Monday, 18 November 2013

Hockey Hall of Famer Geraldine Heaney so much more than an accomplished player

While Geraldine Heaney has reached the pinnacle of hockey with a well-deserved spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame, there is so much more to her than a distinguished playing career. As the third woman inducted into the HHOF, fans and media alike have showered her with praise over her legendary goal at the landmark IIHF Women’s Worlds in 1990.

Heaney is part of a generation of women’s hockey pioneers that are contributing to the game in roles of mentors and leaders. Many of the women that Heaney competed with at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Games are doing just that. With the IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program (AMP), former teammates such as France St. Louis, Fiona Smith, Jennifer Botterill and Therese Brisson are helping to build the sport with developing nations in the sport.

With a young family, Heaney is helping to build the game at the grassroots level. She spent a handful of seasons as the head coach with the Waterloo Warriors of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Currently, she is the head coach for her daughter’s team, the Ancaster Avalanche.

As the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds were held in Ottawa, it was more than an opportunity for Heaney to be re-introduced to a new generation of sports fans in the city that established her as a global icon in hockey. Along with some former teammates from the Canadian national team, Heaney would grace the Rideau Canada for an outdoor game against some alumni of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.

During this magical 2013 for Heaney, she coached her Avalanche squad to a spot in the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association provincial championships, which was also held in Ottawa. Of note, both events were held simultaneously in Ottawa. The opportunity to see her daughter play in the OWHA provincials may have been the most gratifying aspect in her return to Ottawa.

Ironically, the Ottawa area would have one more profound impact on Heaney’s 2013. From August 10-18, the Ottawa suburb of Rockland, Ontario hosted the Canadian National Women’s Under-18 Team Selection Camp. Having been trained by Heaney at her hockey camp, defender Hailey Noronha was one of the players invited to Rockland.

Noronha may one day follow in Heaney’s footsteps and suit up for the National Team. Having helped the Whitby Wolves to the 2013 PWHL championship, her hard work paid remarkable dividends. To add to the irony, Noronha’s coach at the U18 Camp was Laura Schuler, who played with Heaney at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games.

While the Geraldine Heaney Hockey Academy may one day serve as the pipeline for more quality talent such as Noronha, it is testament to Heaney’s commitment to help shape the next generation of female hockey talent. Although no one can dispute Heaney’s entry into the hallowed Hall, there is no question that the world of women’s hockey has not heard the last of this remarkable woman.  

Photo credit: Stephen Whyno, Canadian Press

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