Melisa Kingsley - A golden touch and a golden smile
by Randy Pascal
In the world of girls/women's hockey, a goal scoring touch is pure gold.
Mélisa Kingsley was blessed with that gift.
Over the years, hundreds of goalies had fallen victim to her quick release, the uncanny accuracy of her shot, her feel for where to put the puck as she looked to find the back of the net.
Cancer, sadly, was going to become a much more difficult adversary to defeat. All of the fight and willpower in the world wasn't going to make it any easier to go top shelf on the dreaded disease.
As virtually our entire city is now aware, Sudbury lost an exceptionally talented young athlete, just over a week ago, when 20 year old Mélisa Kingsley succumbed to her battle with cancer.
The outpouring of love and support, particularly visible through social media outlets, has been nothing short of amazing. Those who knew her well are not all that surprised. The graduate of Collège Notre Dame was equal parts phenomenal hockey talent and incredibly impressive person.
“I would say, in my view and with my history with girls hockey, there's maybe 5% of the hockey playing population that are pure goal scorers, and Mélisa was in that top 5%,” noted former Lady Wolves coach and currently the General Manager for the Rayside-Balfour Canadians, Tim Armstrong. “Mélisa was that classic Ovechkin.”
“She developed a rocket of a shot, whether it was her slapshot or her wrist shot. Her head was always up, looking at the net. I remember listening to Marty McSorley talking about it. He would say that when Wayne (Gretzky) goes in on a breakaway, all he sees is net. When I go in on a breakaway, all I see is the goalie. I am sure all that Mélisa saw was the net.”
Never would that skill come in more handy than in the spring of 2014, her Midget “AA” Lady Wolves team locked in a scoreless overtime battle with the vaunted Whitby Wolves, a berth in nationals on the line. Scoreless, that is, until Kingsley darted in, all alone, from center ice. “I remember watching her going in, on the breakaway, and saying that this game is over,” said Armstrong.
If one still needs a little more perspective regarding the hockey skills of the sniper who would be recruited to join the Ottawa Gee Gees following her high school graduation, then look no further than the 35 page document that is the Esso Cup Record Book. The name of Mélisa Kingsley can be found in five separate instances, including holding the mark for fastest three goals (6:06) and most game-winning goals.
Throughout her Lady Wolves career, Kingsley will almost inevitably be forever linked with linemates and twins Meagan and Taylor McGaughey, a forward tandem that would join their lifelong friend in accepting scholarships with the Gee Gees. “I can remember playing them together, in novice, in the Valley, against Damien Giroux'team,” recalled her long-time coach Mike McGaughey.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. I had Mélisa at center, because her hockey skills were so good. But she really wasn't big on back-checking, so I put her on the wing with the girls and it was dynamite.” As with most good line combinations, each member of the trio would complement the next.
“Her skill set was always better than the girls (Meagan/Taylor), she had such good hands,” acknowledged McGaughey. “She could stickhandle in a phone booth, she was just that good. With the girls, their game has always been about speed and grit. It really worked out, They just had to get the puck to her.”
“It wasn't like having twins out there – it was like having triplets.”
As inseparable as the troika were, life and hockey would create some challenges, a difficulty in getting together, during the school year, as often as they would like. No surprise then that there was no lack of remaining long-time friends, locally, that Kingsley could draw upon.
“I ended up staying in town with school, so it worked out well that I ended up being able to be with her, to spend a lot of time with her,” noted Jamie Ricci. Yet another one of the talented Lady Wolves class of 1998-born girls, the Cambrian College nursing student first crossed paths with Kingsley as recreational soccer teammates at the ripe old age of five.
The bond, however, grew much stronger as the pairing from different elementary schools merged together in grade nine at CND. “With Mel and I, we didn't have that many classes together, but the hockey would bring us together every night,” said Ricci. “We were always travelling together. Our parents were the ones that car pooled, so whether it was the Kingsleys that drove us, or my parents that drove Mel and I, every single night, you're always together.”
“Through that, you really get to know the individual. Through our years of high school, we really became close.” And has been noted by so many of her friends, the link with Kingsley was one that was just naturally created. “It was a case where your personalities just kind of click and you just get comfortable with that person easily.”
“It was one of those instant friendships, it wasn't something we had to work for. She was just so easy to approach.” Beyond the hockey, there was so much more of Mélisa Kingsley to explore. “The Kingsley family are very scholastically inclined, and Mel was always very curious,” noted Ricci. “If she doesn't know the answer, she doesn't stop there.”
“She will look for an answer. She wants to know the why to everything. She was always very receptive, open to talk, easy to approach. There are so many things that made her such a great person. She was so much more than a friend – she was family. And she had the best laugh. It was so contagious.”
Through her battle with cancer, the spirit of Mélisa Kingsley would shine even more brightly. “She was so optimistic, so positive,” said Ricci. “She very seldom would talk about the end, it was always about the future. She never lost hope. I think a lot of people thought she was doing better because she wouldn't let on what she was going through.”
And as a community mourns, Ricci reminds us of the common bond that is hockey. “Knowing Mel, she would hate to see everyone delaying their life because of her,” she said. “Hockey was so much a part of Mélisa's life, hockey is really that family's life, Mel would want everyone to play through this tough time.”
And in typical Mélisa Kingsley fashion, be sure to find the back of the net when the opportunity arises.