Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Bobby Orr of women’s hockey earns her spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame

As the third woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Geraldine Heaney’s road to greatness was one filled with glory, accomplishment and sacrifice. With a career that spanned 27 years, this long-time fan favorite and hockey hero has transcended generations. Called the Bobby Orr of women’s hockey, the connection emanates courtesy of the event that put Heaney on the global hockey map.
Although the 1990 IIHF Women’s Worlds had introduced an entire nation of hockey fans to Heaney, she had already been playing for 11 years. Her gold-medal winning goal against the US resulted in Heaney tumbling to the ice after she scored, similar to Bobby Orr after he scored the Stanley Cup winning goal against the St. Louis Blues in 1970.
While Heaney will forever be remembered for that glorious goal, she also participated in a long lost hockey event; the 1987 Women’s World Hockey Tournament. Held in North York, Ontario and organized by Fran Rider of the OWHA, the event was not sanctioned by the IIHF. Competing with Team Ontario, Heaney would skate to a silver medal in that historic event. Angela James and Chris Pellerin would also play with her in that event.
Of note, Heaney began competed with the Toronto Aeros at the age of 13. While the Aeros would go from North York to Beatrice to Toronto, there is no question that Heaney was the glue that held the club together. Many of her teammates from the Aeros would go on to compete at the national level; Cassie Campbell, Gillian Ferrari, Marianne Grnak, Becky Kellar, Cheryl Pounder, Sami Jo Small, Amy Turek and Sommer West.
In addition, the Aeros would welcome players from other countries. Sari Krooks from Finland, and Kelly Dyer, a goaltender with the US were also Heaney’s teammates. They would play with her at the 1997 COWHL All-Star Game in Mississauga, Ontario. As the defending provincial champions, the Aeros played a group of COWHL All-Stars.  
While the Hockey Hall of Fame is a rare and unique accomplishment, it will not mark her first time receiving Hall of Fame recognition. After playing for the Seneca College Scouts, she was inducted into the Ontario College Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame.
Having helped pioneer women’s ball hockey in Ontario during the 1980’s, she played with Angela James for the Toronto Dragons. After a distinguished career at the ball hockey level, she would earn entry into the Ontario Ball Hockey Association Hall of Fame.  
In 2008, she was part of the first three women inducted into the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. Joining Heaney were Angela James and Cammi Granato, Hockey Hall of Fame inductees in 2010.
A four-time Abby Hoffman Cup champion (1991, 1993, 2000 and 2004), she also sandwiched in time competing in roller hockey. Once again, she would don the Canadian jersey and proudly represent her country. In 1992, she would help Canada claim gold at the World Roller Hockey Championships, while grabbing silver two years later.
Her legacy on hockey was solidified when she competed with Canada in the first-ever women’s hockey tournament at the Winter Games. Competing at Nagano 1998, Heaney would gain the silver medal. With food company General Mills helping to promote the event, she would appear on boxes of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.
While the gold medal eluded her at Nagano, she would earn golden redemption at the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Games. Helping Canada to its first Winter Games gold in women’s hockey, Heaney was part of history a second time.
With such a remarkable body of work, it is difficult to determine Heaney’s greatest accomplishment. She is the only woman to have won the gold medal at seven consecutive IIHF Women’s World Championships, while grabbing the IIHF Directorate Award for Best Defender twice. At the 2004 Esso Women’s Nationals, she scored the gold-medal winning goal in overtime. She played for the Abby Hoffman Cup every year from 1987 to 2001, the only woman in history to accomplish the feat.
Perhaps the accomplishment that is most worthy is the fact that she is still involved in the game today. Working as a coach and an instructor, she is helping to shape the next generation of women’s hockey players. While there likely be other Hall of Fame inductions in the future (Canada Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame), Heaney has carved a superlative legacy that makes her one of the great heroes in Canadian sporting history.

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