Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013-14 CWHL Mid-season awards

Mid-season Scoring leader: Sarah Vaillancourt, Montreal, 14 points (9 on power play)

Mid-season Scoring leader among defenders: Cathy Chartrand, Montreal, 10 points

Mid-season Rookie scoring leader: Jill Cardella, Boston, 10 points

Mid-season Goaltending leader: Meghan Corley-Byrne, Montreal, 1.30 GAA

Most Valuable Player: Carolyne Prevost, Toronto

With due deference to the players on Boston and Montreal, no player has had as much importance to her team as Prevost. The rationale in determining an MVP is how would the team perform without this individual?

Having logged 6 power play points, Prevost’s zero penalty minutes reflects highly disciplined play. Of note, she is one of only three CWHLers in the Top 20 scorers with no penalty minutes.

Her 10 points (five goals, five assists) reflects consistent play for a team that is fending off an improving Brampton squad. With the absence of scoring sensations Johnston, Wakefield and Spooner, her leadership and experience have proven to be essential.

Best Defender: Cathy Chartrand, Montreal

Proving that her sparkling rookie season was no fluke, Cathy Chartrand is building on that strong momentum. Having already accumulated 10 points this season, including four goals, her offensive prowess is setting the tone for a talented Stars team.

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that her rating of +10 leads all players in the league. The overall consistency of her play is highlighted with her remarkable contributions on special teams. Four power play points, one short-handed goal and two game-winning goals are putting Montreal in the Clarkson Cup picture.

Best Goaltender: Catherine Herron, Montreal

A second generation star (her uncle Denis played for the Pittsburgh Penguins), Catherine Herron has alleviated the woes of losing Charline Labonte to the Canadian Winter Games team. Shining between the pipes for the club, her 4-1 mark is complemented by two shutouts, which leads the league. As her goals against average of 1.40 GAA ranks second best, she and Corley-Byrne are providing Montreal with the best goaltending in the league.

Unsung hero of the first half: Sonja van der Bliek, Brampton

With the unenviable task of replacing star goalies such as Florence Schelling and Liz Knox, Sonja van der Bliek has risen to the occasion. A workhorse goaltender, she has posted a respectable 3-3-1 mark with a 2.35 GAA. Of note, her 192 saves rank second among all CWHL backstops while her league high 433:41 minutes is testament to her efforts.

Best captain: Cathy Chartrand, Montreal

When CWHL co-founder Liz Breton appoints a player to assume her captaincy, it is more than a tremendous honor but a symbol of respect. Chartrand has lived up to those expectations. A former captain with the McGill Martlets, her maturity and acumen have been crucial in setting a positive example for a team with over 10 rookies.  

Most Inspiring Player of the first half: Sami Jo Small, Toronto,

While she is not a captain, CWHL co-founder Sami Jo Small is an integral part of the league on and off the ice. Sharing goaltending duties with Christina Kessler, it has proven to be a renaissance year for Small. Her 3 wins and sparkling 1.92 GAA prove that she is only getting better with age.

Most Outstanding Rookie: (Tie) Casey Pickett and Brittney Ott, Boston

A hometown hero who played in the first outdoor NCAA women’s hockey game, Casey Pickett is proving to be one of the shrewdest picks in the 2013 CWHL Draft. Of note, her seven goals not only leads all rookies, but all players. Tied for the league lead with 2 game winning goals, she is making believers out of fans and cynics alike.

Filling in for Clarkson Cup champion goaltenders such as Kelli Stack and Genevieve Lacasse is a very tough act to follow. With a record of 4-0-0, Brittany Ott looks like a veteran between the pipes. Firmly entrenched among the league’s upper tier of goaltending leaders, her impressive showing has helped the black and gold remain one of the league’s finest clubs.

Best Coach: Digit Murphy, Boston 

With the loss of her top players to Centralization camps, Digit Murphy faced having a Boston franchise lacking veteran experience and many fresh faces. Compounding the loss was the retirements of leaders such as Caitlin Cahow, Molly Engstrom and Jaclyn Hawkins.

Despite such setbacks, Digit Murphy has shined as the Blades bench boss. Through her strong coaching skills, she has developed a well-rounded team. Rookies such as Pickett, Ott, Jillian Dempsey, Jill Cardella and Blake Bolden have provided solid play, providing much needed depth. As the Blades 27 goals for leads the league, it is testament to Murphy’s ability to motivate and inspire.

Photo credit: Jess Desjardins

Thirteen of the most Captivating Women of Hockey for 2013

Emily Berzins

At first glance, it may look as if Megan Fox is playing hockey. In fact, it is Emily Berzins, a British Columbia raised player who once competed for the now-defunct Wayne State Warriors hockey program in the NCAA. A solid contributor for the Calgary Inferno, she is working tirelessly to help the club reach its first Clarkson Cup postseason appearance.

Tessa Bonhomme

While her release from the Canadian Centralization Camp was heartbreaking, Bonhomme remains a fan favorite. Earlier in the season she was the face of Hockey Canada’s Livestrong jerseys campaign, in which the jerseys were styled in the black and yellow colors of the Livestrong foundation.

Having returned to her club team, the Toronto Furies, she is looking to help the club capture its first-ever Clarkson Cup. She can also be found as an on-air personality for Leafs TV, helping to break ground for women in the traditionally male dominated world of sports broadcasting.

Angelina Goncharenko

                Having helped the Russian squad capture a bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships, she gained national attention in Canadian media when she collided with Canada’s Meghan Agosta into the boards during the event. Ironically, both players wear number 2. Also a competitor with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the NCAA, Goncharenko is hoping for a podium finish at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Michelle Karvinen

As one of the scoring stars of the Finnish national team, Michelle Karvinen will be counted upon to help the Finns reach their second consecutive podium finish at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. In addition to her tenure with the Finnish team, she is also a member of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. On November 4, 2011, she had a five-point game against St. Cloud State. Her finest season with the Fighting Sioux was her first (2011-12), in which she accumulated an astounding 61 points. With over 100 career points in only two seasons, she is poised to become part of the NCAA 200-point club.

Amanda Kessel

                Should the United States claim their first gold medal in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games since 1998, Amanda Kessel will have a say in it. With two brothers in pro hockey (Phil and Blake), hockey is in her blood. Her 2013 in hockey was one of the finest years in the history of the game. With a 100-point season in NCAA play, she not only captured the Patty Kazmaier Award, she helped the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an undefeated season.  

Hilary Knight

                Quickly emerging as a household name in her native United States, Hilary Knight is one of the world’s greatest hockey players. Having finished her rookie season with the Boston Blades, it was a year to remember. In addition to being the first American-born player to capture the CWHL Most Valuable Player Award, she garnered a Clarkson Cup, the first in Blades history. A few weeks later, she followed it up with a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Ottawa.

Lamoureux Twins, Jocelyne and Monique

                The greatest pair of hockey-playing sisters in the world, they are also the first set of twins to compete in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games. Having claimed a silver medal at Vancouver 2010, they are anticipating that Sochi 2014 will supply them with an elusive gold. Along with Knight, the sensational sisters are part of the Sochi Trading Card set issued by the Topps Company.  

Meaghan Mikkelson
One of the most popular players on the Canadian national women’s team, Mikkelson was thrust into the national spotlight. She was part of a series of TV advertisements with Sport Chek, honoring athletes and their mothers. In addition, she was also featured in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition, becoming the second women’s hockey player (after Bonhomme) to be featured in the issue.

Zoya Polunina

A former member of the Russian national women’s team, Zoya Polunina competed at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont. One of the most popular players in her native Russia, she has been featured in numerous magazines. Having helped the Russian team to a silver medal at the 2013 Winter Universiade, she is one of the elite players of her homeland.

Danijela Rundqvist

Not able to compete for Sweden at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, her leadership and experience were sorely missed by a Swedish team that competed in the relegation round. Having competed professionally in Canada, Russia and Sweden, the worldly Rundqvist is a fundamentally sound hockey player who always provides her teams with a chance to win.

Florence Schelling

Quite possibly the greatest female goaltender in the world, Florence Schelling led the Swiss contingent to a bronze medal at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont. Having competed in men’s hockey in her native Switzerland, she is hoping to lead the Swiss to their first-ever podium finish at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Kelli Stack

A former member of the USA Hockey Bob Allen Award (recognizing the finest women’s hockey player in the United States), Kelli Stack is one of the most accomplished players in US hockey history. Despite injuries sidelining her from the 2013 Clarkson Cup and 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, she has made a full recovery. A gold medal at Sochi 2014 will be the highlight of what she hopes shall be a heroic comeback.  

Alexsandra Vafina               

Part of a strong legacy of European players who have competed with the famed Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs program in the NCAA, Alexsandra Vafina is a star on the rise. With her Bulldogs coach Shannon Miller serving as a coaching consultant for the Russian national women’s team, it paid remarkable dividends. Vafina was one of the key players as Russia captured the bronze at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships. Playing on home ice for the Sochi Winter Games, the rest of the world will now catch up to the budding superstar.  

Photo credits: 

Tessa Bonhomme, Ottawa Citizen Style
Meaghan Mikkelson, Sportsnet Beauty of Sport
Kessel, Knight and Lamoureux Twins, Harry How, Getty Images

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Judy Diduck gets to share in spotlight with Team Canada at Sherwood Park

With a handful of players looking to make their Winter Games debut for Team Canada at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the chance to see Judy Diduck served as a reminder of how far the game has come, and those who made the sacrifices to elevate the game. Having competed for Canada at the inaugural Winter Games women’s hockey tournament in Nagano, Japan, Diduck is a pioneer in her sport.

Although the Nagano experience ended in a sullen silver medal for Diduck, she was a defensive stalwart who often played in the shadow of other stars on the Canadian team. Also a member of the Ringette Hall of Fame, Diduck would enjoy a stellar career with the famed University of Alberta Pandas program along with a memorable run as a member of the Edmonton Chimos. An invaluable component to Canada’s defensive corps, Diduck first rose to prominence donned in a pink uniform.

Competing with Canada at the inaugural 1990 IIHF Women’s World Championships (held on home soil in Ottawa, Canada), it would be a landmark moment in the history of women’s sports. While there were many more exciting accomplishments to follow for Diduck, her efforts helped lay the foundation for the current yet exciting state of women’s hockey in Canada today.

As the 2013-14 Canadian national women’s team engages in a series of exhibition games against boys’ midget teams, the club made a stop in Diduck’s current residence of Sherwood Park, Alberta. Competign against the Sherwood Park Kings, the top midget boys team in the province, Diduck came to center ice to conduct the opening faceoff.

Ironically, one of Diduck’s teammates from the Nagano contingent, Jayna Hefford was competing for Canada in the game. As a living linkage to the past and the future, Hefford proudly called Diduck a teammate over the course of almost four years.

Facing a one-goal deficit for most of the first frame, Jennifer Wakefield would tie the game and Rebecca Johnston would score with only 37 seconds remaining to provide Canada with a 2-1 advantage. While the Canadian contingent enjoyed support from many local girls hockey teams, Cameron Reagan would log the game-winning tally against Genevieve Lacasse in the second stanza.

While Canada could not retain their first period lead, Diduck’s presence was a feel-good moment in what has emerged as a highly emotional centralization camp. From the sad release of Tessa Bonhomme to the unexpected resignation of head coach Dan Church, Diduck may help to restore the morale for a Canadian team looking to win its fourth consecutive Winter Games gold. 

Hayley Wickenheiser gracing breakfast tables across Canada as one of the faces for Cheerios

As Hayley Wickenheiser looks to win a fourth gold medal with the Canadian National Women’s Team at the Sochi Winter Games, part of the journey includes a very rare product endorsement. Wickenheiser is part of a select group of athletes featured on General Mills food products in anticipation of Sochi.

Gracing the boxes of Multi-Grain Cheerios, it is an exciting honor which recognizes her as more than just a Canadian sporting hero, but one of the greatest women’s hockey players ever. In addition, her image is also on the boxes of various Nature Valley Granola Bars. Other female athletes that graced various General Mills products included Roz Groenewold and Caroline Calve.

Of note, the General Mills endorsement is part of an exciting 2013 for Wickenheiser. Although she battled through injuries with the University of Calgary Dinos women’s hockey program, the club managed to qualify for the 2013 CIS National championship game. Despite a silver medal, their effort was testament to Wickenheiser’s leadership and positive impact. Her Dinos career included 115 points (on the strength of 65 assists) in 53 Canada West Conference contests.

Perhaps her greatest accomplishment was graduating from the University in the spring. Having first enrolled at the university in 1996, her long academic journey reached its hard-earned yet celebrated ending as she earned her Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology. With her parents (both educators) and son, Noah, in attendance, the moment was a treasured one for her. While she has ambitions for medical school (she has already written the Medical College Admissions Test), her perseverance academically is a true inspiration for other student-athletes.
Complemented by a 2013 on the ice that saw Wickenheiser don the historic black and yellow Livestrong jerseys at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships. Of note, her sister Jane is a cancer survivor. Later in the year, she would also play in her 250th career game for Canada while earning a gold medal at the 2013 Four Nations Cup.

Barring injury, the Sochi Winter Games shall represent her fifth sojourn with the Canadian contingent. Teammate Jayna Hefford is also in the same rarified air as Wickenheiser, as Sochi shall represent her fifth run. While it seems all too likely that Sochi may be her swan song, the General Mills endorsement is a remarkable reminder to fans, hardcore and casual, of her meaning to not just the game of women’s hockey, but to Canadian culture. 
Photo credit: Shaking hands with U of Calgary chancellor Jim Dinning. (Riley Brandt)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Time is now for elite women’s hockey league to lay roots in the Midwest

What was once an elite league for women’s ice hockey, the Western Women’s Hockey League has descended into a downward spiral. The league’s greatest moment was when the Minnesota Whitecaps won the 2010 Clarkson Cup against the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Since then, the league has contracted, with the Minnesota Whitecaps and Manitoba Maple Leafs left to pick up the pieces.

In reality, the time is now to either lift the league out of the doldrums or start a brand-new league and begin to pick up momentum. While the rival CWHL features some of the finest women’s hockey talent in North America, the five-team league does not have all the talent. During the 2013 CWHL Draft, legendary WCHA players such as Megan Bozek, Brianna Decker, Noora Raty and the Lamoureux Twins were eligible for selection but did not declare.

Although the Sochi Winter Games likely had a small factor, the reality is that a new-look WWHL (or a new league altogether) with additional teams in the Midwest would provide these remarkable women with a place to keep playing after their NCAA careers while staying close to home. Preserving talent rather than wasting it, the initiative would pay huge dividends for the development of women’s hockey in the United States.

The current reality is that some former WCHA stars including Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin and Jen Schoullis made the sojourn eastward to compete with the CWHL’s Boston Blades franchise. While it has proven successful for them, not every player is willing to uproot and relocate across the country. Considering the amount of women’s hockey talent in New England, there is no reason that stars from the Midwest need to make such a commitment to continue playing.

Based on the number of Fortune 500 companies that have corporate headquarters in states such as Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, there must be an opportunity for sponsorships in order for a league to fund operating expenses. In the near future, players such as Hannah Brandt, Amanda Kessel and Alex Rigsby will no longer have a place to play as their NCAA careers will have reached its end. An elite league would not only benefit from their presence but it might also prove attractive to potential sponsors.

The added benefit of a league is the possibility that USA Hockey and/or Minnesota Hockey could provide consultation. Opportunities for collaboration along with helping to develop more women as coaches are a win-win situation. Women like Winny Brodt and Jenny Potter that helped build the modern rebirth of the game in Minnesota would also be key assets. As the quality of women’s hockey continues to grow, along with the increasing number of registered players in the Midwest, an elite league for women’s hockey needs to develop and grow after the Sochi Winter Games.

Considering how the Whitecaps have existed for years on a shoestring budget, surely, there must be some other individuals willing to commit towards forming some new teams and establishing an elite league. If no league exists, many of these players will just compete in a beer league, so why not go the extra mile? 

10 inspiring women’s hockey players from 2013

Tessa Bonhomme
Captain, Toronto Furies

As a role model to a generation of young girls, Tessa Bonhomme is one of Canada’s most popular athletes. Serving as the Toronto Furies captain, she has helped establish the club as a solid contender for the Clarkson Cup.

Her most notable accomplishment may have been the grace and dignity that came with handling the fact that she had been untimely released from Canada’s centralization camp. One of the more controversial moves in the history of the Canadian women’s team, she received an outpouring of support from fans through all facets of social media.

Kim Deschenes
Captain, Montreal Carabins
Forward, Canadian National Team FISU

Competing with the Montreal Carabins, she has helped the club qualify for the CIS Nationals in every season that she has played with the club. 2013 would mark a significant milestone for Deschenes as she led the Carabins to an upset of the undefeated McGill Martlets in the QSSF Finals.With the victory, the Carabins rode such momentum on the way to their first-ever CIS National Title. Named to the Canadian National Team that shall compete in the 2013 Winter Universiade, Deschenes has established herself as one of the finest leaders in CIS women’s hockey.

Karly Heffernan
Gold medalist, 2013 IIHF U18 Worlds

The latest in a quickly expanding line of overtime heroes in the history of the Canadian National Team, Heffernan made her mark at the 2013 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds. Scoring the gold-medal winning goal in overtime against the archrival United States, she would help the Canadian squad to their second gold medal in as many years. Eligible for the 2014 IIHF Under-18 Worlds, she will be counted upon to provide an even bigger leadership role.

Amanda Kessel
2013 Patty Kazmaier Award Winner
Gold Medalist, 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds

Having established herself as the world’s greatest women’s hockey player, Amanda Kessel had a 2013 to remember. The winner of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, it was part of a 2012-13 NCAA season where she solidified her legend.

A 100-point campaign with the Minnesota Golden Gophers was highlighted by an NCAA Frozen Four title that capped off an undefeated season. She would ride such momentum as a member of the US National Team that defeated Canada on their home ice to capture the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Ottawa.

Hilary Knight
2013 Clarkson Cup champion and CWHL Most Valuable Player
Gold Medalist, 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds

With a star that continues to rise, Hilary Knight is more than just an elite hockey player but an American sporting hero. As a rookie with the Boston Blades in the CWHL, she would stake her claim as one of the league’s elite snipers. Finishing third in the CWHL scoring race, she would lead all American-born players in scoring for the 2012-13 season.

It was a sign of greater things to come for Knight. During the CWHL Awards Gala, she would make history as the first American-born player to capture the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. She would follow it up by leading the Blades in postseason scoring as the club captured the Clarkson Cup.

Genevieve Lacasse
2013 Clarkson Cup champion
Gold Medalist, 2013 Four Nations Cup

Part of the new generation of women’s hockey goaltenders for Hockey Canada, Genevieve Lacasse made her mark in 2013. After a four-year stellar career where she rewrote the record books for Providence College, Lacasse was selected by the Boston Blades in the 2012 CWHL Draft.

The move would prove to pay remarkable dividends for the black and gold. In addition to finishing the regular season as the CWHL goaltending champion, she would become the first rookie goaltender to lead her team to the Clarkson Cup.

Invited to Hockey Canada’s Centralization Camp in anticipation of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, she is carrying in the proud tradition of talented Canadian goalies such as Sami Jo Small and Kim St. Pierre.

Yekaterina Pashkevitch
Bronze Medalist, 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds

If one athlete emerged as the feel-good story of the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships, it was Russia’s Yekaterina Pashkevitch. As the oldest player competing in the event, the 40 year-old would earn a bronze medal with the Russian contingent at the Women’s Worlds.

Having played on the first-ever Russian national women’s team in 1993, she is a link to an important chapter in Russian women’s hockey. While she took a sabbatical from the game after the 2006 Torino Winter Games (which also included a stint playing women’s tackle football in New England), her return to the ice is one of inspiration, proving that it is never too late to pursue one’s dreams.

Noora Raty
2013 NCAA Frozen Four champion
Silver Medalist, 2013 Four Nations Cup

One of the greatest women’s hockey goalies in the world, Raty provides the Finnish national team with an opportunity to win in every game. The biggest moment of her career may have come during the 2013 Four Nations Cup when she stood between the pipes for Finland’s victory over the United States to advance to the gold medal game.

Such an accomplishment complemented the end of her sparkling NCAA career in the spring of 2013. In her final season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, she was a key factor in the squad experiencing an undefeated season and an NCAA Frozen Four triumph. 

Kassidy Sauve
Gold Medalist, 2013 Canada U18 National Championships

Following in a long line of outstanding Canadian women’s hockey goaltenders, Kassidy Sauve holds remarkable potential. Having made history as the first female player to compete in the OHL Cup, her stock has risen dramatically.

Playing for the Canadian National Under-18 team in an exhibition series against Team USA, she is emerging as a strong contender to stand between the pipes for Canada at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds. Competing in 2013-14 with the defending PHWL champion Whitby Wildcats, it would come as no surprise if she led the squad to its second straight title.

Dominique Thibault
2013 Clarkson Cup finalist
World Champion, 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice

Known affectionately to her fans as Dangerous Dominique Thibault, she is one of the elite snipers on a talent-heavy Montreal Stars roster. With teammates such as Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Caroline Ouellette, it may be easy to overlook someone of her talents.

She would manage to make her mark in 2013 as she earned global celebrity. In addition to her exploits on the frozen perimeters of CWHL rinks, Thibault is also a competitor in the Red Bull Crashed Ice series. She would compete at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships, grabbing the title.

Honorable Mention: Julie Paetsch

As the first Western Women’s Canadian Football League player selected in the history of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League draft, Julie Paetsch has landed herself a unique place in the lore of women’s sport in Canada. Having helped the Canadian National Women’s football team to a silver medal at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds, she is also suiting up for the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno. As one of the leading scorers on the Inferno, she is poised to help the squad qualify for their first-ever postseason appearance.

Honorable Mention: Fannie Desforges

Having won the bronze medal at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships, it marked a year of many milestones for the fantastic Fannie Desforges. In her final season with the Ottawa Gee-Gees, she served as team captain, helping the club to a third-place finish. Of note, her final game with the Gee-Gees would take place in a special exhibition game against the Czech Repubilc national women’s team. Selected in the 2013 CWHL Draft by the Montreal Stars, she has the opportunity to extend what promises to be an exciting career. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Distinguished Dozen: Women of power and influence in hockey for 2013

Mandi Duhamel 
Manager of Female Hockey Development, Hockey Canada

                A fixture in women’s hockey in Ottawa, Duhamel carved a tremendous legacy in Canada’s capital region. From competing with the Ottawa Gee-Gees at the CIS Women’s Nationals to serving as a coach with the Carleton Ravens (which included a stint with the National Team at the 2011 Winter Universiade), Duhamel earned a reputation as one of the region’s shining stars.

2013 would mark her first full year as a member of Hockey Canada’s management team. With it brought an opportunity for others throughout the country to appreciate her acumen. As the Manager of Female Hockey Development, she is working to increase the quality of the game at the grassroots level while strengthening the world-class reputation of Hockey Canada’s U18 and U22/Development Teams.

Providing a fresh perspective, she has been involved in various facets of the game including the 2013 CIS Nationals and World Girls Hockey Day. Also known for her charitable work, she provided assistance to flood ravaged victims near Calgary, Alberta over the summer.

Jaclyn Hawkins
President, Women’s Hockey Life
Assistant coach, Connecticut Huskies

From serving in a public relations capacity with the Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades to a coaching role with the Connecticut Huskies, Hawkins has had an eventful year. Returning to her alma mater (Connecticut), the program has already surpassed their win total from the 2012-13 season.

As the founder and president of Women’s Hockey Life, Hawkins has revolutionized the game. Setting the standard for networking and providing fans and players with a forum to share their thoughts, Hawkins has helped the game grow by a quantum leap.

One of the definitive resources for women’s hockey, her site rates equipment, allows fans (both male and female) to connect with blogs, while providing an online networking database for players and coaches to connect. Devoted to covering the growing game on a global scale, she is helping to erase borders while providing opportunities for fans and players to share in their love of the game.

Geraldine Heaney
2013 Inductee, Hockey Hall of Fame

Becoming the third woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame was a great moment in not only Geraldine Heaney’s career but in the modern day revival of women’s hockey. While she was called the Bobby Orr of women’s hockey, perhaps the day shall come when aspiring young female defenders shall be called The Next Geraldine Heaney.

With the IIHF Women’s Worlds being held in Ottawa this year, it held very special meaning for Heaney. Besides playing in an outdoor game on the Rideau Canal, she would also coach her daughther and the rest of the Ancaster Avalanche at the OWHA Provincials (also held in Ottawa). In addition, the Canadian hockey heroes from the 1990’s reunited during the intermission of the Canada vs. Finland for a special reunion, providing an opportunity for a new generation to appreciate her contribution to women’s hockey.

Hilary Knight 
Forward, United States national team

Hockey’s girl next door, Hilary Knight has captured the hearts and minds of women’s hockey fans throughout America. Her rookie campaign with the Boston Blades was one of legend. Despite finishing third in the CWHL scoring race, she would lead all American-born players in scoring. In addition, she would become the first American-born player to garner the CWHL’s Most Valuable Player Award. She would cap off her CWHL campaign with the Clarkson Cup.

Heading into the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Knight is riding a remarkable wave of momentum. From being part of a hockey demonstration in Times Square to being featured on a trading card by The Topps Company, her star is on the rise. A gold medal at Sochi would provide her with membership in the Triple Gold Club for Women (Clarkson Cup, IIHF Gold, Winter Games Gold). Complemented by an NCAA Frozen Four in 2011, it would make her the second American woman (behind Jenny Potter) to accomplish the feat.

Amanda Kessel 
Forward, United States national team

Having staked her claim as one of the world’s finest women’s hockey players, Kessel had a year to remember in 2013. Her talents would help her become a media sensation on both sides of the border, as she led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an undefeated season and the NCAA Frozen Four title.

With an outstanding 100-point season, she was also the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award. Her strong season caught the attention of USA Hockey. Competing with Team USA, she would help the squad earn the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds. The win was enhanced by the fact they defeated Canada on their own home ice, which was the first time Canada lost an IIHF gold medal game at home.

Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer 
Chairperson, IIHF Women’s Committee

One of those ground-breaking hockey players that most fans have never heard of, Kolbenheyer was the first registered female ice hockey player in her native Hungary. A former General Manager with the Hungarian national team, she has served as a member of their governing board since 2012.

As one of only two women that are members of the IIHF’s council (the other being Beate Grupp), her role as a builder of the women’s game internationally shall be significant. Also contributing as the chair for the IIHF Women’s Committee, her experience as a former player is relevant in helping to shape the future of women’s hockey into a prosperous one.

Shannon Miller
Head Coach, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
IIHF Coaching Mentor, Russia

Quite possibly the greatest coach in the history of women’s hockey, Shannon Miller has carved a legacy with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs that may be unmatched. The 2013-14 season would start with Miller enjoying the 350th win of her distinguished NCAA coaching career. Having shattered barriers by becoming the first coach to proactively recruit international talent to the NCAA, her expertise would also lead to becoming part of the IIHF Mentorship and Coaching program. Serving as a coaching mentor with the Russian national team, she was a huge factor in the squad earning the bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds.

Digit Murphy
Head Coach, Boston Blades
IIHF Coaching Mentor, Slovakia

Having made the transition from NCAA hockey to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Murphy did so in remarkable fashion. Serving as the head coach of the Boston Blades, she would not only lead the club to its first-ever regular season title, but to their first-ever Clarkson Cup. While it is hard to believe it is the first championship in Murphy’s career, it was one that helped establish a strong CWHL presence in New England.

Fran Rider 
President, Ontario Women’s Hockey Association

One of the silent heroes in hockey, Rider has devoted her entire life to the game. From serving as the President of the OWHA to a member on the board of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Rider is one of the most respected women in the hockey community. A highly deserving candidate for the Order of Hockey in Canada, Rider’s efforts have helped shape Ontario into the world’s finest region for women’s hockey. 

Angela Ruggiero 
Member, IIHF Athletes Committee
Member, International Olympic Committee
President, Women’s Sports Foundation

Having retired from the game has not diminished Ruggiero’s impact from the game. As the President for the Women’s Sports Foundation in the United States, she is committed to helping women’s sport grow at all levels. Serving with the IIHF on numerous committees, she is also a member of the International Olympic Committee. Her strong leadership will ensure that women’s hockey continues to experience growth for future generations.

Sami Jo Small
Goaltender, Toronto Furies
Co-founder, Canadian Women’s Hockey League

The heartbeat of the CWHL, Small has contributed towards the transformation of a fledgling league into one drawing significant sponsorship dollars while attracting some of the world’s finest women’s hockey talent. A co-founder of the league, she is one of only two founders (the other being Liz Breton) still competing. Small has devoted many countless hours towards improving the state of the game while also donating valuable time for charitable efforts.

Recognized with the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2013, Small’s efforts are beginning to yield sustainable results. From working towards establishing a relationship with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames to creating a culture of competition built on respect, Small’s legacy in providing talented women with a place to play should one day lead to a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Katey Stone
Head coach, United States national women’s team  

As the head coach of the United States squad that shall compete at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Stone shall be on the world’s biggest stage for hockey. Having established herself as one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history, her tenure with the Harvard Crimson is one of legend.

The list of players that have competed for her at Harvard reads like a venerable who’s who of hockey; Jennifer Botterill, Caitlin Cahow, Julie Chu, Angela Ruggiero and Sarah Vaillancourt, to name a few. Having led the US to gold at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, she is hoping the momentum shall carry over into the USA’s first medal at the Winter Games in women’s hockey since 1998.