This past week, the Manitoba hockey community has come together to honour the life of 22-year-old Emily Middagh. A member of the Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League, and former university hockey student athlete in both Canada and the United States, Middagh’s death was sudden and unexpected.
Emily is survived by parents Jay and Kim and her older brother Brennan.
Family and friends remember ‘Em’ as a kind, generous and adventuresome human being. One described her as someone who “treated you as a friend, regardless of how you knew her.” Another said that she was “judgment free” and a “friend that anyone would be lucky to have.”
Middagh first began her high school hockey career with the Kelvin Clippers of the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League, while double-rostering as a bantam-aged player with the Assiniboine Park Rangers AA program. She then moved to the St. Mary’s Academy Flames for the 2013-14 hockey season, before playing out 2014-15 and 2015-16 with Balmoral Hall, where she earned Varsity Athlete of the Year titles in both seasons prior to her graduation.
Before making the switch to girls hockey, Emily was a member of Doug McKay’s minor bantam AA St. James Canadians boys team. Although being from outside of the club’s catchment area, Middagh’s addition to the team was celebrated by the players, coaching staff and parents, wholeheartedly. Coming into the season as a cellar-dweller, the team surpassed all expectations in a long playoff run within a very welcoming environment for the newcomer.
Middagh also represented her province on two occasions, suiting up for Team Manitoba at the 2015 National Women’s U-18 Championship in Huntsville, ON, as well as participating in the 2016 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship with Team Manitoba.
With Kelvin, she earned the Grade 9 Female Athlete of the Year award after earning her team’s MVP recognition for 2012-13. Middagh was also nominated for both the WWHSHL’s Top Rookie and League MVP awards as a ninth-grade rookie.
Joining the SMA Flames for her Grade 10 season, the 5-foot-7, 140-pound forward put up six goals, 13 points and 12 penalty minutes, before moving to the BH Blazers for her final two years of high school. With Balmoral Hall, Middagh collected 22 goals and 37 points in 57 regular season games, earning herself a Division I NCAA scholarship in the process.
She moved south to New York’s St. Lawrence University, where the right-shooting forward dressed in 40 games for the Skating Saints from 2016-18. It was no secret, however, that Emily struggled with the mental health aspect of being away from home, paired with the pressure of playing Division I university hockey. She ended up moving back to Canada for the 2018-19 U-Sports season, beginning her Bachelor of Fine Arts program while dressing for the University of Regina Cougars.
In a 2019 interview with CTV Regina’s Claire Hanna, Middagh spoke of how her therapy dog, River, helped provide solace in her every-day activities.
“He definitely gets me out of bed and gets me walking around,” Middagh said. “He gets me doing stuff. He has a very big personality and I think it’s good because he’s always down to do whatever… It has made me realize what I want in life, and what I need in order to achieve happiness. Just keep pushing, because it always does get better even when you think it doesn’t.”
While in Regina, Middagh did stay busy. She actually attended coaching clinics and received her Hockey Canada Coach Level 1 certification, to which she has served as an assistant coach under Dale Bear with Team Manitoba Aboriginal girls program for the past number of years. Middagh had actually committed to the program once again for the coming season.
Although often busy with her hockey, education and coaching, Emily did experience difficult periods. But when feeling down, she was able to turn to River who gave her that extra kick in the butt when needed.
“In the moment, when everything was really bad I thought that I was alone, I wasn’t at all,” Middagh told CTV. “I think lots of people do struggle with that, and if I can help open up one person’s eyes to realize that they have support when they’re feeling like that, then that’s the least that I can do.”
As a member of the Cougars, Middagh was able to bring her little Cavachon to the rink for practices, and much to her delight, River also accompanied her on the road to neighbouring Canada West provinces during Regina’s team trips.
Following her time with the Cougars, the Winnipeg product opted to suit up for the Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League, where she played one season with the Manitoba Blizzard, racking up 12 goals and 20 points in just 16 contests. Her time with the Blizzard was highlighted by a four-goal, five-point performance on November 16, 2019 in a win over the Silvertips.
The former Tuxedo Novice A1 player recently moved west to Alberta where she worked, but remained involved in the hockey scene as a member of the Lethbridge Eagles of Alberta’s Junior Female Hockey League.
According to parents Jay and Kim, Middagh’s proudest moment as hockey player came upon her recognition as the Junior Women’s Hockey League’s Defenceman of the Year with Balmoral Hall as a Grade 12 grad. Serving as team captain was another honour and a true testament of her team-first mentality and strong character.
Outside of hockey, Emily focused on football, as well as music – both piano and guitar. She also did not shy away from soaking in the many beauties that nature provided her.
Although spending time in New York, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Middagh will be missed most deeply by her many friends and family within the extended hockey community of Manitoba.
A Go-Fund-Me page has been setup in Emily’s honour, and has already twice surpassed its early goal. Click here to view/donate to ‘Remembering Emily’.
“This fundraiser has been created by her hockey team in hopes to lessen the stress on Emily’s family and those impacted by her sudden passing,” the Go-Fund-Me page reads. “The intent of the funds are to help with funeral/memorial costs, as well as the cost of counselling and other professional resources that may be needed in order to cope with her loss. The money raised will be passed directly along to the family, any remaining funds will be donated to a Mental Health Organization by Emily’s parents.”
On Saturday, February 13, Winnipeg’s Team Fit Club will be hosting a free half-hour workout dedicated to Emily. The virtual event is open to all – hockey players or not – and will feature a moment of silence prior to the online class. Participants are asked to wear hockey jerseys, sweaters or shirts honour and memory of Emily. For more information on this tribute and to request the online link, please email: West@FitClub.Fit
Hockey Manitoba would like to offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Team Manitoba Alumni Emily Middagh. Rest in peace Emily. pic.twitter.com/UDrXfhXdoA
— Hockey Manitoba (@hockeymanitoba) February 11, 2021
She blazed a bright trail through women’s hockey…
Think how many lives she’s touched – how many women she has inspired.
Rest Easy Em 😇 pic.twitter.com/0740y5RgMr
— Junior Night in MB 🏒🌌🌾 (@JuniorNightMB) February 11, 2021