The Heart of a Champion

Some of the best stories ever told are the ones in front of us, from our own region, that no one ever talks about.

All the accomplishments of the athlete aren’t overlooked or taken for granted they just aren’t well known.

In this case, the athlete and their family have never craved the spotlight.

They have never cried for attention, they just go about their business, take pride in the journey and embrace the grind.

You see it’s never been about the personal accolades or individual accomplishments for Rothesay, New Brunswick’s Vanessa Demerchant.

It’s always been about the team.

That’s what makes Vanessa Demerchant’s unique journey in the game so special.

Her dedication, character, skill and unwavering passion for the game is truly one of kind.

Vanessa Demerchant has the heart of a champion.

Brotherly Love

Vanessa Demerchant grew up like many other young New Brunswicker’s dreaming of playing hockey at the highest level.

Hockey was a way of life for the Demerchant family.

“My family as a whole were all instrumental in introducing me to hockey, but I would have to say it was mainly my brothers.”

“I was always wanting to be just like them and that meant hockey and everything,” said Demerchant.

“I did everything that I could to make myself just like them.”

“I remember being younger and going to watch their games after my Timbits game would be done and I would beg them to let me carry their bags and sticks in and out from the rink.”

“There was nothing that was going to stand in my way,” Demerchant said of playing the game she loved.

Brotherly love aside, Demerchant was driven at a very young age to accomplish all of her hockey dreams.

“I always knew I had a calling to sports in general, but especially for hockey,” admitted Demerchant.

“I was never a standout player that caught people’s attention.”

“The only thing that would catch people’s eyes was that I was a girl playing on a boys’ hockey team.”

Her brother’s may have inspired her to play, but it became very clear the young girl from Rothesay was content to forge her own unique path in the game.

A League of Her Own

There’s no question Vanessa Demerchant was in a league of her own by the time she reached Bantam hockey.

She had to make a very difficult decision, but it was a decision that would change her life and journey forever.

“It was likely around first year Bantam when I transitioned to playing girls hockey that I realized how passionate about hockey I was.”

“The two years I spent in Bantam was probably some of the most influential for me and it started driving me to make greater goals for myself in the world of hockey,” Demerchant said proudly.

Demerchant’s decision to pursue her hockey dreams would take her to Rothesay Netherwood Private School and then south of the border.

How difficult is it for kids from the Maritimers to go down south to play?

“Despite what people may think it isn’t all that difficult, it just takes effort,” confessed Demerchant.

“You have to be willing to put yourself out there and do the work.”

“I made the hard decision of going to Rothesay Netherwood School to get a better education and also gain more hockey development.”

“In doing that it opened up the doors and gave me connections to start looking at what life looked like after graduation.”

“Believe it or not, I was the one to reach out to Paul Bloomfield (former Liberty Women’s Hockey coach) about the possibility of me coming down to visit the school,” Demerchant said.

As they say the rest is history.

From carrying her brother’s sticks and hockey bags to Division 1 Women’s College Hockey Vanessa Demerchant’s hockey dreams were about to come true.

For Life and Liberty

Vanessa Demerchant had put in all the work.

The highly skilled two-forward wasn’t the flashiest player, but she knew her identity and played to her strengths every time she laced them up.

From a very young age Demerchant realized it was all about the details and little things that mattered the most in the game.

The ultimate team player and leader has one more year of eligibility remaining.

The years may have flown by, but the memories and sacrifices aren’t lost on the twenty-two year gritty forward.

“I have been extremely blessed to be able to experience what I have over my time at Liberty.”

“The friends and connections that I have been able to build both on and off the ice are unmeasurable.”

“Although it wasn’t always easy being there and I had my trying times, looking back over my four years I don’t think I would change a thing,” Demerchant said proudly.

“When it comes to on-ice fulfillment, not many people have the opportunity to say that they were National Champions let alone back-to-back National Champions.

That’s right Vanessa Demerchant is a two time Division 1 National Champion and was named 2019 ACHA Women’s Division 1 National Championship Most Valuable Player in 2019.

“Being a two-time National Champion is enough to make it all worthwhile,” Demerchant said.

“I was able to excel more than I ever thought I would at Nationals my Junior year.”

“As someone who struggles with self-confidence on and off of the ice this was an accomplishment I never expected and was very humbled to receive,” said Demerchant.

“It’s not like a championship is one by one person alone and I have been blessed beyond compare with teammates and coaching staff who have allowed for our program to have the success that we have.”

Demerchant’s incredible junior year would only continue to get better.

“Within my Junior year, I was also blessed with the opportunity and was selected to join three of my other teammates to travel to Russia to represent Team USA for the World University Games in February 2019.”

“As a dual citizen, I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to be able to represent my family and the school.”

“It was an amazing two weeks where we were able to experience a new culture, meet new people, and play against exceptional hockey players.”

From National Champion, to National Championship MVP, to wearing the Stars and Stripes, Vanessa Demerchant has done it all when it comes to the game she has always loved.

What’s next for Demerchant?

“I just graduated this year with my Undergrad in Sport Psychology with two Minors in Sport Management and Coaching.”

“The plan for the fall is to continue my education at Liberty in pursuit of a Masters of Arts in Applied Psychology|Industrial/Organizational Psychology.”

“My ultimate goal after I complete my degree would be to pursue a professional career in either IO Psychology or Sports Psychology. My whole life I have been drawn and felt called to work with athletes.,” Demerchant said.

“To what capacity that will be at I am not sure and I’m open to exploring any avenue that may present itself. Whether it be coaching or being apart of an organization as their designated sport psychologist, I know that I will love what I do and I am excited to see what is in store for me.”

Spoken like a true heart and soul player and person.

Demerchant’s duel citizenship gives her the opportunity to follow her new passion.

“I’m open to living and working in either country depending on where my career might take me,” Demerchant said.

Demerchant is excited to have one more year of eligibility left, but what does it mean to her personally to play the game at the college level and how has she grown as a person and player since arriving at Liberty?

“Playing with the girls over the past four years has been amazing.”

“Of course, being a part of a girl’s team we had issues here and there just like any group of people that spend all of their time together would.”

“However, over my time on the team, I have truly made some of my closest friends that I guarantee I will be friends with for years and years to come.”

“During my time down at school, I had some difficult hardships that I went through both there in Virginia and with my friends and family at home that I couldn’t be there for,” admitted Demerchant.

Demerchant leaned heavily on her hockey family and friends during that time.

“My family at school was always there for me and never let me feel alone through it all.”

“That’s the neat part about being a part of a team like mine, even though I was miles and miles away from my family here in Rothesay, I had a true second family who surrounded me and helped me pick up pieces when I couldn’t myself.”

“When you are with the same group of people day in and day out there is a special bond that can’t easily be broken.”

“I’m very thankful for every one of my teammates that I played with and all the staff that walked alongside me.”

Through all the ups and downs Demerchant feels truly blessed to have the opportunity to live out her hockey and academic dreams surrounded by people that truly care for her.

“I’m not the same Vanessa that graduated from high school years ago. The university allowed me to find out who I was.”

“In high school, I always tried to be the person that I thought everyone else wanted to be rather than just being myself. During my time at Liberty, I learned what it was like to be unapologetically me.”

“This was one of the main reasons why I had chosen to leave New Brunswick in the first place. I had found myself stuck in a cycle that I couldn’t get out of in being a people please rather than pleasing God and myself,” explained Demerchant.

“In my mind, I wanted to go somewhere where no one knew me or had any preconceived notion of who I was and how I acted.”

“It was my fresh start,” Demerchant said.

“Don’t get me wrong being that far away from home certainly posed issues of its own, but I truly believe that I wouldn’t have grown to be who I am today without having this experience.”

With all the uncertainty surrounding her final year Demerchant is trying to stay positive and focused, but is also quick to serve up advice for other young Maritimers thinking about pursuing College hockey.

“After four amazing years, I can’t believe that I truly am coming into my last season as a Flame.”

“With COVID-19 my senior year was unfortunately cut short and we weren’t able to go and compete at Nationals. The way that the season ended certainly didn’t sit well with me so I am thankful that I and my teammates will be able to give it another go so that I and my fellow seniors and grad students can finish out our last season on a high.”

“One of the biggest pieces of advice that I would give to anyone looking at playing college hockey is that if it is something you are truly passionate about and want to do then go for it.”

“I believe that if you want to accomplish something and you put your mind to it then it is certainly a possibility to do. However, I think one of the bigger misconceptions is that universities and colleges are going to come knocking down your door offering you full rides to play somewhere.”

“Although this is possible, it doesn’t happen how people want it all the time,” explained Demerchant.

“One of my biggest pieces of advice would be to not be afraid to put your name out there.”

“Reach out to coaches and various schools and don’t be afraid to hear no.”

“There is somewhere for you to play it just may take time for you to find the right fit, but don’t get discouraged.”

“It has honestly been some of the best years of my life and I would only pray that everyone could experience playing down south.”

“It’s scary and daunting at the beginning, but I wouldn’t pass it up for the world.”

Heart, soul, honesty and faith.

Vanessa Demerchant’s path in the game might be coming to an end, but her passion for the game and life is unparalleled.

Vanessa Demerchant has a heart of champion.

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