Thursday, 3 July 2014

Ring ceremony an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on historic year for Canadian hockey heroes

Rogers Centre in Vancouver served as the backdrop for a special celebration in Canadian hockey. With Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson having retired, said celebration served as the epilogue to what has already shaped up to become a memorable 2014. Members of the Canadian men’s and women’s gold medal winning contingents at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games were joined by the Under-18 national women’s team who experienced their own golden glory at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds.

Such a gathering was more than just a special event, it was an opportunity to reward the efforts of players, coaches and support staff with a special memento. Honored with a championship ring, the members involved with Sochi received a square shaped diamond encrusted ring in silver. The U18 team received a gold ring with the Hockey Canada logo composing the top.

Taking into account that the heroes of women’s hockey consider the Olympics their Stanley Cup, a ring is very appropriate. All Stanley Cup champions not only receive a replica of the Cup, they are provided with a championship ring. Unlike the gold medal, which is more for safekeeping than to wear, a ring is a perfect accessory to signify such memorable triumphs.

The spirit of the event certainly emulated the feelings of national pride and achievement when such an event was held in 2010. Just like 2014, that event honored the double gold medal effort of Canada’s men and women at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, while recognizing the U18 team’s 2010 gold medal victory, its first-ever in the history of the IIHF U18 Worlds.

With Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium hosting the event in an outdoor setting, which was open to the public, it would have been hard to foresee such an exciting event happening again in only four short years.  Taking into account that Melodie Daoust was part of that 2010 celebration with the U18 team, hockey experts speculated that she would part of the 2018 Olympic team.

Defying the odds, she suited up for Canada in 2014, becoming the first woman from Quebec to win U18 gold, the Meco Cup and Winter Games gold. As the only member of that 2010 U18 team that was part of the 2014 Olympic edition, she is the proud owner of two very special and unique championship rings.

Perhaps the most meaningful aspect is the lifetime of memories that are made for the players. For the members of the U18 squad, who helped Canada to its third consecutive gold in the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, the opportunity to meet their idols from the men’s and women’s teams is nothing short of exciting. Such feelings were only enhanced for U18 captain Karly Heffernan.

For the second consecutive year, Heffernan logged the gold-medal winning goal for Canada at the U18 Worlds. Ironically, Marie-Philip Poulin experienced similar heroics as a member of the Canadian effort at Sochi that earned its fourth consecutive gold in women’s hockey. Poulin scored the gold-medal winning goal in overtime to complement the game-winning goal she scored at Vancouver 2010. For two hockey heroes to be in the same room at the same time is to see that the future in women’s hockey is a bright one.

During the ceremony, the captains and head coaches of the U18 team (Heffernan and Laura Schuler), men’s team (Sidney Crosby and Mike Babcock) and women’s team (Caroline Ouellette and Kevin Dineen) were seated at a table at the centre stage. Although Heffernan hopes her glorious career will eventually take her to the same heights as Ouellette (it is the dream of all young players), the chance to be at the table with such hockey luminaries is one that will forever stand as a great moment.

Adding to the feelings of celebration was the induction of three more members to the Order of Hockey in Canada. History was made as France St. Louis became the first woman of French-Canadian heritage to be honored. Only the second woman ever to earn the nod (Cassie Campbell was the first), such a historic accomplishment signifies a historic year for French-Canadian women in hockey. The aforementioned Poulin earned the same immortal glory as Paul Henderson with her gold-medal winning goal, while Ouellette was the first captain of French-Canadian origin to serve as Canada’s captain at the Winter Games.

While Canadian hockey fans would certainly love for such celebrations to repeat themselves in 2018, the outcome of 2014 is one that has left all Canadians with a feeling of great satisfaction and tremendous pride. For that, the fans are truly in the gratitude of the remarkable players who made such an event happen. 

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