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Erika Vanderveer's Blog: A new look for the Canadian Women's League

Vanderveer works on her fundamentals at the Canadian Goaltending Academy.

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Vanderveer works on her fundamentals at the Canadian Goaltending Academy.

There are many “firsts” in life: Your first step, your first word, your first day of school, your first time on the ice, your first tryout, your first win, your first shutout…the list goes on.

And lately, there have been many great “firsts” in women’s hockey.

On Feb. 25, 2010, the Canadian Olympic women’s team won their first gold on home soil, at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Then, on June 22, 2010 it was another historical day for the women’s game, when former U.S. Olympian Cammi Granato and former Canadian great Angela James became the first females to be inducted into the prestigious Hockey Hall of Fame.

Still, the women’s game continues to break new ground and will have another first this coming week. On Aug. 12, 2010 at the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League will be conducting the first draft in women’s hockey history.

The CWHL is going through a major reconstruction process with the goal of making it the most competitive and professional-like women’s league in the world. With national team players returning to the CWHL this season after being away the past year with their respective Olympic programs – along with graduating college players and young, aspiring talent seeking to compete against the best – the goal is to ensure league-wide parity in hopes of creating the highest level of competition for the women’s game.

"We want every game to be a great game for the fans and players alike,” said the CWHL's executive director, Brenda Andress. “A draft means that players will be spread out equally and that competition will be at its highest every weekend.”

But as the saying goes, along with the good, comes the bad. The former league structure of six teams will be cut to five, resulting in the closure of an Ottawa-based team and one Greater Toronto Area team, while adding a new squad in Boston. The league will then consist of three GTA teams, one Montreal and one Boston team.

The draft will be held for players interested in playing for the GTA teams, while Montreal and Boston will hold tryouts at a later date. The league felt it was not in a position to uproot a player from their current place of residence, not to mention their families or careers.

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Though it is an exciting time for women’s hockey, my thoughts, along with many other current CWHL players, are consumed with uncertainty with regards to next season. “Will I be drafted?” “Will I make it through tryouts and training camp on top?” “Where will I end up playing next season?”

The scary part of this reality – so scary, in fact, players don’t openly discuss it with each other – is there will be a number of former CWHL players who will find themselves looking for a new place to play this fall. With the former four GTA teams being cut down to three, the competition for those few spots is intense. And the return, as well as debut, of several national-level players heightens that intensity.

We all knew going into this process there was a very good chance we would not be playing alongside the same teammates next season, but we all voted to move ahead anyway for the betterment of women’s hockey… and we all still feel we made the right choice.

To know you were a part of history for the growth of women’s hockey is enough to be proud of, though being a part of that next step would be even more exhilarating. We have all had our dreams of one day being able to play the game we love as a professional athlete, just as hundreds of our counterpart men do, and so I believe what the CWHL is doing is one more step in the right direction.

This is an exciting time for women’s hockey; I can only dream of what is next for us. And possibly, sooner than we think!

The CWHL Draft is being held Thursday Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Hockey Hall of Fame. For more information on attendance, media pass availability and more info on the league, visit www.cwhl.ca

Erika Vanderveer is a goaltender in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, a five-team circuit featuring many of the game’s top female players. Vanderveer also spent four years tending goal at Ohio State on a full scholarship and one year in Austria playing in the European Women’s League. Read her other blog entries HERE.

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