By Namish Modi
All-Star Games may not be the most exciting event on the calendar anymore, but for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), this one will be one to remember.
On Saturday at the Air Canada Centre, the first All-Star Game in the league’s short five-year history was played. The exhibition game, which had several Olympians playing in it, was played in front of a crowd of 6,850 people.
The two teams, Team White and Team Red, were selected by captains Jessica Campbell and Charline Labonte on Friday night, fantasy draft style. Each captain picked five players to their team while the rest of the squads were filled up by the “throwing the sticks” format. Team Red’s Rebecca Johnston scored the winning goal in a 3-2 come back victory, while Team White’s Natalie Spooner scored the first goal in CWHL All-Star Game history. Following the game, the 42 all-stars took part in a light-hearted skills showcase, which consisted of a breakaway challenge and fastest skater competition. Read more
So Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish was scheduled to meet with the media on Friday morning to “address the Oilers performance through 26 games and take questions.” That promises to be a pleasant exchange of ideas.
By all accounts, MacTavish will not announce either of the two things for which many Oiler fans are clamoring – that he’s firing the coach or he’s making a blockbuster trade to upgrade the roster. In reality, with an 11-game losing streak and the stench of defeat permeating the organization, neither of those would provide much relief. The best thing the Oilers could do now is stay the course and finish in the standings exactly where they are now. That would guarantee them at worst the second overall pick and the best chance at the first, meaning they’d have the opportunity to draft a potential generational superstar in either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Not even the Oilers could screw that up. Read more
On Friday, Nov. 21, when the Southern Pro League’s Columbus Cottonmouths take on the Fayetteville FireAntz, referees Erin Blair and Katie Guay will be making the calls.
Both highly decorated and with a ton of international experience, the female duo was selected to work the game, in partnership with the Cottonmouths and USA Hockey, as part of Columbus’ Girl Scout Night. Former NCAA players, Blair and Guay have been part of some of the most notable international women’s tournaments, and this will further add to their list of achievements. Read more
In their first elimination contest since the Sochi Olympics, the Canadian women’s national team defeated rival Team USA to win the 4 Nations Cup in Kamloops, B.C., on Saturday night.
Canada’s Brianne Jenner played the role of hero with the only goal in the shootout and netminder Genevieve Lacasse made a pair of glove saves to preserve Canada’s 3-2 shootout victory. Read more
Before 1,120 fans, Noora Raty made Finnish hockey history when she became the first Finnish woman to suit up for play in the Finnish second league, Mestis.
A two-time NCAA champion, Raty has arguably been the gold standard of women’s hockey goaltending. Over her time in the NCAA, she set records for career save percentage (.949), all-time wins (114), and wins in a single season (38). Oh, and she also posted 17 shutouts in a single season, 43 over her career, and has an undefeated season under her belt.
Raty was twice named the NCAA female player of the year, and her list of honors is an exhausting read. That’s why it was so shocking when, following Finland’s elimination from medal contention at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Finnish goaltender let slip that it may have been her last game – not just for the national team, but entirely. Read more
Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos is on the cover of the latest issue of The Hockey News. I was tasked with getting ‘Stammer’ on the phone for the article, which also included interviews with teammates, family and others who know the captain.
And as it happens, Stamkos has impeccable timing that stretches far beyond his goal-scoring prowess. The day Stamkos was supposed to call me, he was given my office number and my cell phone number, since I would be commuting home at one point. In Toronto, the subway line is almost entirely underground, with only a handful of stops offering daylight – and therefore, cell phone signal. Just as my train pulled into one such stop, my phone rang. I pulled one earbud out and with my iPod still blaring into the other side of my head, answered the phone as I jumped onto the station platform. It was Stamkos.
It’s a rare for a country to take women’s hockey more seriously than men’s. Heck, it’s still a challenge to get some hockey-playing nations to take it seriously at all. But with its women’s team ranked a respectable 15th while its men’s team sits a distant 38th, China is getting serious about its national women’s program ahead of the next Winter Olympics and backing the team with some big-time money.
With the 2018 Games being held close to home in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Chinese are demanding a strong showing from their women’s team. The field is wide-open behind perennial powerhouses Canada and the United States, and China is eyeing a shot at a bronze medal. The women finished seventh in 2010 but failed to qualify in 2014, and the country is pouring money into the program to get the team back in the mix on the international scene.
“Their training center was like the Vatican,” said Daniel Noble, a Toronto-based strength and conditioning coach. “That’s their job – to train all day. So it was a very cool environment to be in. It all comes from government funding. The dining hall is like a five-star restaurant. It’s unbelievable how they are treated. They get treated very, very well.” Read more
The planet’s only professional hockey league for women got a notable boost Wednesday when the Canadian Women’s Hockey League added Arlene Dickinson – wildly successful businesswoman, author, philanthropist, and TV personality on CBC’s Dragons’ Den reality investment show – to its board of directors.
Since its inception in 2007, the five-team CWHL has been making slow-but-steady inroads in the business community, but the presence on the board (which also includes Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke, CBC analyst Cassie Campbell-Pascal and Trina Crosby, mother of Sidney Crosby) of Dickinson, a savvy venture capitalist and master marketer, can only accelerate that process. Anyone who’s seen her operate on Dragon’s Den has seen a thoughtful woman well-connected to the world around her and someone passionate about more than just making a buck.
Considering the CWHL is still not close to paying its players a livable salary, there’s no way Dickinson is working with the league because its teams are about to turn a profit. She’s in it because it’s an organization that empowers women, and she’s aiming to ensure it prospers. Read more