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Office to the Track: 140 kms an hour for Melissa Lowe

Cam Tait writes about Melissa Lowe and her goal to make it to the 2022 Winter Olympics

by Cam Tait /

Melissa Lowe calmly goes about her job, typing away on her computer screen on the third floor of Rogers Place in the player development department without any panic, great speed or urgency.

It's a completely different story when she is away from the office pursuing her dream.

The 22-year-old is a member of the Alberta bobsleigh team, and she has her sights set on making the Canadian team for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"It's always been a dream of mine as a kid to be an Olympian," she says enthusiastically.

Melissa began in bobsleigh as a brakeman. Now, she wants to be the pilot.

She describes it using her extensive hockey background as an analogy.

"It's like someone who has been a defenceman for years now playing forward. It's a totally different position, but something I want," she says.

"Being a pilot? It's an adrenaline rush. Head down, you're not seeing what's going on. As a pilot, it kind of suits my personality more because as a brakeman it's just about how fast you can run.

"The view is unlike no other, going from 125 kilometres an hour all the way to 140 kilometres an hour."

And it's meticulous work: Melissa will closely inspect the track five hours before a race looking for anything - the smallest speck - that might slow the sled down by one-hundredth of a second.

Her experience began when she was invited to a Bobsleigh Canada camp. After placing third at nationals, Melissa earned a spot at the 2014 Olympic Year World Cup Camp.

The experience made her train even harder.

She did this, all while getting her kinesiology degree at the University of Alberta.

Melissa thinks bobsleigh and hockey are similar.

"Bobsleigh is not for the faint of heart, and neither is hockey," she says. "You have to take a lot of physical abuse. There aren't any seats inside a bobsled and no padding.

"It's pretty much a coffin on ice," she says with a chuckle.

In an interesting twist, there's a connection between bobsleigh and hockey.

"I think hockey, which has been a huge part of my life, is the reason why I am in bobsledding. I found something where I fit, where my strengths are, this is always going to be an advantage in any sport."

Melissa joined the Edmonton Oilers' player development department on a part-time basis in the fall of 2016. She's following the same path as her father, Ken, who was the head Oilers trainer for 23 years.

Ken is in player development. He is the Senior Coordinator of Medical Services but also runs the health and wellness program for OEG employees.

There was room for Melissa to help.

'I think it (Melissa's job) has helped by allowing her the time to continue to train both on the hill and in the gym," says her father Ken.

In her job, Melissa follows close to 115 of the top prospects that will be in this year's National Hockey League entry draft. Melissa tracks each player's injuries and takes notes when they play in tournaments.

"I send out reports to Oilers' scouts so they know what to watch when they are watching different players," she says.

"For me, it's a perfect fit. Hockey is my first passion. I'm also an athlete, so I needed a part-time job so I could travel for my sport."

She works two days for the Oilers and then travels to Calgary to train on Wednesdays and Sundays.

"Melissa has excellent work ethic and attention to detail in her work. Her background in athletics, as well as her training and understanding of what it takes to participate at the elite level, are valuable assets. She identifies with the players and understands how much commitment and dedication it takes to excel," says Rick Carriere, Senior Director of Player Development for the Oilers.

Melissa says player development is something she's keen on doing after she's done flying down bobsled tracks.

 She was exposed to hockey as a young girl from her father.

"Dad would bring me with him to watch the players skate during practice and at games. I grew up really around the Oilers dressing room, and I learned what it takes to become an NHL player."

Melissa took an Oilers fitness test when she was 13. She has been hooked on the game ever since.

When Melissa and her older sister Amanda each turned 16, they both received a special gift from their father.

"It was a one-game road trip to Vancouver following a home game here in Edmonton. This way both girls were able to better understand what their dad did for a job besides standing behind the bench," says Ken.

Through this experience, Melissa gained an understanding of all the hard work that went on behind the scenes to get the players out onto the ice. An experience that has helped push her to work her hardest, even when she isn't on the track.

A trip to the 2022 Olympics is certainly in sight for Melissa Lowe.

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