Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jayna Hefford

Jayna Hefford's international hockey career has come to an end. The Hockey Hall of Fame will be calling soon.

The Kingston, Ontario had been with the Canadian National Women's Team since the 1997 World Championships. She retires as second all-time in Team Canada history in games played (267), goals (157), and points (291).

Hefford is a four-time Olympic gold medallist - 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, with a silver medal added in 1998. In 2002, Hefford famously scored the game-winning goal with two seconds remaining in Canada’s victory against the United States in Salt Lake City.

Hefford is also a seven-time world champion (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2012) and five-time silver medallist (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013) at the World Championships.

She also was 12 time gold medallist at the 3 Nations/4 Nations Cup, winning 5 silver medals there as well.

“Jayna’s accomplishments on the ice speak for themselves, but it is her off-ice contributions to the game and leadership that I admire,” said Melody Davidson, general manager of national women’s team programs, Hockey Canada. “I want to thank Jayna for the leadership she has shown as a veteran and mentor to our younger players, and to the larger hockey community in Canada and around the world.”

Hefford was a tremendous skater, both in terms of speed and balance. But it was her desire to always be better that made her a legend.

"A few years before Vancouver, I decided if I was going to stick in it into my 30s, my mid 30s, I knew I had to get better," said Hefford, only one of five athletes in the world to win gold at four consecutive Olympics. "It wasn't good enough to be there just because I had gotten that far already. I probably had some of my most successful years in the latter part of my career which is something I'm proud of. I saw the results of that hard work."

The new retiree Hefford is a new mom.

"Once you become a parent, it's no longer about you. When I'm reflecting about retirement, I'm thinking a lot more about what my parents did for me growing up and all the selflessness and the sacrifice. I guess I'm more appreciative of what they did to help me live out the dream."

Gillian Apps

The announcement that Gillian Apps was retiring from Canada's National Women's team, so ended one of hockey's great family lines - for now.

Gillian's father was Syl Apps Jr., who played over 700 games in a decade long career back in the 1970s.  And her grandfather was Syl Apps Sr., the Hockey Hall of Famer who is arguably the greatest player in Toronto Maple Leafs player. He was also an Olympic pole vaulter in 1936.

Apps may find herself in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day, too. Check out this resume:
  • Three time Olympic gold medallist (2006, 2010 and 2014). She scored 10 goals and 21 points at the Olympics, including 7 goals and 14 points in 2006 when she was an All Star.
  • Three time World Champion gold medallist (2004, 2007, 2012) as well as five-time silver medallist (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013).
  • 164 games played with the national team, scoring 50 goals and 50 assists.
  • Eight gold medals at the Four Nations Cup (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013)
“I’m so proud to have worn the maple leaf alongside my teammates; we became like a family and those friendships are ones that I will cherish forever,” said Apps. “I have learned so much about myself through sport and my time with Canada’s National Women’s Team has taught me about strength, balance, perseverance, character, and support. I feel very grateful to have gone through so much being part of such an amazing program.”

Apps also starred at Dartmouth College where she earned a degree in psychology.

“Those were probably the best four years of my life,” Apps said. “Being a student athlete at Dartmouth was an incredible experience.”

She loves teaching young girls the game of hockey.

“I hope our success as a national team at the Olympics has inspired young girls across the country. They have some great opportunities. When I was their age, there were only boys’ hockey camps. So I didn’t attend camps, except for one I participated in with the boys.”

Catherine Ward

Catherine Ward's hockey dream was to be a part of Team Canada and winning gold medals at the Olympics. But hockey gave her much more than the ultimate bling.

“Hockey has taught me so much and I wouldn’t be who I am today without it; it has shaped me for the better.," she said.

Ward debuted with Canada’s National Women’s Program in 2006 as a member of Canada’s National Women’s Under-22 Team and finished her as career as a two-time Olympic gold medallist, in 2010 and 2014.

The Montreal native first captured a gold medal with Canada at the World Championships in 2012 and added three silvers medals in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Ward also won a pair of gold medals at the 4 Nations Cup (2009, 2013) and two silver medals (2008, 2012).

In 77 games with Canada’s National Women’s Team the defender accumulated seven goals and 36 assists for 43 points.

“I dreamed of being part of Team Canada from a young age and I feel very privileged to have had the chance to be part of it,” said Ward. “From the drive and discipline it takes to achieve your goals, to the friendships I’ve made along the way, hockey has shaped me into who I am today. It taught me how to be a leader and how to make others around me better and I’m fortunate to now combine my two passions, hockey and business into one.”

Ward has been working as an assistant product manager with Reebok-CCM hockey for the past year and will continue to manage the development of hockey sticks with the company.

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

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.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Geraldine Heaney

On November 11th, 2013 Geraldine Heaney will become just the third female player inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Heaney will join her long time Canadian teammate Angela James and U.S. forward Cammi Granato, both of whom were enshrined in 2010.

Why it took so long to include another female player is a controversial mystery made all the more maddening by Heaney's obvious credentials.

“As a young girl playing hockey, never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I’d be going in the Hall. It shows you where the women’s game as come and how much further it can go.”

Heaney won gold with Canada at the first seven women’s world hockey championships held starting in 1990. The offensive defenceman, often compared to Scott Niedermayer or even Bobby Orr, was named the tournament’s top defenceman in both 1992 and 1994.

She scored a highlight reel goal for Canada in the final of the inaugural world championship in Ottawa. She split the U.S. defence, avoided the goaltender’s attempted poke check and sailed through the air after slipping the puck into the net.

“That very first world championship and scoring the winning goal is something that I always have a chance to see because they play it on TV quite a bit,” Heaney said.

She took silver when women’s hockey made its Olympic debut in 1998 and won gold four years later in Salt Lake City before retiring.

In 2008 Heaney joined James and Granato as the first female inductees in the IIHF Hall of Fame.

Not bad for a girl born in Belfast, Ireland, eh? Her family emigrated to Canada when she was a toddler and she grew up as a rink rat in the Toronto area.

“It was a male game when I played and going down to the Hall of Fame any time, you never saw in any females in there, so you didn’t think this would ever happen,” Heaney said. “I’m so glad that it has.”

Heaney had 27 goals and 66 assists in 125 career games for Canada. The 45-year-old still holds national team records for the world championship games (35) goals (8), assists (28), and points (36) by a defenceman.

Heaney has remained involved in the game as a coach at the University of Waterloo.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gina Kingsbury

Gina Kingsbury played forward in two Olympics for Team Canada, winning gold in both 2006 and 2010.

The Saskatchewan-born, Quebec-raised Kingsbury first joined Team Canada in the under-22 division in 1999. She went on to help Canada win gold at the 2001, 2004 and 2007 world championships as well as silver in 2005, 2008 and 2009.

She graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2004 with a degree in psychology. She joined the Montreal Axion of the National Women’s Hockey League before making and committing to the 2006 Olympic team. She decided to advance her career with the national team by moving to Calgary where the team trains. She joined the Calgary Oval X-Treme in non-Olympic years.

In 116 games with the national team she scored 35 goals, 40 assists and 75 points.

The native of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec has since moved to Penticton, British Columbia and is very active with the Okanagan Hockey School.

Becky Kellar

Chasing Olympic and national team dreams is a big sacrifice for most athletes. But for Becky Kellar (now Becky Kellar-Duke), she put her whole life on hold for the Olympics.

Every four years left her husband and home in Burlington, Ontario to move to Calgary for seven months of training. But she did bring her kids, parents and dogs with her.

Kellar played defence for Team Canada in four Olympics, winning three golds and a silver. She was the oldest skater for Team Canada at the Vancouver Olympics, and one of only four women to play for Team Canada to play in each of the first four women's Olympic hockey tournaments.

She was also the first member of Team Canada's women team to become a mom. She has two sons, Owen and Zach.

Being a mother adds balance to her life because she has activities, schedules and responsibilities outside of her hockey career, she told Canadian Living magazine. It also allowed her to give extra focus her on-ice activities.

While winning the gold medal on home ice in Vancouver was a great way to cap her international hockey career, winning gold in 2002 may have offered her the best life lesson.

"In 2002, we lost every game to the U.S. leading into that final game. But as a group and as individuals, we were able to still believe in ourselves, even though a lot of people had given up," she says of the team's first golden victory. "The most important thing for us is to stay confident."

Kellar, who was born in Hagersville, Ontario, starred in both hockey and softball at the Ivy League school Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The psychology major has since been inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame.

She has since earned a Masters of Business Administration from Sir Wilfried Laurier University. She retired from the national team though continued to play hockey in Burlington. She is active on the motivational speaking circuit, including teaming with hockey teammate Cheryl Pounder in providing coaching presentations for management professionals.

Colleen Sostorics

Talk about an amazing storybook ending. Colleen Sostorics went from impossible dreams in small town Saskatchewan to striking gold on the biggest stage in the world.

Colleen Sostorics, who grew up in the farming community of Kennedy, Saskatchewan, capped her hockey career with an Olympic gold medal on home ice in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games. The 30 year old then left the game at the very top of her profession.

"Having a chance to step on the ice at GM Place in front of the Canadian fans and get that gold medal with my teammates who had fought so hard all year, that's definitely a highlight of my career," she told the Regina Leader-Post.  "But, looking back at it, there have been so many other highlights that weren't necessarily involving gold medals. I think back to my days of playing minor hockey in Kennedy. When we got to that league final in bantam (she was the captain of the boys team), that was a huge deal, and the first time I ever wore the (Canadian) jersey in 1998 with the under-22 team, and my first chance on the senior team in 2001. There's a lot of milestones that are really important and things that I'll cherish and always remember.

"I couldn't ask for anything more. I don't know if you can top that as an athlete," she added. "I knew I was going to try to make this team and hopefully win a gold medal for Canada. Once that was accomplished it took a few months to think about it and decide. Four years is a long time until the next Olympics and I think that was kind of out of the question. Might as well hang 'em up now and see what's next."

"Of course it was a difficult decision but I know it's the right decision," said Sostorics, who retired as the third-highest scoring defender in Team Canada history. "I've had a really rewarding career. Now I'm just looking forward to what comes next, all the adventures and challenges that will go with the second stage of my life."

Sostorics is a three-time Olympic gold medallist (2002, 2006 and 2010) and a three-time world champion (2001, 2004 and 2007). In 139 games with the Canadian national team the defender scored 13 goals and 53 points.

Sostorics has a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Calgary. She works the motivational speaking scene and returns to help her parents on the family farm. She plans to stay very involved in hockey and sports (she is a notable fastball and rugby player, too), be it as a coach or administrator.

"That's where my passion lies," said Sostorics. "I think we all know, all of us Canadians, this game gets in your blood. You can't ever leave it for good. It's the game I love and it has played such a major role in my life. I want to stay involved in some capacity and give back to a community that has given so much to me."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cherie Piper

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Cherie Piper has announced her retirement from the Canadian women's hockey team.

The 31-year-old forward from Toronto has not played for Canada since the 2011 world championship as she finished her education degree. She will not be in consideration for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. She will also retire from the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women's Hockey League at the end of the 2013 season

"I've been thinking about it for a little while now," Piper told The Canadian Press. "This season confirmed it for me. I still love the game, but your body hurts a little more at the end of weekend games and I've had a lot of little injuries over the last few years. I've given a large portion of my life to the sport. It's time to be active in the sport in another way and not necessarily playing."

Piper won Olympic gold in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Winning gold on home ice in Vancouver will forever be her career highlight.

"The atmosphere and the energy in that building was like having an extra person on the ice," Piper recalled. "To have the opportunity as an Olympian to play in your own country, there's just nothing better than that."

In 111 career games with Team Canada Piper scored 40 goals and 78 assists over 12 seasons.

Described as a powerful skater and smart playmaker, she debuted in the Olympics in 2002 replacing veteran Nancy Drolet. Piper was hitting her stride in 2006 when she was second in team scoring behind Hayley Wickenheiser at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, with seven goals and eight assists in just five games.

But the years between Turin and Vancouver were difficult for Piper, as she suffered a major knee injury playing college hockey that kept her out of the 2007 world championship. Then her father Alan died of a heart attack in 2008. She was actually left off the world championship team in 2009, but reclaimed her spot in the lineup for the 2010 Winter Games.

Piper will be teaching in the Toronto area while continuing to work with young players at the Markham Stouffville Stars Girls Hockey Association.

Sarah Vaillancourt

Injuries shortened the promising career of Canada's Sarah Vaillancourt

Vaillancourt was an amazing story in her college career at Harvard University. As a freshman she openly admitted that she was a lesbian, and that she would leave if anyone had a problem with that. Fortunately none of her coaches or teammates did, because she went on to become one of the top players in the Ivy League school's history.

As a junior in 2008 she was awarded the Patty Kazmaier award as the nation’s top college player in 2008. She was a top ten finalist in her sophomore year, too. As a senior she was named ECAC player of the year. Somehow she also found tie to earn a psychology degree from Harvard, too!

Vaillancourt, from Sherbrooke, Quebec, was a mainstay on the Canadian national team during that time. She won Olympic Gold Medals in 2006 and 2010. She also played in six World Championships, winning Gold in 2007. All told, Sarah contributed 98 points (45 goals, 53 assists) in her 107 game career with Canada.

A hip injury and a series of sports hernias have not allowed her to play a full season since 2010. The hip injury required surgery.

She will be missed in Sochi, as she plays a nice grinder's role for the national team. The Canadian Press' Donna Spencer described Vaillancourt as "Vaillancourt’s game is skill and sandpaper. She has the vision and quick hands of a playmaker, but is also a burr under the saddle of the opposition."

While Vaillancourt retired from the Canadian national team at age 27, she continues to play and be a role model for young women everywhere. She is playing for the Montreal Stars of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League while pursuing a Master’s Degree at the University of Sherbrooke.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Danielle Goyette

Once called "the Gordie Howe of women’s hockey", Danielle Goyette was a superstar talent on offence who  continued to produce well into her lengthy career. In fact, she had more points in her final Women’s World Championship in 2007 at age 41 (11) than she did in her first 15 years earlier as a 26-year-old (10).

Goyette played in three Olympics and nine IIHF Women’s World Championships, winning gold every time except at the 1998 Olympics and 2005 Worlds when Canada won silver. She has represented Canada at international competitions more than any other hockey player in history – male or female – and has more than 100 goals to her credit in international play. By the time she retired from the national team she was second all-time with 15 goals at the Olympics. At the Women's World Championships she ranked third all time with 37 goals and fourth overall with 68 points.

Goyette grew up in St. Nazaire, Quebec, a village of just 800 people located some three hours north of Quebec City.

With such a small population she had no problem being welcomed on the boys teams. Starting at age four she was out with the boys on an outside rink where she dreamed she was playing with her beloved Montreal Canadiens. She also excelled at Tennis (she was a to junior player in the province) and fastball (she once made Canada's under 21 national team and travelled to the World Championships).

By 1991 she left Quebec for Calgary to join the Canadian national women's hockey team. She could barely speak a word of English. But she was fully fluent in the language of hockey. She slowly learned English and overcame a feeling of isolation to become a Canadian hockey legend. Much of her career she battled the younger Hayley Wickenheiser as Canada's top offensive woman.

For all the Olympic medals and world championships, Goyette's greatest moment as an athlete came in 2006 when she was selected as Canada's flag bearer for the Opening Ceremonies at the Turin Olympics.

Goyette, who suffered 24 shoulder dislocations requiring 3 surgeries, later became head coach at the University of Calgary. She led the Dinos to the school's first national championship in 2012.

Karyn Bye-Dietz

Described as a "big hearted" alternate captain of Team USA's gold medal winning 1998 Olympics squad, Karyn Bye was one of the first women inducted into the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame.

The IIHF honoured her career in 2011. And what a career it was.

Karyn was born on May 18, 1971 in River Falls, Wisconsin, USA. She grew up playing on boy's teams until she was 18 years old. Often her parents were register as K.L. Bye so that people did not realize a girl was on the team. By the time everyone found out, few complained because she was so good.

She went on to be a dominant collegiate player, scoring 164 points in 87 games at the University of New Hampshire. She graduated in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in physical education, and later earned a master's degree while playing two more years at Concordia University in Montreal.

But it was on the international scene that she became a legend. She led Team USA to six International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Championship silver medals, as well as gold and silver medals at the Olympic Winter Games.

As an alternate captain for the 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team, Bye led the team with five goals in helping to capture the first-ever gold medal awarded in the sport at the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. She subsequently was a member of the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team that won the silver in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she tallied three goals and three assists in five games.

In total Karyn Bye-Dietz played in 175 games for Team USA, scoring 110 goals and 119 assists for 229 points. She retired as the fifth highest scoring American women in international competition.

Twice she was named USA Hockey’s Women’s Player of the Year and was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Karen Koch

Karen Koch was the first professional female hockey player in North America.

As an 18 year old Koch (pronounced Cook) signed to play with Marquette Iron Rangers of the USHL. She would get paid $40 a game.

Marquette was a powerhouse in that league, defending champions with two established goalies. Legendary coach Oakie Brumm was impressed with her technique and kept her on the team, carrying three goalies. His only concern that she was quite small. Brumm once said that due to their size advantage his two regular goalies "stopped more pucks by accident than she did on purpose."

Her teammates brought up the expected sexist complaints of the day, but they all admitted she was a good goaltender. She also drew a lot of media attention from across the United States and Canada.

Ultimately though her career would be brief. She would be cut with 10 games left in the season with the official reason that she refused to wear a protective goalie mask. Brumm later said that though she was a sound, technical goalie, this league was just too good for her to play in regularly.

She moved to Toronto and made national headlines again when she was barred by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association from playing on men's teams.

The Marquette Iron Rangers website has a great collection of newspaper clippings concerning Koch. It is a must read for all fans of women's hockey history.

Her Wikipedia entry tells us she has earned a bachelor's and a master's degree, both in English Literature, from the Wayne State University and the University of Dayton, respectively

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Angela Ruggiero

Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic hockey medalist, retired as the all-time leader (male or female) in games played (256) in a USA hockey jersey. Many consider her to be the best American female hockey player of all time.

Angela and her brother Bill were inspired to take up the game when Wayne Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles. Soon enough it became apparent both kids were very good at hockey, so good that they quickly outgrew any competition had to offer in Southern California at that time. So the Ruggiero parents left the warm sunshine of California so that their kids could pursue their hockey dreams.

A huge sacrifice? Absolutely. But it was all worth it given Angela's accomplishments at the collegiate and international levels. In 2005 she even managed to join her brother Bill for one professional game in the Central Hockey League game, in which she became the first woman to play a position other than goalkeeper in a professional game.

She joined the U.S. national team at 16 and later excelled at Harvard, where she earned a scholarship and graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Government. On the ice she became a leader through 10 world championships and all four women’s Olympic hockey tournaments, winning a gold medal in 1998, silver in 2002 and 2010 and bronze in 2006.

A recurring shoulder injury and her growing responsibilities to the IOC’s Athletes Commission and other assignments led her to realize her greatest impact on women's hockey now lies off the ice rather than on it.

“The biggest thing for me is the responsibility I have to the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee, and I’m really passionate about that. The more I’ve done work with the IOC the more I’ve come to realize I’m really excited about this, the work that I’m doing and the impact that I can have if I’m fully committed to it," she said at her press conference.

“In a way, by being fully committed to the Olympic movement globally, I’m better able to promote women’s hockey and talk about women’s hockey and put a face to women’s hockey, to all the IOC members,” she said. “To all the International Ice Hockey Federation members, to anyone really in the global community and do what I can to promote the game at that level.

“I still love hockey. It’s just I’m at a different stage of my life and I think I’m just ready to grow in other ways outside of just being a hockey player.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Delany Collins

Delaney Collins was not the best known member of Team Canada's women's national team in the 2000s. But she was a nice contributor to three world championship gold medals - in 2000, 2004 and 2007. She also won silvers in 2005 and 2008.

Collins was a tiny defender, known for her smart offensive play and strong passing ability. In 95 official international games Collins scored 8 goals and 31 assists for 39 points.

Collins never represented Team Canada at the Olympics. She was one of the final cuts in 2002 and 2006, while a serious concussion injury in 2008 really curtailed her career and all but officially ended any real chance of playing at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

The native of Pilot Mound, Manitoba played two seasons at the University of Alberta and played with Calgary in the WWHL and Brampton in the CWHL..

"DC" officially retired in the summer of 2011, at the age of 34. She is looking forward to teaching the next generation of hockey stars.

Delaney's father Rod has extensive coaching experience with the famous prep school Shattuck's St. Mary's in Fairbault, Minnesota.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Judy Diduck

I had just finished writing about former NHL defenseman Gerald Diduck when I realized this would be a great time to also remember his sister Judy. She was a heck of a hockey player, too.

Now Judy, born in 1966, did not necessarily have the luxuries a lot of hockey playing girls have nowadays. There were few if any girls teams, and coed teams was not welcomed by a lot of the old guard hockey coaches, administrators and event parents.

So Judy actually grew up excelling at ringette. She was one of the very first players to join ringette when the sport was introduced in her home town of Sherwood Park, Alberta. That was a powerhouse team, capturing 5 consecutive national championships from 1979 to 1983. When a world championship was created in 1990, Judy was a star player on the gold medal winning Team Alberta. All of this has resulted in her being inducted in the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame in 2005.

But was women's hockey grew in popularity in the late 1980s and 1990s, Judy found herself excelling at the game her brother was famous for. She would make the transition easily, joining the Canadian national women's hockey team for most of the 1990s. She was a member of the first four world championship teams. She also participated in the very first Olympic hockey tournament for women's hockey. In those 1998 Winter Olympic Games held in Nagano, Japan, Judy and her Canadian teammates brought home the silver medal.

Judy Diduck more or less disappeared from the national hockey scene after Nagano. She enrolled at the University of Alberta where she also played for the U of A Pandas team. After graduating she has stayed with the team as an assistant coach.

She also had her own business called Just Stuff Enterprises.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jennifer Botterill

Jennifer Botterill announced her retirement for the Canadian women's national team in March 2011, marking the end of one of the most storied international careers in women's hockey history.

Botterill's trophy case includes 3 Olympic gold medals, 1 Olympic silver medal,  5 World Championship gold medals, and two World Championships MVP awards.

When not starring with Team Canada she educated hockey players at Harvard, where she is the Crimson's all time leading scorer with 65 goals, 109 assists for 174 points in 184 career games. At one time she had a ridiculous 80 game point scoring streak, and she is the only two time winner of the Patty Kazmaier Awards as top female college hockey player in the US. She even managed to find time to earn an honours degree in Psychology while at Harvard.

In what proved to be her final game, Botterill, originally from Winnipeg, set up Marie-Philip Poulin for the game winning goal at the 2010 Olympics gold medal game.

Botterill, by the way, comes from a pretty amazing sports family. Her mother, Doreen, competed as a speedskater for Canada in the 1964 and 1968 Winter Olympics. Her father, Cal, is a noted sports psychologist who has worked with NHL teams and Canadian Olympic athletes. Her brother Jason is the only winner of three World Junior Hockey Championships with Team Canada and played in the NHL. He is now an assistant general manager for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even her grandfather, Donald Grant McCannell, is a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

By the way, here's how brother Jason remembers Jennifer when the two were growing up together.

"She has always been a fairly good skater and an excellent playmaker," says Jason, who will readily admit she was the better skater. Although Jason was not the most agile skater, skating came naturally for the Botterill family. Their mother Doreen was a Canadian Olympic speed skater in 1964 and 1968.

Although the kids played many sports, hockey was their true love.

"We used to play ball hockey in our basement. I knew she was probably going to be a pretty good player when I'd go in net and, when she started out, she'd shoot little softballs at me and they'd be no problem at all.

"Then, as she got going, she'd wind up and take big slappers at me and I'd be darting to get out of the way rather than trying to stop them."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Isobel Stanley

This is a photograph of women playing hockey at Ottawa's Rideau Hall way back in 1890. It is believed to be the earliest recorded image of women playing hockey.

Note the lady white. Why she is the only lady in white I do not know. Her identity may be hard to make out in this photo, yet her identity is unmistakable. She is the star female player in Ottawa in this time period. She also happens to be the daughter of Governor General Lord Stanley of Preston - the donator of Stanley Cup!

Of all the members of the family,  it was Isobel Stanley (one of two daughters) who had the real passion for the game. She attended her first organized hockey game in 1889 at the Montreal Winter Carnival. From that moment on she fell in love with the game, and whenever she could she would put on her customary long skirt and played regular games of shinny at Rideau Hall. She and other Government House ladies enjoyed the game immensely. She was also a regular at the Rideau Rink, a new rink in Ottawa that opened in 1889.

The Governor General himself returned to England without ever seeing a single Stanley Cup game, but before he left the passionate love of Canada's game that Isobel and her brothers demonstrated convinced him to authorize the purchase of a trophy to be given to hockey's annual champion in the dominion of Canada - the Stanley Cup! Some sources even suggest it was the kids' who recommended the trophy's creation.

In 2002 another trophy was created, honouring Isobel's pioneering status in women's hockey. The Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Award (her married name) was given to "to an active player (at any level) whose values, leadership and personal traits are representative of all female athletes."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Kathryn Waldo

Kathryn Waldo is unlike most of the female legends of hockey profiled on this website. She never played in any international tournaments. No Olympics. No World Championships.

But she is a legend at Northeastern University in Boston, where she lettered from 1995 through 1999. She had led the Huskies in scoring with 15 goals as a freshman and by her senior season had also earned the ECAC’s Award of Valor. In 1997 she inspired her team to the ECAC division 1 championship. She scored 52 goals and 106 points in her collegiate career, good enough for 19th all time in school history.

She did it all while battling cystic fibrosis.

Hockey players are known to be valiant fighters, but Ms. Waldo took that definition to a whole other level. She had CF since she was a toddler, but there was no way she was going to let the terrible lung disease stop her from achieving her dreams.

First and foremost on her list was to play hockey.

“Waldo was tiny (5-foot-2, 115 pounds), but she was a little powerhouse and one of the strongest skaters on our team. She inspired us to push ourselves and work harder,’’ said former teammate Emily Sweeney. “I remember so many times we’d be skating laps at practice and my legs would be burning. I’d be gasping for air, and then I’d look up and see Waldo still skating away, pulling ahead of the pack and beating everyone to the finish line. I always admired her.’’

An amazing story, one that even made it into Sports Illustrated.

Waldo graduated with her degree in education in 2000. She would coach girl's high school hockey before her health took a turn for the worst in 2002.

She waited one year, seven months of which were in hospital hooked up to a ventilator, awaiting double lung transplant surgery. At first it seemed to be a big success, but in 2004 her body rejected her new lungs.

She had been hanging on ever since, desperately trying to get the most she could out of each day. She succumbed to complications of cystic fibrosis, specifically lung and kidney failure, in December, 2009. She was 33 years old.

Vicky Sunohara

Vicky Sunohara was one of the most decorated Canadian female players of all time.

Sunohara joined the Canada's National Women's Team in 1989-90. She would partake in three Olympic Winter Games (1998, 2002, 2006), winning two golds and one silver; seven IIHF World Women's Championships (1990-1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005); seven Four Nations Cups (1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004) and the Torino Ice Tournament (2005). In all that time she won 18 medals, 15 of them gold. From 2000 through to her retirement in 2008 the personable Sunohara was the team's associate captain.

As women's hockey caught on in popularity in the late 1990s and 2000s, Sunohara was a grand ol' dame of the game. Her prime came back in the early 1990s when women's hockey was just gaining acceptance at the international level.

Her coach, Don MacLeod at Northeastern University, called her the best female player in the game and called her the Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey. She cemented her status as the best in the game at the first ever world championships in 1990, scoring 6 goals and 9 points in 5 games to give Canada the gold.

Her highlight of her career was, like so many of the ladies, the Nagano Olympics in 1998. Those were the first Olympics to include women's hockey as a medal sport. Canada would disappointingly drop the gold medal game to the USA, but Sunohara made special memories nobody else on the team could experience.

Sunohara's grandfather had descended from the ancient mountain city of Ueda-shi, and she was treated like it was a great homecoming, even though she had never been to the country before.

Sunohara, who is of mixed Japanese and Ukrainian descent, was encouraged to play hockey by her father, Dave, a first generation Japanese Canadian learning to play on the backyard rink he built every year. He died when Vicky was just 7 years old, but her mother carried on, insisting on educating Vicky of her Japanese heritage, and of course keepg up with the hockey routine.

Of course routine itself was far from routine for girls playing hockey back then. She found it harder and harder to play as the boys teams would not allow her to play with them. The girls teams tended to be of too little competition for an advanced skater like her.

She persevered, eventually becoming one of the greatest female players in the game's history (and a very good soccer playerand bowler, too). Along the way she earned a degree in physical education, starting at the University of Toronto but completing her studies at Northeastern University in Boston, where she had a full scholarship.

Sunohara is one of the nicest people in all of hockey, constantly donating her time to charitable events and helping the next generation of hockey playing girls.

Sami-Jo Small perhaps said it best about her Olympic teammate:

"I have had the privilege of playing with some pretty amazing people but none have struck me as born leaders like Vicky Sunohara...She rallies the troops in desperate times and tells funny jokes when the pressure is mounting...She's always there for her teammates and always willing to do whatever it takes to win. She makes those around her not only better hockey players but also better the ten years I played on the team I never saw another player touch as many people in such a positive way as Vicky Sunohara."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chanda Gunn

Chanda Gunn, a native of Huntington Beach, California, was Team USA's goaltender at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. That team disappointingly finished with the bronze medal. They were expected to play in the gold medal game, and many felt they could have beaten Canada.

Regardless, Gunn refused to think of Torino as a negative.

"There are a lot of people that want to send us home feeling like failures because we won bronze. I think we refuse that. What the Olympics is all about is character. And we showed more character and grace in defeat than anybody ever could in victory."

Gunn was previously a back up goalie for Team USA at the 2002 Salt Lake Games. She backstopped the country to the gold medal at the 2005 World Championships and a silver medal at the 2007 World Championships.

Gunn is also a celebrated graduate of Northeastern University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training and a minor in Religious Studies in 2004. She also was inducted into the athletic Hall of Fame, as she owns practically every female goaltending record in school history. She would return to her Alma mater to become an assistant coach with the Huskies' women's team.

That is quite a life of accomplishment for any young lady. What makes Chanda Gunn's story even more amazing is she has done it all while fighting the nasty disease of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a somewhat common neurological disease, which if improperly medicated results in seizures.

Gunn had dealt with the disease most of her life, but it was in her first year of college, which was actually at the University of Wisconsin not Northeastern, that her medicine stopped working. She suffered many epileptic attacks and her promising hockey career was feared to be over before it even really began.

It took several weeks but doctors finally found new medicines that allowed Gunn to return a normal life, and return to the ice. She would have to transfer to another college, as Wisconsin was not happy that she had hid the disease from them and their scholarship people. You can't really blame the school - they invested heavily in a goalie who they did not know could play on a regular basis.

Most colleges shied away from Gunn, but Northeastern offered a chance, although they did not guarantee any scholarships. It worked out pretty well for all involved. Gunn became one of the school's most decorated athletes, including winning the prestigious NCAA Sportswoman of the Year in her senior year.

Needless to say, Chanda Gunn has served as a role model to many people with epilepsy.

Shelley Looney

Hockey is game known for toughness and courage. In the world of women's hockey, few are tougher or more courageous than Shelley Looney.

The American winger is perhaps best known for a terrible injury. She suffered a badly broken jaw at the 1997 World Championships as he she dropped to the ice to block a shot in overtime of the gold medal game. Despite her incredible efforts and willingness to do anything to win, Team USA would lose that game to Canada.

A solid two way player, Looney also played in the 1992 and 1994 World Championships, as well as the Pacific Rim Championship in 1995. Like all competitors in women's hockey, her biggest tournament was the 1998 Winter Olympics. She scored 4 goals in 6 games helping the US win the first gold medal in Women's Olympic Hockey history. Her 4th goal proved to be the eventual winner in the gold medal game against Canada.

Looney, who was born in Michigan and trained at Northeastern University, returned to the Olympics in 2002. This time the Americans would fall short to Canada on home ice.

Looney took up a number of coaching opportunities while trying to keep active for the 2006 Olympics. Unfortunately she would be one of the final cuts for that American team, all but ending here playing career.

In her international career she scored 61 goals and 136 points in 151 games. She was also inducted into the Northeastern University athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. She was the first Olympic gold medalist in University history, and retired as the fifth leading scorer of all time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Elizabeth Graham

The lady in the middle is Elizabeth Graham. She played as a goaltender in Kingston, Ontario for the Queen's University women's hockey team.

She may have been the first goalie to ever wear a mask in an organized hockey game. Not Jacques Plante, not Clint Benedict. Elizabeth Graham.

Graham appeared in a game in 1927 wearing a fencing mask. The Montreal Daily Star reported that Graham "gave the fans a surprise when she stepped into the nets and then donned a fencing mask."

It seems Ms. Graham donned the facial protection at the request of her father, who did not want to see her teeth get damaged. She had previously undergone extensive dental surgery, although it is not clear if it was hockey related or not.

Clint Benedict appeared in a NHL game wearing a mask in 1930. Jacques Plante did not popularize the use of the mask until 1959.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jennifer Botterill

As a huge fan of the World Junior Hockey Championships, Jason Botterill of Team Canada quickly became a favorite of mine. After all, when you set a Team Canada record by winning three consecutive gold medals at the WJC, you must be a pretty special player.

He was, although of 481 games as a professional, only 88 came in the NHL. But his hockey resume is impressive nonetheless - the three gold medals, a scholarship at the University of Michigan, first round NHL draft pick by Dallas in 1994. Concussion problems cut his career short, but he is still in the game, having upgraded his schooling with the goal of one day becoming a NHL general manager.

Impressive, but his hockey resume is not even the most decorated in the family. That title is held by his sister, Jennifer.

Jennifer is a mainstay on the Canadian national women's team. She's won 2 Olympic gold medals and 1 Silver, and is likely to win another medal at the 2010 Olympics. She's been a part of 5 world championship teams, twice being named as the tournament MVP.

She also won a NCAA title with Harvard. She scored at least one point in 106 of her 107 career collegiate games, including in a record 80 consecutive games. Her career totals of 149 goals, 170 assists and 319 points all represent collegiate records. In 2003 she graduated (with honours) in Psychology. Her father Cal is a noted Canadian sports psychologist and has worked with NHL teams and Olympic athletes.

Jennifer will be going for gold in 2010, while her brother Jason will be cheering her on.

"She has always been a fairly good skater and an excellent playmaker," says Jason, who will readily admit she was the better skater. Although Jason was not the most agile skater, skating came naturally for the Botterill family. Their mother Doreen was a Canadian Olympic speed skater in 1964 and 1968.

Although the kids played many sports, hockey was their true love.

"We used to play ball hockey in our basement. I knew she was probably going to be a pretty good player when I'd go in net and, when she started out, she'd shoot little softballs at me and they'd be no problem at all.

"Then, as she got going, she'd wind up and take big slappers at me and I'd be darting to get out of the way rather than trying to stop them."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pia Grengman (Sterner)

The mustachioed man embracing this married couple is Tommy Topel. He is the Swedish Hockey League's sports director. As you can see, he is quite excited by the presence of his guests, with good reason.

The other man in this picture is Ulf Sterner, a legend of Swedish hockey. In 1965 he became the first Swedish player to play in the NHL. He was a national team legend with Tre Kroner in the 1960s.

Also in the picture is Sterner's wife, Pia, who as kid idolized the great Sterner. Thirteen years younger than he, Pia, too, is a legend of Swedish hockey, amongst other sports, while still known by her maiden name - Pia Grengman.

I first learned of Pia Grengman back in about 2003 while researching for my first book, The World Cup of Hockey. I was researching the 1976 Canada Cup, and found an obscure clip as to why Canada opted not to hire Philadelphia Flyers coach Fred Shero as head coach - because he apparently was insisting one of his assistant coaches would be a female coach from Sweden.

The article, which I stumbled upon completely by accident, came from a Smithers, BC newspaper archive. I had scoured through several national and even international newspapers and never saw mention of that before. Fortunately for me, my co-author for the book was Patrick Houda, a Stockholm based researcher who is, if I may say so, the top European hockey researcher today.

Houda could not confirm the story's accuracy, but he suspected the lady in question was named Pia Grengman. She was a world champion weight lifter and tug-of-war competitor, and had a black belt in karate. She also participated with males in football (soccer), bandy and handball, pioneering women's inclusion in these sports along the way.

She also had a long career in hockey, although any hint of a playing career is quite sketchy. Here's what I was able to find via Google, thanks to translation services:

Girls playing hockey was almost unheard of in Sweden back in the 1960s, and girls playing with boys was strictly prohibited. But Pia pioneered the movement in Sweden, playing with men in what was then considered to be Division II and III clubs in the Gothenburg area, includings Chalmers and Göteborgs IK. What I am not certain is whether she was considered to be a professional player at this time.

Around the age of 20, Pia realized she was just to small to play hockey with men, and refocussed her love of the game to coaching, studying the philosophies of Shero and Anatoli Tarasov. She even moved to Moscow for six months to be tutored by Tarasov himself. He invited her after she wrote the Soviet coaching legend. His influence worked, as she coached various male and female teams of various ages in Sweden and Germany, as well as a men's team, Fredrikshavn, in Denmark, in the 1970s.

Pretty amazing stuff that very few people know about. Even in Sweden it is not well known. She is far better known as Mrs. Ulf Sterner.

Now in her 50s, hockey remains close to her heart, although she has a new sporting love - equestrian sports, notably trot. Her and Ulf live on a farm near Deje, Sweden, where they raise horses named after hockey players. One horse, which somehow broke Ulf's nose, was named Alexander Ragulin.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

France St. Louis

France St. Louis took seriously to the game of hockey late in her storied athletic career. That did not prevent him from becoming one of the all time greats.

St. Louis was a legendary lacrosse player in Quebec in the 1980s. She was Quebec's athlete of the decade, male or female, because of the greatness she achieved in that sport.

She doubled as a teacher, serving 12 years as an educator in both elementary and high schools. She earned a bachelor degree in physical education and a teaching certificate from the University of Sherbrooke in 1980.

By the close of the 80s St. Louis decided to give hockey a serious try. She was 31 years old in 1990 when she was named to Team Canada. In the gold medal game against USA, Canada won the first official women's world championship 5-2, thanks to St. Louis' 2 goal, 2 assist performance.

St. Louis would play in the next four world championships, serving as team captain in the next two. In all St. Louis would earn five consecutive world championship gold medals.

At the age of 39 she achieved the highlight of her hockey career by playing in the first ever Olympic games for female hockey players. Canada would be mildly upset in the final game, however, losing the game and the gold medal to the Americans.

While she was a scoring star in Quebec, she was more of a defensive and face off specialist with the national team.

She retired after the Nagano Olympics at the age of 40. She opened up her own hockey school.

Hilda Ranscombe

When discussing early women's hockey history it is impossible not to mention the Preston Rivulettes of the 1930s.

The Rivulettes were a baseball team that formed a hockey team during the winter months. Competing in a women's league with teams from Toronto, Kitchener, Stratford, London, Hamilton, Guelph and Port Dover, the team lost just two of 350 games in the 1930s, the most successful Canadian team in hockey history. The onset of World War II and subsequent gasoline rationing ended the team's dynasty. The Rivulettes won six championships in that time.

The star of the Rivulettes was Hilda Ranscombe. Described by some as the Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey, she was to dazzle with speed. Some say she was every bit as good as the boys from the area that went on to play in the NHL. She was the heart and soul of the Rivulettes, and, thought records were never kept, the scoring star.

Ranscombe devoted her life to hockey, becoming a coach after retiring as a player. Before her death she donated all of her equipment to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Bobbie Rosenfeld

Fanny "Bobbie" Rosenfeld not only ranks as the top female hockey player of the first half of the 20th century, but the top Canadian female all around athlete. Some said she was the best female athlete in the whole world.

Born in 1904 in Russia, she emigrated to Barrie, Ontario with her family as an infant.

Without benefit of any coaching, she grew up to become a star in basketball, lacrosse, softball, tennis, golf, speed skating and especially track and field where she won a gold and a silver medal in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

While she became most dominant in track, interestingly she came by the sport almost reluctantly. She had been focussing her athletic prowess in basketball and baseball when she was convinced to run a 100 yard dash against Canadian champ Rosa Grosse at the Canadian National Exhibition. She won the race and her athletic career bloomed.

Most notably the chocolatier Patterson's took interest in her, offering her a job and sponsoring her athletic endeavours.

That included a spot on the ice with Toronto Pats (short for Patterson's) and was the best player in the league. Hockey was described as Rosenfeld's true love.

Unfortunately severe arthritis nearly crippled her. By 1929 she was mostly bed-ridden for 8 months and relied on crutches to get around in 1930.

Undeterred, she made an amazing recovery, being named the top female hockey player in Ontario in 1932.

The arthritis flared up again before the next season, forcing Rosenfeld to retire from competitive sports altogether.

She remained active in the sporting world, though. She became a sports journalists, notably writing her "Sports Reels" columns for 20 years for the Globe and Mail newspaper. She also became president of the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association.

In 1949 Rosenfeld was named as Canada's female athlete of the first half century by sportswriters across the country.

Since 1978 Canadian sportswriters annually honor top female athlete in the country with the Bobbie Rosenfeld trophy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Katie King

three time Ivy League Player of the Year at Brown University, where she is still the program's all time leading scorer with 206 points in 100 games while earning a B.A. in Organizational Behavior and Management.

She skated with the American national team for 12 seasons. Highlighting her time there was a gold (1998), silver and bronze medal achieved. She retired as the highest American scorer of all time at the Olympics with 23 points in three tournaments.

She also retired as the second highest American player in all international competitions, scoring 265 points in 210 games from 1997-2006. In that time she played in 6 world championships, winning 1 gold (2005) and 5 silver medals.

I will always remember King's performance in the gold medal game at the 2006 Olympics in Turin. The Americans were upset and not in the gold medal game against Canada as everyone expected. Instead they were playing for bronze against Finland.

The Americans could have come out dejected and played a poor game, but King would not allow it. She knew this was likely her last Olympic game, and she was determined to win, scoring a hat trick in pacing the Americans to a 4-0 win.

A natural athlete (she was also a MVP softball pitcher at Brown and a star field hockey and basketball player in high school), King wanted to give back so she turned to coaching women's hockey even before she retired. She became an assistant coach at Boston College for two years, taking over the head job after a sex scandal involving head coach Tom Mutch and one of his players.

Despite the scandal, King was able to get the program back on track, and quickly was recognized as one of the top women coaches in the country. Soon she was being asked to help coach at national team level.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Manon Rheaume

Manon Rheaume is probably the most famous female hockey player.

Rheaume was born on February 24, 1972 in the small town of Lac Beauport, Quebec, Canada. At the time there was no team in Lac Beauport for kids to play on. They would have to travel to nearby centers in order to play. Rheaume's father Pierre felt that this was not right, and created an outdoor rink and organized a league for the local kids.

Pierre Rheaume let anyone who wanted to play participate, including his two sons, one of which, Pascal, would make it to the National Hockey League. At the age of 5 Manon wanted to play too, and since none of the other kids wanted to be goalie, she willing donned the pads and mask and took to the pipes!

All the ice time with her father's team in Lac Beauport served her well, as she progressed through all levels of hockey based on her on merit. And she always had to do it on boys teams in boys leagues.

She even became the first girl to play in the International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament of Quebec. The famed tournament has featured many prominent NHL alumni. It was at this time, when Manon was just 11 years old, that she started making national headlines.

After playing a handful of minutes in the Quebec Junior Hockey League, one of hockey's top professional male development leagues, she was invited to the training camp of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. She made history when she participated in a preseason game, becoming the first female to play in an NHL game.

Since then she has played primarily with a number of men's minor professional teams. Most women hockey players either play college hockey or play strictly with their national team. Manon has spent much of her time practicing and sometimes even playing, against men.

Over a span of four seasons she appeared in 24 regular season games in the IHL, ECHL and WCHL, compiling a 7-6-2 record in the process. She had 425 minutes in net with the WCHL Reno Renegades in 1996-97. Her GAA was 5.65 in Reno, but all the other goalies on that team that year had GAAs over 6. You could definitely say defense was not a strong suit with them, as they let in a dreadful 418 goals, as opposed to 252 goals scored. Rheaume may have been the best goalie they had.

Manon also spent her summers improving her goaltending by playing nets in the professional roller hockey league RHI.

Interestingly, despite her stardom as the female goalie playing in the men's professional leagues, she was losing ground as the starting goalie on the Canadian women's national and Olympic teams. At one point the most famous female hockey player in the world was even cut from the 1998 Olympic squad, but did earn her way back on.

This is largely because men's and women's hockey is actually quite different. Manon had spent so much time with the men that other Canadian female goalies passed her at the women's level.

Manon was the starting goaltender for the gold medal winning Canadian squad at both the 1992 and 1994 World Championships, and was named MVP in both tournaments. She also helped Canada to the silver medal at the 1998 Olympic games, backing up Danielle Dube.

Rheaume was not part of the 1999 World Championship team, which likely played a role in her decision in 2000 to retire from the national team. She continued to play for the Montreal Wingstars of the National Women's Hockey League.

While playing with Atlanta of the IHL Manon found time to write her story in the book Manon: Alone in Front of the Net. She continues to give back to girls hockey, including through the Manon Rheaume Foundation. The only time she puts on the pads nowadays is for charity events involving NHL alumni.

Manon Rheaume was a great pioneer for women's hockey and a great ambassador for the sport worldwide. She is a true inspiration to little girls with hockey dreams everywhere.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Angela James

The year is 1998. For the first time in Olympic history, women's hockey will be included as a medal sport at the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.

It is a great victory for women hockey players around the globe. So many women had pioneered the sport to this moment. Finally women's hockey had arrived at it's grandest stage.

Team Canada had an incredibly difficult decision to make, however. Hockey Canada desperately wanted to win the inaugural gold medal, and that would take the best 20 female players in the country to stave off the upstart Americans. In an unthinkable move Team Canada decided the top 20 did not include the legendary Angela James, the leading name in Canadian women's hockey.

She was so vital to the women's hockey scene that the decision to leave her off the roster of the 1998 Olympic Team was every bit as controversial as the decision to leave Mark Messier off the men's team that same year.

Both were similar cases. Though both were legendary leaders on and off the ice, Hockey Canada deemed that neither were the players that they once were. With many younger players waiting in the wings, Canada opted to pass the torch rather than reward years of service.

James had been a member of Canada's gold medal teams at each of the previous four Women's World Championships. She was Canada's leading scorer with eleven goals at the 1990 Women's World Championship and was an All-Star forward in 1992. She was also a top scorer at the 1994 and 1997 World Championships.

On the national scene her various teams medaled 12 times in total at the national championships. In 8 of those tournaments she was selected as Most Valuable Player.

CBC's Robin Brown once played against James, and spoke of her the way so many speak of Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux.

"She could do it all. She had end-to-end speed, she had finesse as a stick handler and her slap shot was harder and more accurate than any female player I have ever seen. She was a pure goal scorer like Mike Bossy and aggressive like Mark Messier. In her prime, she was referred to as the “Wayne Gretzky of Women’s Hockey.” "

There was no doubt that the name Angela James was synonymous with women's hockey in Canada and around the globe prior to 1998. That's why her exclusion from the Olympics was such a shock.

Though very disappointed about missing Nagano, James took it all in stride. She said women's hockey owed her nothing and that at the age of 33 maybe she was not as good as some of the younger players at the time.

Robin Brown does not take the high road, saying it is "a decision that still defies reason. The game’s greatest player was denied the chance to shine on the world’s largest stage by a coach’s decision that lacked credibility, then or now. It was an injustice."

She may very well be right, and since Canada failed to win gold in those Olympics we will forever second guess the decision.

One thing is for sure: it would have been nice to include women's hockey's greatest pioneer at the Olympics. Through her love of the game she fought so many battles to pioneer women's hockey to the brink of the Olympics. She brought credibility to her sport.

In 2010 the Hockey Hall of Fame finally opened it's doors to women hockey players. They made the right call by making James (and American star Cammi Granato) as the first woman ever inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. She, Granato and Geraldine Heaney had previously been inducted into the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame.

In retirement James returned to Seneca College where she has become an athletic coordinator. She also has her own hockey school and has coached female teams at various levels.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Abby Hoffman

In 1956, a 9 year old defenseman named Ab Hoffman made headlines across North America.

Ab was actually Abigail, better known as Abby, a girl who dearly loved sports and the game of hockey. Girls were not allowed to play on boys teams way back then. Though women's hockey dates back nearly as long as hockey itself, Hoffman had no other opportunities to play.

Abby had managed to disguise her sex through the season by dressing in her equipment at home, and by wearing her hair in a boyish fashion. She played really well, too, even earning all star status.

Her cover was blown when the team's season came to an end. The team was entering a season ending tournament which required her to produce her birth certificate, clearly displaying her gender.

The hockey league proceeded to ban Abby from playing. Determined to play, Abby and her family took the issue to the Ontario Supreme Court, but the courts ruled in favour of the league.

Her battle caught the attention of media across North America, including Time and Newsweek, and established the spotlight to give young girls the opportunity to play hockey. She may not have realized it at the time, but her battle helped her become one of the most influential women in hockey and Canadian sport.

At the age of 15 Hoffman told her story to CBC radio. Library and Archives Canada also has this great story.

Unable to play hockey, the undeterred Abby went on to a distinguished career in track and field, competing in 4 Olympic games, 4 Commonwealth Games and 2 Pan-American Games. She was the Canadian flag bearer for the opening ceremonies of the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal.

In 1982 the Ontario Women's Hockey Association remembered Hoffman's struggle to play by creating the Abby Hoffman Cup - the first national women's tournament.

Today women's hockey is a highly anticipated Olympic event.

Hoffman remained dedicated to sport all her life. From 1981 to 1991, she was the first woman Director General of Sport Canada, a federal government sports agency. In 1981, she was the first Canadian female elected to the Executive Committee of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Cassie Campbell

Cassie Campbell is easily one of the most recognizable female hockey players in the world. She is also one of the most decorated.

Campbell is the only Canadian hockey player, male or female, to captain a national team to two Olympic gold medals, winning in 2002 in Salt Lake City and 2006 in Nagano. The team also won an Olympic silver medal in Nagano in 1998.

She has been captain of the national women’s team since 2001. During her tenure with the Canadian team, Campbell captured six world titles and won a total of 21 international tournament medals- 17 gold and 4 silver.

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound player joined the national team in 1994 as a defenceman, but became a forward in 1998. She retires with 32 goals and 68 assists in 157 career games for the national team.
Leadership was always a trademark of Campbell's. After just one world championship she was named as alternate captain with Canada's National Women’s Team from 1997-2001, before taking over the role of captain until her retirement. She was just a natural leader, blessed not only with people skills but the ability to bring out the best in everyone around her.

Campbell shares many of her secrets of success in her book H.E.A.R.T. The book is aimed at a juvenile audience, but can inspire readers of all ages. All her success can be summed up the the acronym H.E.A.R.T., which stands for Hard Work, Experience/Education, Attitude, Responsibility And Respect and Teamwork.

In the book, long time teammate Vicky Sunohara writes a foreword and talks about Campbell's great leadership abilities.

"As a teammate and captain, Cassie taught me that being a great leader and team player is not just about individual skill but about knowing how you can best contribute to the team's success. She did whatever it took to make the team better as a whole, never putting herself first. This is what made her such a great leader and captain.

"She was honest, genuine, and lead the team by example. She had a positive attitude - always giving 100% of herself and encouraged us even if she was having a tough day herself."

She started playing the game at the age of 5, back when there was still very few opportunities for girls to play. A natural athlete who also starred in soccer as well as volleyball and basketball, it was hockey that she loved the most.

She progressed through the ranks, more often than not playing with the boys, before becoming an all star and champion at the University of Guelph. She is always quick to credit her experiences at university for making her the person that she is, teaching her independence and discipline.

It was obvious even back then that she was a special person destined for special things. In her final year at U of G, she was awarded the W.F. Mitchell Award, which is presented to a graduating student who has demonstrated outstanding talent and ability in a sport, as well as exceptional leadership and involvement in athletics.

Yet through all the gold medals at the worlds and the Olympics, and through all the celebrity she has attained as a top Canadian hockey player, she has always remained very modest and grounded.

She wrote the following in her book H.E.A.R.T.:

My hockey career has given me so much to be thankful for, but the most important thing is that it taught me how to push myself every day to become a better player and a better person. Hockey taught me to give back to those around me and to believe in my dreams, even when people told me my dreams were impossible."

It should come as no surprise that Cassie Campbell has found success in each of the many avenues in life she has traveled along. She is a very special person, blessed with incredible vision and determination.

A 1997 sociology and nutrition graduate from the University of Guelph, Campbell currently resides in Calgary with her husband, Brad Pascall, Hockey Canada’s senior director of men's national teams. Since retiring as a player she has been busy on many fronts, including book deals, motivational speech tours and broadcasting jobs, including working for TSN and Hockey Night In Canada. She is also heavily involved in several community/charity events across the country.

She was one of women's hockey's greatest pioneers. Now she continues to grow the game as it's greatest ambassador and role model.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cammi Granato

"When you think women's hockey, you think Cammi Granato. She's one of the pioneers. The one who opened the doors. So many little girls wanted to be Cammi Granato."
-- Mike Eruzione, captain of 1980 Miracle on Ice team

If Cammi Granato was not the best female hockey player ever, then she was almost certainly the most recognizable.

When women's hockey took to the main stage of the 1998 Olympic games, Granato was fawned over as the sister of NHL role player Tony Granato. By the end of the Olympics everyone recognized Cammi as the best American female player, if not the best in the world.

Cammi was born on March 24, 1971, in Downers Grove, Illinois. She had 4 brothers and a sister. All four boys played hockey. Cammi, the youngest of the clan, was determined to play hockey, too. And she refused to play goalie - the position her brothers wanted her to play.

She began to play hockey at the age of five, though she already had had skating lessons prior to that. She quickly established herself as one of the best players in the community, including boys. In fact she played up until the age of 16 she played on an all boys team.

"I had the same aspirations as my brothers. I wanted to play for the Hawks."

She actually quit hockey for her junior and senior years in high school. The boys grew much bigger than her and full body contact was allowed. She found she was too often a target of the boys and began to suffer injuries. Fearing injuries and undoubtedly social pressures, Granato quit the game she loved.

The next level of hockey was all hitting and I wasn't into that part of the game, so I had to focus on other sports. In the back of my mind, I wanted to go to college and play hockey, but it was tough because I wasn't recruited."

She found success on the girls basketball, soccer, handball and tennis teams. She also continued to play on a boy's baseball team.

But hockey continued to be her true love. In 1989 she got her big break and back onto the ice.
Providence College offered Cammi a full hockey scholarship, one of the few schools in the country that recruited top women's hockey players. No doubt the school was well aware of her athletic accomplishments on and off the ice, but at this stage you had to wonder how much of this move was a publicity stunt. After all, her brother Tony just completed his first year in the NHL and was in the Olympics before that.

Regardless, Cammi immediately succeeded. She was freshman player of the year, and later was named Women's Hockey Player of the Year in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. The co-captain of the Frairs led her team to league titles in 1992 and 1993. In 93 career college games she scored 135 and 110 assists. She graduated 1993 with a degree in social sciences.

While in college Granato was happy to play a pioneer's role in women's international play. She was one of the founding members of the U.S. Women's national team, which won silver in the inaugural women's world championships in 1990. From that moment on she was a regular on Team USA.

In those early days the national team only got together at certain times of the year. Without any NCAA eligibility remaining, Granato was forced to move to Canada to find opportunities to continue playing. She enrolled at Concordia University in Montreal, earning her master's degree in sports administration. She also helped a strong Concordia team win three consecutive Quebec championships. In 123 games she collected an amazing 178 goals and 148 assists.

Her graduation from Concordia in 1997 was perfectly timed. It was announced that women's hockey would be an official Olympic sport in the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. She was able to train with the national team and emerged as the leader. She was named team captain and led Team USA to an upset gold medal victory over Team Canada.

After the win, Granato could not help but feel vindicated for years of dedication, but also criticism.

"For so many years, people told me that you weren't supposed to be on the ice. Whey are you doing this? You're not going to go anywhere with this. And now I have this gold medal around my neck, and it feels pretty good."

She also earned another fantastic honour - she was asked to carry the U.S. flay at the Olympics closing ceremonies.

Naturally the Olympic success led to great exposure for Granato. She had endorsement deals from several companies including Nike, CBS and AT&T. She became a radio broadcaster for the Los Angeles Kings and was even offered to attend the New York Islanders training camp.

Granato used her new found celebrity to help further the game of women's hockey in the United States. She conducted clinics across the country and worked tirelessly to get more girls and women interested in the sport.

She never did go to the Islanders camp, and she dropped the Kings broadcasting job after one season because she wanted to continue playing and training with the US national team.

In 2002, Granato returned to the Olympics, again as team captain of Team USA. This time around USA lost a heartbreaker in a classic hockey grudge match, losing to Canada, 3-2. After the Olympics, she planned on playing for the Vancouver Griffins of the National Women's Hockey League in 2002-03, and hoped to play in the 2006 Winter games.

Everyone who described Cammi was always quick to mention her leadership abilities. She wasn't the strongest skater or the best shooter, but she was a natural leader.

Chris Chelios, the NHL star and American Olympian, got to witness that first hand in 1998.

"Man or woman, Cammi Granato is one of the most impressive hockey leaders I've ever come across."

Yet somehow that leadership ability was controversially overlooked in 2006. Granato was vying for her third Olympic games. Even though she was a veteran and her best days may have been behind her, it was a shock when U.S. national team head coach Ben Smith cut her from the team.

"Like all players, if they choose to try to play forever, their number's liable to come up," he said.

Her Olympic dream and her international hockey career came to an abrupt end.

No doubt it was a tough call. Canada had gone through that back in 1998 when they cut Angela James. The debate was the same - do you keep your pioneer and leader even though there are more talented and younger players ready to take their place?

Granato's former teammate Sue Merz thought there was no debate at all as to what should have been done.

"What kind of example does Ben Smith give to the younger girls on the team? If Cammi is treated this way, what does this mean for me in the future?"

Granato wanted one last shot at glory, to go out on top. She never got that chance.

"[I feel] an overwhelming sadness. I'm not an angry person. I have a big, loving family and a roster full of former teammates that I love and respect," Granato said. "But I'm so heartbroken right now. I could never fathom this is how my hockey career would end.

"My only focus was the Olympics because in my sport, that is the ultimate. Everything is geared toward that, and my entire life was geared around getting there and winning gold."

She stepped out as international hockey's all time leading women's scorer. In official events, Granato played 54 games, scoring 54 goals and 96 points. She won 1 Olympic gold and 1 silver, as well as 1 World Championship gold and 8 silver.

She was honoured with the NHL’s Lester Patrick Award in 2007 for outstanding service to hockey in the U.S. She was then inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation's Hall of Fame in 2008. And in 2010 she joined Angela James as the first women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame

Albertine Lapensee

As Canadian men traded their hockey sticks for guns and headed to the battlegrounds of Europe, hockey began to suffer. In Montreal, the Wanderers made the patriotic gesture of offering free tickets to soldiers and their families – but only if the soldier was wounded. Clearly hockey needed help, and women skated in to fill the gap.

“Perfect ice is promised, and it is probable that the match will attract the largest crowd that has ever witnessed a girls' game in Ottawa,” claimed the March 4, 1916 Ottawa Citizen. The reason? The woman called “the Miracle Maid,” Albertine Lapensee.

The twenty-six year old Miss Lapensee played for her hometown Cornwall Victorias. Her hockey debut came in January 1916 against Ottawa and she scored five of the six goals in the Cornwall victory. Immediately after her debut game, Ottawa players complained that she was really a man. Suspicions and accusations dogged her the rest of her hockey career.

A week after her debut, Lapensee scored four goals in an 8-0 shutout against the Montreal Westerns. A crowd of about three thousand turned out to watch her play. Having been warned about the strength of Lapensee's shot, the Montreal goalie chose to wear a baseball catcher's mask to protect herself, which places her ten years ahead of Elizabeth Graham, who is usually credited with wearing the first goalie mask. The Montreal players also yanked off Lapensee's toque at one point in the game to see how long her hair was. She had braids that fell past her shoulders.

The continuous rumors about Lapensee caused the Cornwall Standard to vouch for her. Miss Lapensee, it seems, “played more with her brothers and other boys than with her girlfriends, and this accounts for the masculine style of play she has developed.” Further more, “scores of people in East Cornwall have known her since her infancy.”

Albertine played on, indifferent to the rumours, and the fans didn't seem to mind too much either, as a reported crowd of three thousand once came to watch her play. In one game she scored fifteen goals, and when the Victorias agreed to play against the Ottawa Alerts the Vics' manager had to guarantee Lapensee's appearance by contract. She even behaved like her male counterparts off the ice. She once refused to play until she had been paid, which nearly caused a riot. She also wasn't afraid to fight.

During one game against the Westerns, Lapensee was checked early and often by a Miss Deloro. After one particularly hard check, Lapensee took off her gloves and told her opponent to knock it off. Miss Deloro then challenged her by saying, “I'm not afraid of you, even if you are from Cornwall. I'll be glad to meet you after the game and we'll settle this the way men do.” The promised fight didn't take place, as the victorious Cornwall team had to rush to catch their train.

Frustrated by their inability to stop her and in an effort to find an answer to the Miracle Maid, the Montreal Westerns found Ada Lalond. Thought to be a prodigy one day, the next day hope was shattered when it was revealed Lalond was actually a boy hoping to play against Lapensee.

Although scoring records for the time are incomplete, they indicate Albertine scored 80 percent of Cornwall's goals in the 1916-1917 season. The next season, Lapensee led her team to an undefeated season.

After two spectacular seasons, Albertine Lapensee vanished. There is no record of her playing hockey again, at least as Albertine Lapensee. Family legend says she went to New York in 1918 and had a sex change operation. She then married, and settled down to run a gas station near Cornwall, all under the name of Albert Smyth.

Truth or just legend? No one seems to know for certain, not even her family. All that's left is the faded memory of the Miracle Maid from Cornwall.

by Jennifer Conway

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