been a big role model to me, hearing her stories, what [she
went] through throughout her life. It's been really inspiring to me.”
To help reach a larger audience, Bach has connected with ProPacts, a group
that works with athletes (its roster includes Hockey Hall of Fame member
Brian Trottier and two-time Olympic gold medallist Shannon Szabados, among
others) to create interactive and engaging events.
“I've given a bunch of different presentations on life skills,” she says.
“And I've also been [doing] workouts. [It is about] being a good role model
and having kind of a mentorship program.”
It’s not a one-way street, however. As much as those on the other side of
the screen get from Bach, she is getting just as much from them, asking
questions to help round out her understanding of Indigenous culture.
Bach did not grow up on the reserve, and relied on stories from her
grandmother and father to truly embrace her Mohawk roots and trace the
journey of her family.
“I haven't had the chance to experience that culture,” she says, noting she
is also taking classes with an Indigenous focus at Queen’s. “It’s important
to learn the history, the hardships, the different languages and everything
that goes into being Indigenous.”
And if everything goes her way, she’ll have an awfully large platform to
tell her story in the next eight months.
Bach is one of 28 players who have been selected to centralize with
Canada’s National Women’s Team ahead of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. From
that group, 25 will be chosen to wear the Maple Leaf at women’s worlds in
Calgary beginning Aug. 20.
She has been along for the rollercoaster ride that has been the women’s
hockey world in the last 16 months – the 2020 women’s worlds were cancelled
in the early days of the pandemic, and the Province of Nova Scotia pulled
the plug on the 2021 tournament in April, just two weeks out from the first
games – but it appears puck drop is set for the Stampede City.
“We're all so excited to get to Calgary and get to compete and play games
and play for that world championship,” the Boston University product says.
“It's something that we've been waiting for the past year and a half, to
get that opportunity. And it's finally coming closer.”
Bach was a standout with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team,
posting 33 points in 35 games from 2015-18 before making her National
Women’s Team debut at the 2018 4 Nations Cup.
She has scored four times in 15 games with the senior team, including a
memorable overtime winner against the U.S. in the Rivalry Series in
February 2020, just weeks before COVID-19 shut down the world.
The upcoming women’s worlds is just step one. As soon as the gold medals
are awarded in Alberta, the focus immediately shifts to Beijing and the
six-month journey that is Olympic centralization.
“We're there to compete as a group and get better as a group,” Bach says.
“After the world championship is over, a new chapter begins. And we push
ourselves and push our teammates. I'm really excited to just get the chance
to compete every day with one another. I think it's going to be a great
With so much on the go, Bach could be excused for not having just a single
end goal in mind. But it all comes back to who she is, where she comes from
and what she represents.
“I hope to be a role model for all those young Indigenous girls and boys,
and someone that they can look up to.”