With the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in her native Calgary, there should be strong consideration for Joan Snyder as a builder. Snyder’s donations in 2011 ($500K to the Calgary Dinos women’s team and $2 million towards the Winsport Canada facility) are a watershed moment in Western Canadian women’s ice hockey history.
Snyder’s contributions help bring stability and structure to a sport that deserved it, but struggled to find it. With the CWHL’s ambitious westward expansion, Team Alberta now has a foundation it can build on. The concept that the club has their own dressing room and training facilities may be taken for granted in other sports, yet it brings this expansions franchise professionalism and dignity.
Of note, the discussion of allowing the facility to be used for other women’s teams in the world has also been visited. Although the opportunity of using the Winsport facility as a springboard towards respectability is alluring, it will take a generation (or two), before the rest of the world catches up to Canada and the United States.
Although the Canadian – American rivalry will continue to be visceral, and augment conversation throughout hockey circles, what will occur once the rest of the world catches up in women’s hockey? Will the powers that be in the future allow the facility to still be used by foreign countries? What if Kazakhstan were to one day beat Canada in the Winter Games, would Canada recognize this as long overdue parity or would the cries come out to no longer have the facility be accommodating to non-Canadians?
The reality is that as more women continue to play hockey throughout the world, the key element of the donation is that it allows for more ice time, and more importantly, opportunity. Quite possibly, the next Hayley Wickenheiser or Angela Ruggiero will have had the opportunity to play hockey because Snyder helped open the door.
The only way this donation could be viewed as a failure is if the future generations forget what she meant to the sport at this time. For many players in the future, Joan Snyder might be the best friend they never met.