“Opportunity, impact and love of the great sport of hockey.” Those, in Mary Ann Pinsonneault’s own words, is how she would define her legacy. Countless residents in Lakeshore, undoubtedly, are nodding their heads in agreement. Pinsonneault was the founder of the Lakeshore Lightning Girls Hockey Association in 1998 with 25 girls registered. Since then, she has served faithfully on the board of directors, holding all positions. What started with just 25 girls has blossomed into an organization that serves 300 girls yearly in both house league and travel hockey, operating out of the Atlas Tube Centre in Lakeshore and Essex Arenas. In all, more than 1,000 girls have passed through the Lakeshore Lightning organization in its 20 years of operation – touching many lives in the process.
“Did I ever dream that I would still be so involved 22 years later? I don’t think so, but when you put your heart and soul into a program the years fly by,” Pinsonneault said.
Pinsonneault, a mother of four (including two daughters), was a self-described “tomboy” as a child, and loved sports but circumstances in her youth made organized sport an impossibility, at least until her teenage years. Pinsonneault’s father died when she was 11, her mother did not drive and Mary Ann was the youngest of 14 children. Perhaps these circumstances instilled in her the importance for sport opportunities for kids.
“My daughters wanted to play hockey but not on a mixed-team competing with boys,” she said, reflecting on the genesis of the league. “Our registration continued to grow every year and the fight for more ice was our biggest challenge.”
Pinsonneault was very much the problem solver, securing ice in Leamington for her girls, as well as the “Old Barn” in Essex. By 2003, the shape of the Lightning was such that travel teams were no longer just a dream but a reality. That growth did not come at the expense of house league hockey. In 2013, the Lightning began its house league tournament which has been fully enrolled every year since it was established.
Pinsonneault won the Hockey Mom of Canada Award through a Campbell’s Soup contest in 2002 and met hockey legend Mario Lemieux in the process. She was instrumental in securing a Trillium grant for $130,000 that was vital for securing necessities like goalie equipment, paying for training for coaches and referees and allowing the organization to host free clinics for local girls.
“Builders do not work alone,” she said. “It takes a team, and for me, my team is the board of directors and the coaches we have been so lucky to have in our Lakeshore and Essex programs. If it weren’t for the enthusiasm of the players and parents to be a part of our association, we would not have the enrollment to keep this sport growing.”
The Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Pinsonneault for her tireless determination. Her contributions have bettered the lives of countless local girls wanting to experience the great Canadian game of hockey.