Friday, August 7, 2015

Angela Ruggiero

There was a time not so long ago that it would have seemed impossible that the Hockey Hall of Fame would ever enshrine someone who was born in sunny California.

And you certainly never would have guessed that player would be a woman.

But in the year 2015 that is exactly what happened, as the Hockey Hall of Fame welcomes Angela Ruggiero to hockey's highest honour.

Ruggiero took to the game early, and it was obvious she had real potential. Her brother really enjoyed the game, too. So the whole family moved to Michigan in 1996. The move was actually more to benefit her brother's career. It resulted in the kid sister having one of the most successful careers in hockey history.

"I grew up loving hockey and my family loves hockey," said Ruggiero "Fortunately, I found hockey at a very young age when I was 7 when there wasn't a lot of it in the state of California. … My family moved to Michigan in 1996 for my brother's hockey. My brother and I would train in the summertime. We'd go to different rinks, wherever we could find ice and join summer leagues. Because hockey was so popular in Detroit relative to California, I think I really benefitted."

She certainly did. She was a key member of the United States women's team that won the gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. She was just 18, still in prep school, and competing at the Olympics. She was well on her way to becoming the most dominant defender in the women's game, and arguably the top female player in the world.

"I was able to compete in my first [Olympic] team in 1998 and just loved the 15 years I got to spend with USA Hockey," she said. "I grew as a person, I learned so many things through hockey, and can't say enough about the opportunity I had because I wore that sweater for so long."

Ruggiero's accomplishments include four Olympic medals ­­ silver medals in the 2002 and 2010 Olympics and a bronze in 2006. She also won four gold medals at the World Championships, including in 2005 when she scored the game winning goal in the dramatic shootout.

"I feel so blessed to have grown up at the right moment. When I started playing, there were no girls in the state, no Olympics," Ruggiero said. "I didn't even know women's hockey existed at the collegiate level being from California, so I could have never imagined that I'd get to do all the things I got to do in hockey.

"But am very cognizant that if I had been born 10 years prior, I may not have had all these wonderful opportunities in life."

Ruggiero also played at Harvard (she graduated cum laude with a degree in government) and won the national championship in 1999. Her 96 goals and 253 points in her college career are a school record for defensemen.

In 2005 she joined her brother Bill for one game with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League. In doing so she became the first female skater (not including goalies) to compete in a men's professional hockey league in North America.

Hockey has opened all sorts of opportunities for Ruggiero.

"The last few months have been amazing. … It's been a whirlwind," she said. "You start playing hockey as a kid because you love the sport … so all this stuff is sort of icing. I didn't start playing hockey so I could be in the Hall of Fame and now the USA Hockey Hall of Fame. It's just a tremendous, tremendous honor."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Women's Hockey Legends

Meghan Agosta
Tessa Bonhomme
Jennifer Botterill
Cassie Campbell
Delaney Collins
Judy Diduck
Nancy Drolet
Danielle Goyette
Elizabeth Graham

Jayna Hefford
Abby Hoffman
Angela James
Becky Kellar
Gina Kingsbury
Albertine Lapensee
Carla MacLeod
Cherie Piper
Hilda Ranscombe
Manon Rheaume
Bobbie Rosenfeld
France St. Louis
Kim St. Pierre
Colleen Sostorics
Vicky Sunohara
Isobel Stanley
Sarah Vaillancourt

Karyn Bye-Dietz
Cammi Granato
Katie King
Karen Koch
Shelley Looney
Angela Ruggiero
Kathryn Waldo

Pia (Grengman) Sterner

Yoko Kondo
Tamae Satsu

Valentina Bettarini

Jessica Lutz

Jayna Hefford

At 37 years of age Jayna Hefford was the oldest member of the Canadian women's hockey team to win gold at Sochi in 2014.

She’s now pondering her hockey future.

Given her age she knows she is nearing the end, no matter how much she tries to ignore that. And given her status as one of the true legends of the women's game, there is nothing left for her to prove.

Arguably the best female hockey player of her generation, Hefford has achieved what many athletes can only dream of.

Hefford has worn the Maple Leaf at five Olympic Games and in a dozen world women’s championships. The Kingston, Ontario native ranks second all-time for Canada in scoring and games played behind longtime teammate Hayley Wickenheiser. Among her 157 goals in 267 international games was the memorable game-winner in the 2002 Olympic final in Salt Lake City.

“It’s never really been about the accomplishments for me," she told Donna Spencer of the Canadian Press. "If it were, maybe I would have retired after Salt Lake City after I won my first Olympic gold medal.”

“I’m really just trying to find out what I want to do, taking into consideration a lot of things whether that’s my age, my family, my level of motivation, what am I going to do after hockey?” Hefford said.

Meghan Agosta

Meghan Agosta isn't hanging up her skates just yet. But she is pausing her hockey career and getting her next career started.

Normally Agosta, a three time Olympic gold medal champion, would be with her Team Canada teammates as training camp opens. Instead she is at the Justice Institute of British Columbia training to become a police officer.

“I’ve only had two passions in my life and that’s policing and hockey,” Agosta told The Canadian Press from Vancouver. “To be able to fulfill both dreams is pretty amazing.”

Agosta was Canada’s top scorer at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., with nine goals and six assists in five games. She was named the most valuable player of the women’s hockey tournament.

She’s represented Canada in women’s hockey for a decade. Agosta celebrated her 19th birthday with a hat trick against Russia at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

In 2014 she helped Canada win gold in Sochi, Russia, coming from behind by two goals down to beat the United States in overtime.

Agosta says she is not retiring and wants to play in a fourth Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018.

Tessa Bonhomme

Tessa Bonhomme was a quietly solid defenseman for a decade with Canada's national women's team. Off the ice she was vibrant personality, full of life. It is little surprise that she has left the game to pursue opportunities in television.

Bonhomme made her international debut at the 2004 Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., and finished her career with 51 points (10 goals, 41 assists) in 107 games. She is the fifth-highest-scoring defenceman in the history of Canada’s senior women’s team.

The native of Sudbury, Ontario won gold with Canada at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and at the IIHF World Women’s Championship in 2007 and 2012. She assisted on Caroline Ouellette’s overtime winner in the 2012 gold-medal game.

Bonhomme also won silver at the world championship in 2009, 2011 and 2013. She participated in the Four Nations Cup on eight occasions, winning six gold medals (2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013) and two silver (2008, 2012).

“On behalf of Hockey Canada and Canadian hockey fans everywhere, I want to thank Tessa for what she did not only in bringing Canada success on the ice, but what she did to grow the women’s game off it,” Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, said in a statement. “She will continue to be a tremendous ambassador for the sport, and I have no doubt she will find success wherever her career leads her.”

Bonhomme, who also had a legendary NCAA with the Ohio State Buckeyes, will continue her broadcasting career with TSN as a full-time host and reporter. She will also contribute to the network’s coverage of Hockey Canada events. She also competed in reality shows Wipeout Canada and Battle of the Blades, winning the hockey turned figure skating competition with partner David Pelletier.

Did you know Tessa's uncle Tim Bonhomme has been a keyboardist with the Beach Boys since 1997?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Nancy Drolet

Nancy Drolet had a storied career, but I always think of the 1997 world championships when I hear her name.

Canada captured their 4th consecutive world title that year, and they can thank Drolet's hat trick heroics in a gritty overtime game vs. the United States.

Drolet scored twice in regulation and then, at 12:59 of OT, scored the 4-3 game winner.

“I didn't want to say to myself, ‘Can I give more?’ after the game,” Drolet explained afterwards. “I just gave all I got, and I got three goals.”

Drolet did it again in 2000. Her slap shot at 6:10 of overtime hit American goalie Sara de Costa in the shoulder and trickled over the line to give Canada a 3-2 victory and their sixth straight world titles.

Drolet, from Drummondville, Quebec, was also a notable softball player who played on Canada's national team in 1990 and 1991. By 1993 she was named as Canada's junior athlete of the year.

Her career with Canada's national women's team last from 1992 through 2000. She won a silver medal at the Nagano Olympics in 1998 and is a six time world champion.

Nowadays Drolet is an orthotherapist and massage therapist in Drummondville.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Valentina Bettarini

This is Valentina Bettarini. In 2006 she set Olympic hockey history by representing her native Italy at the Torino games. At the age of 15 years and 228 days she became the youngest hockey player - male or female - to participate in an Olympic hockey tournament.

Though the Italian women's hockey team has not been strong enough to qualify for another Olympics, Ms. Bettarini continues to play for the Italian national team as well as a women's club team in Austria.

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