Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Order of Hockey in Canada: Which women are Next in Line? (Conclusion)

Of all the candidates discussed in the previous posting for the Order of Hockey in Canada, there are many other worthy candidates to consider. One such candidate belongs to a family with a strong athletic bloodline; Jennifer Botterill. Although a household name and an inspiration for generations of girls, Botterill was never a captain for any of the Winter Games teams. Despite being overlooked, she was a gifted, articulate athlete with a heart of gold. Although there seemed to be another player that would earn more attention, or scored a bigger goal, she was an unselfish player that always gave Canada an opportunity to win.
A four time Winter Games medallist, Botterill rewrote several record books in the NCAA, while competing for the Harvard Crimson (also leading the Crimson to the ACHA title, while becoming the first player to win the Patti Kazmaier Award twice). A member of the Toronto Furies in their inaugural season (2010-11), she worked hard to put the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the Clarkson Cup on the Canadian sporting landscape while earning no salary. Despite her surprising retirement from the Canadian National Team, she left a legacy very few players could match, and deserves to have her number retired by Hockey Canada.
With so many great players from the 1980’s and 1990’s emerging from Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, Stacy Wilson was Atlantic Canada’s answer to a women’s hockey superstar. A member of the Maritime Sports Blades, she would help the club earn a silver medal at the 1995 Canadian Women’s Hockey championships. The captain of the first women’s ice hockey team at the Winter Games (Nagano 1998), Wilson was stoic as Canada was awarded a heartbreaking silver medal. A member of the World Championship team in 1990, Wilson supplied Atlantic Canada a voice in women’s hockey and proved that other parts of Canada were producing elite hockey talent. In later years, she would serve as an assistant coach for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. Despite her accomplishments, her toughness in the face of diversity at the Nagano Games earned her a placed in the hearts of Canadian hockey fans.
A recipient of the Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Award (daughter of Lord Stanley), Andria Hunter made a groundbreaking contribution to women’s hockey. Although finding information online about women’s hockey is easier than it was a decade ago, Hunter’s website was the first to offer any in-depth detail on the game. In the late 1990’s (and early 2000’s), her site was the premier resource to find any pertinent information. Today, sites such as Wikipedia and Ice Hockey Wikia have used her site as a point of reference in verifying facts.
A former player herself, Hunter proudly donned the Maple Leaf while winning gold for Canada at the 1992 and 1994 IIHF Women’s World Championships, respectively. In addition, she found glory while competing for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats of the NCAA (of note, Samantha Holmes, who wrote letters to Hazel McCallion and Brian Mulroney, pushing for women’s hockey in the Winter Games, was one of her teammates). Hunter also played a couple of seasons professionally in Switzerland. Although Hunter competed in a time when the women’s game was still nascent in the minds of many Canadian fans, her contributions on and off the ice make her a true hero.
Fran Rider (a worthy candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame) has devoted her life to help the game grow, amid little fanfare and media coverage. Future generations of Canadian women’s ice hockey players owe her a debt of gratitude for all the contributions she has made to the game. While powerhouse figures like Alan Eagleson and John Ziegler (as well known as the players themselves) ruled the men’s game in the 1970’s and 80’s, Rider spent those countless years bringing order out of chaos. She worked to bring structre and direction to the women’s game, a game that had faded for decades in the wake of the Great Depression.
The president of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association from 1982 to 1993, Rider was instrumental in ensuring that women had a reason to play, and more importantly, a reason to be proud to play. During those years, Rider faced issues such as credibility, ice time, money, and the right to participate. Although she has been involved with every IIHF Women’s Championship and Clarkson Cup staged in Ontario, her legacy was forged before those events. A figure in bringing about the 1982 Canadian National Championship (in which the winning team was awarded the Abby Hoffman Cup), and the 1987 Women’s World Championships in North York, Ontario (not sanctioned by the IIHF), she was instrumental in paving the way for women’s hockey in the Winter Games.

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