Friday, 29 August 2014

Renaissance period for women’s hockey in Sweden

The upcoming 2014-15 season is one that may prove to be a turning point in the proud women’s hockey history of Sweden. With the 2015 edition of the IIHF Women’s World Championship taking place in Malmö, the feelings of excitement and anticipation are rising rapidly.
After competing in the relegation round versus the Czech Republic at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Ottawa, Canada, there is no question that the Swedish team is hoping to avoid such an outcome on home soil. Taking into account that the 2013 team consisted of many young players, there was definitely an adjustment period in question.
A strong turning point occurred at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Not only did Sweden compete in the bronze medal game (despite a heartbreaking loss to Switzerland, who claimed their first bronze), the aftermath of the Games provided more encouragement. In addition to speculation that Hilary Knight was offered an opportunity to play in a Swedish men’s league, a pair of elite Canadian players made their mark.
Bailey Bram (one of the final players released from Canada’s Centralization Camp) and Jennifer Wakefield, who earned her first Winter Games gold medal brought their world class games to Sweden. Of note, their presence was a historical one. They were the first Canadians to have won IIHF World Women’s Championships to play in Sweden.
Fans can expect to see more of Wakefield this season. On Sunday August 24, the first preseason game for Linköping (her club team) took place. Competing against AIK, Wakefield and Swedish national team captain Jenni Asserholt each contributed two goals in a 4-1 road victory.
Taking into account the IIHF’s efforts to improve women’s hockey globally with its Mentorship and Ambassador program, the movement of Bram and Wakefield to Sweden is significant. The best way for so many of the players in Europe to improve is to be able to call such accomplished players as teammates in their home leagues. It just brings a unique perspective on the game while having individuals such as Bram and Wakefield as mentors. Although the NCAA has been very accommodating to European players, there is an adjustment period for many players in North America.
Other North American players shall be joining the likes of Wakefield this season. With Fredrik Pettersson having established an expansion team in Gothenburg, he has included three players crossing the Atlantic to compete on his roster.
Bemidji State graduates Tess Dusik and Jessica Havel, a pair of graduates from the NCAA level with the Bemidji State Beavers shall continue to be teammates together. Blueliner Christi Capozzi, who played for head coach Graham Thomas with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds shall also be extending her career in Sweden.
Joining them on Gothenburg shall be goaltender Ellen Wilhelmsson. Having played with the Swedish Under-18 national team, her international experience she shall likely make her the club’s franchise player. 
In addition to Gothenburg, two other expansion clubs shall be competing this season. Building on this great momentum is the fact that the Swedish Elite League plans to expand to 10 teams for the 2015-16 campaign. Long established men’s clubs Färjestad and Djurgården have established sister franchises, stamping their legendary names in the growing women’s game.
Considering that Djurgården has long featured prominent men’s players, they are building strong momentum with two marquee signings: goaltender Valentina Wallner, who stood between the pipes for Sweden at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, along with Tina Enström. As a side note, her brother Tobias skates for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets.
Of all the free agent acquisitions, AIK managed a very significant one. Yuka Hirano, who suited up for Japan at Sochi becomes the first Japanese player to join the Swedish Elite League. With regards to homegrown talent, AIK has also acquired blueliner Elin Holmlöv, who played alongside Wallner at the Sochi Games. As a side note, Holmlöv has also played pro hockey in Russia.

AIK shall rely heavily on her leadership as the club attempts to dethrone defending champions Linköping. The club boasts the likes of Swedish hockey hero Pernilla Winberg, former national team member Melinda Olsson, along with Ingrid Morset, the captain of the Norwegian hockey team. In addition, the club features Wakefield. There is already discussion that she may already play for a men's Division 3 team, which would be akin to Hayley Wickenheiser, who competed at the Division 3 level in Finland men’s hockey. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Stephanie Ciampa earns unique distinction as last overall selection in 2014 CWHL Draft

Hailing from Peabody, Massachusetts, goaltender Stephanie Ciampa earned the unique distinction of being the final player selected in the 2014 CWHL Draft. Selected by the hometown Boston Blades, the squad already features the likes of goaltenders such as Genevieve Lacasse, Molly Schaus and Brittany Ott, who started the championship game of the 2014 Clarkson Cup.

Coincidentally, it marks the second consecutive season that Boston had the last pick overall. Adding to that is the fact that Boston selected a goaltender with their last pick in the 2013 CWHL Draft. Zoe Zisis, the first (and only) player in CWHL history to have both initials commence with a Z, was the pick in question. Of note, she would see some ice time, in a back-up role to Ott.

Another unique factor about Ciampa is the fact that she was the only player from the Mercyhurst Lakers selected in the 2014 edition of the draft. Christine Bestland, who graduated as the second all-time leading scorer in program history did not register for the draft. As a side note, Ciampa would graduate from Mercyhurst with a major in psychology, while elected as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board.

In the nascent history of the CWHL Draft, Mercyhurst has produced a remarkable amount of players selected in the first round. A veritable who’s who of hockey, Mercyhurst alumnae such as Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Vicki Bendus, Bailey Bram, Jess Jones, Hillary Pattenden and Jesse Scanzano have been highly touted draft prospects.

Of note, Ciampa spent her first three seasons in a backup capacity to Pattenden. Taking into account that Pattenden was the first overall selection in the 2012 CWHL Draft, the fact that Ciampa was selected last overall in 2014 is ironic. In three seasons as a backup to Pattenden, she compiled an undefeated record, winning five contests.

Inheriting the starter’s role from Pattenden in the autumn of 2013, she proved up to the task as her patience paid off. Compiling a remarkable win-loss mark of 20-2-0, it was complemented by a sparkling 1.55 goals against average and a solid .931 save percentage. In addition, Ciampa logged four shutouts in the first nine games of the 2012-13 campaign.

The only loss in the regular season came to College Hockey America conference rival Robert Morris. Helping Mercyhurst advance to the NCAA Final Four, her final career game had another unique linkage to Boston. Playing against the Boston Univeristy Terriers, a familiar face was standing between the pipes for the opposing net. Playing her club hockey as a teenager with Assabet Valley, one of her teammates was Kerrin Sperry. Of note, Sperry (who was in her junior season) was the starting goaltender, bringing Ciampa’s career full circle.

Although Ciampa did not play competitively during the 2013-14 campaign, she donated her time as an assistant coach in youth hockey, gaining a new perspective on the game. From planning and running practices to dealing with parents and helping establish important skills with players, her experience as a player made her an invaluable mentor.

Like many other players, it is not uncommon to focus on other aspects of life after competitive play, especially with emphasis on career. Her teamwork skills have served her well as an Assistant Program Director for a firm that offers numerous services for individuals living with disabilities and/or coping with other life challenges.

In the National Football League draft, the player selected last overall is known as Mr Irrelevant. Perhaps in the CWHL, the last pick overall would be best identified as Miss Underrated. Taking into account Ciampa’s leadership skills, her patience and underdog status, she has proven more than once the ability to rise to the occasion with great maturity and dignity. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Christine Bestland continues proud legacy of elite scorers at Mercyhurst

Next to Meghan Agosta, the greatest player in Mercyhurst Lakers history may have been Christine Bestland. Having graduated from Mercyhurst with 226 points (92 goals and 134 assists), including 32 power play goals and 20 game-winning tallies, Bestland continued the strong legacy of elite scorers that have donned the Mercyhurst jersey.

Considering that she spent at least half of her Lakers career without the likes of superstars such as Meghan Agosta, Vicki Bendus, Bailey Bram, Jesse Scanzano and Hilary Pattenden, Bestland was the offensive catalyst from 2012-14, testament to her talent. In her last two seasons, she recorded an astounding 126 points as the Lakers enjoyed a pair of consecutive Frozen Four appearances.

Joining the program on the heels of making her mark on Canadian hockey history, helping Canada win its first-ever gold medal at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds, Bestland was ready to make her mark on the program. As a side note, she also enjoyed the rare distinction of being featured on a hockey card. In 2011, Upper Deck released its World of Sport card set, featuring all the members of Canada’s U18 gold medal winning squad.

Bestland’s career truly was an extension of the Lakers growing legacy as a nationally prominent program. As a freshman in 2010-11, she logged 42 points, a solid showing for the freshman. 

She would follow it up with a 16-point improvement in her sophomore campaign. A career-best 72 points was part of her sterling junior season in 2012-13. She would accomplish career highs in goals (28), assists (44), points, power play goals (10) and game-winning goals (7).

Despite the pressure of having to bear the burden of leadership in her final two seasons without the aforementioned stars, Bestland proved she was up to the challenge. Of the goals she scored in her senior season, four were recorded on the power-play. This was complemented by four game-winning tallies and an NCAA-best (and career high) five shorthanded goals. She would bring additional versatility to her game with 25 blocked shots and a +37 plus/minus rating.

Although her senior season resulted in a 54-point output (22 goals and 32 assists), there was no shortage of milestones. A December series with their conference rivals, the Penn State Nittany Lions would prove to be an early Christmas gift for Bestland. An assist on the Saturday contest versus Penn State provided her with the 200th point of her distinguished career. In doing so, she became the fifth Laker to be part of the 200-point club, joining Valerie Chouinard, Bailey Bram, Jesse Scanzano, and Meghan Agosta.

With an assist in the first period of Saturday's 8-0 win over Penn State, senior Christine Bestland of the Mercyhurst University women's hockey team recorded her 200th career point to become the fifth player in program history to reach the milestone. She joined as the only players in school history to accomplish the feat. Heading into the weekend, Bestland needed just five points which she collected with a hat trick and an assist during Friday's contest and an assist on the second goal Saturday for her five-point weekend.

Saving some of her best hockey for the month of March, Bestland would factor in all three goals in a 3-2 win over Cornell in the NCAA tournament. Two goals, including the game-winning tally helped propel the program to its second straight Frozen Four. It would prove to be a day of great personal milestones for Bestland as well, surpassing Jesse Scanzano for second spot on the Lakers’ all-time scoring list.

Although the Frozen Four title eluded Bestland in her storied career, she was honored by Mercyhurst at their Annual Senior Sports Banquet as the Senior Female Student-Athlete of the Year award was bestowed upon her. It capped off a season of accolades that included All-America honors, a Third Team selection, the College Hockey America scoring title and her second consecutive College Hockey America Player of the Year Award.

While she did not register for the 2014 CWHL Draft, it would be a great coup for the Calgary Inferno if the club could sign her as a free agent. As Canada’s national women’s team is headquartered in Calgary, the chance to play with the Inferno might be of great benefit to Bestland, as she has too much talent to be sitting idle in the upcoming season.

Having grown up in Manitoba, the chance to play in Calgary would tap into her Western Canadian hockey roots. An added incentive would be the chance to possibly reunite with a former Mercyhurst teammate. Taking into account that the club traded for Bailey Bram (who played with Bestland for two seasons) in an effort to provide depth on its offense, the thought of Bram and Bestland playing together again would stimulate interest for the growing franchise. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Emotional experience in Normandy overshadows impact of Amazing Race for Spooner and Mikkelson

After a fifth-place finish in Winnipeg, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson were hoping to return to their winning ways with the seventh leg of the race. To the surprise of all the competitors involved, the next leg of Amazing Race Canada took them overseas.

Travelling to Normandy, France in an episode titled “Lest We Forget”, the leg would provide all competitors with a unique first-hand experience of Canadian history. Part of six teams that were still in the Race, Spooner and Mikkelson arrived at the Boulard Calvados distillery first.
Offering to compete in the roadblock, Mikkelson was working with a mathematical formula to remove a sample of apple brandy from one of the hundreds of barrels in stock, working towards achieving a 40 per cent alcohol content. Mikkelson’s struggles allowed other teams to catch up and eventually by-pass them.

Mikkelson would re-group and realize that the problem was that she was not using the same size tools as were shown in the demonstration. Opting for the smaller tools, Mikkelson would successfully dilute the apple brandy to its desired 40 per cent.

Despite the setback, first place was still within reach. Heading into the next aspect of the race, competitors had the option to show it or tell it. The show it option involved a complex braiding of a red ribbon into a horse’s mane. Spooner and Mikkelson opted for tell it, reviewing the Bayeux Tapestry. Working quickly, the two managed to rearrange a scrambled series of artistic tiles on their second try.

Back in first place, the third challenge of the day was one that provided fun and distraction. Spooner and Mikkelson were on the beaches of Asnelles, participating in landsailing, a mutually new experience. Despite the landsail tipping over, Spooner and Mikkelson were jubilant as they extended their lead.

Afterwards, the remainder of the race’s leg took on a very serious and emotional tone, as Spooner and Mikkelson arrived at Normandy’s Canadian War Cemetery. Reading a plaque that indicated the efforts of Canada’s soldiers in Normandy, Spooner was teary-eyed on the way to the next leg of the race. As a side note, all competitors experienced emotions when they arrived at the War Cemetery.

Expanding their lead, Spooner and Mikkelson delivered a poppy to a waiting soldier standing in front of the Remembrance and Renewal Statue. From the Juno Beach Centre, Natalie and Meaghan arrived at the Pit Stop at Juno Beach, where they met surviving war veteran Jim Parks. Spooner and Mikkelson both hugged Parks, thanking him for his service.

While host Jon Montgomery and the hockey heroes acknowledged that Parks was a true hero, there is no question that Parks’ sacrifices helped set the stage for future generations to create their own legacies and become heroes in their own way. Spooner and Mikkelson are part of a generation of accomplished women providing young girls with a remarkable group of role models to look up to. For that, Parks will eternally deserve our gratitude.

Images obtained from:'

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Kraft Foods should consider hockey card releases of CWHL players

Over two decades ago, a generation of hockey card collectors was introduced to a special collectible on the back of boxes of Kraft Dinner and Kraft Spirals. Cards featuring National Hockey League players from the Canadian-based teams were introduced in the autumn of 1989. It comprised the first year of a highly popular hockey card offering that so many collectors gladly cut out of the back of Kraft Dinner and Kraft Spirals boxes.

A trip to the grocery store became a collecting experience as collectors were eager to scrounge through backs of boxes looking for the cards needed to complete their collections. In later years, the popularity of the product resulted in Kraft expanding their card offerings to the backs of Jell-O products, along with panes of stickers inserted in Kraft Singles Processed Cheese.

At a time when sports cards reached unprecedented levels of popularity, Kraft Foods provided an affordable yet exciting product for new and experienced collectors alike.

Taking into account that Kraft Foods has served as a proud sponsor of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, it would be of tremendous benefit for fans, players and collectors alike to see the women of the CWHL featured on card releases on the backs of Kraft Dinner boxes. A staple food for so many children, Kraft Dinner is also a comfort food for grown-ups.

The chance to cut-out (or flatten an empty box) such cards featuring the likes of competitors from the Brampton Thunder, Calgary Inferno, Montreal Stars and Toronto Furies would make a bold statement about the impact of women in sport. It would not only provide the chance to bring an exciting new aspect into hockey card collecting, it would provide young girls with new role models to look up to.

In recent years, General Mills Canada is the only company featuring female athletes on its food products. Since the late 1990s, its role as a sponsor to Canada’s Olympic team has given many athletes the rare privilege of appearing on a cereal box, akin to the famous Wheaties box in the United States. Of note, women’s hockey players such as Cassie Campbell, Nancy Drolet, Geraldine Heaney and Hayley Wickenheiser have graced various General Mills cereals.

Post Cereal, which is part of the Kraft Foods family of companies, featured junior hockey players from the OHL, QMJHL and WHL on its cereal boxes over the last two years. During the 2013-14 season, there was even an online redemption code to receive free junior hockey cards via mail. With due deference, an opportunity was lost to feature female hockey players on its cereal boxes. It would be a breath of fresh air, bringing much needed awareness to the game.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the CWHL is the fact that at least every franchise has had members of its roster compete at the Olympic level. In terms of marketability and name recognition, many of the league’s women are perfect ambassadors for the game. With the added popularity of Natalie Spooner (who has never had a hockey card produced) and Meaghan Mikkelson (whose only card was featured in 2009-10 O-Pee-Chee hockey) competed on The Amazing Race Canada, it only adds to the good reason that Kraft Foods should elevate their support of CWHL hockey with a series of cards.

For many players, the chance to gain cardboard immortality is a dream come true. Not only would it be a great personal milestone, but the chance to appear on the back of a Kraft Dinner box or on a Post Cereal box would provide a remarkable adrenaline rush while shopping. 

In addition, a marketing campaign could take place at various CWHL venues, providing cross promotion in a win-win situation. Between the Montreal Stars breast cancer fundraiser (one of the league’s signature events), contests at Calgary’s Saddledome along with week-long Clarkson Cup festivities, it could help provide the setting for a groundbreaking marketing event, not only raising the awareness of such a great partnership, but helping to strengthen the movement for equality in sport.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Lessons learned for Spooner and Mikkelson during Yukon leg of Amazing Race Canada

Returning to home soil for the fifth leg of Amazing Race Canada, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson maintained grace under pressure. Despite being the first to leave from the Statue of Mercy at Macau towards the Hong Kong Airport, all competitors boarded the plane at the same time. This took away the advantage of being in first. When the plane landed at Vancouver, they should have been given a 15 minute head start.

Before boarding the plane, Spooner and Mikkelson had to make the decision of which team they would allocate their Express Pass to. The hockey heroes would show loyalty to the French Canadian twins, Pierre and Michel. Of note, they assisted them in Macau in helping to locate the vendor on Happiness Street in Macau that would provide them with their next clue.

In return for the Express Pass, the twins promised to not U-Turn the hockey heroes on a future leg of the race. Once word got about to the other teams, jealousy and gossip began. One team had the audacity to advise Spooner and Mikkelson that they made a mistake. In the video confessional, Spooner stated that there was drama.

Upon landing in Vancouver, teams headed towards the Sky High Ranch in Yukon for a night of rest. The following morning, breakfast would supply the first clue as a Detour presented the option to "Ride a Sled" or "Make your Bed". Groups had an option of successfully completing several laps with a dog sledding team or assembling a camp site. Taking into account that the camp site was on dry land, it would have appeared as a faster option. Surprisingly, the majority of teams opted for the sled. By the end of the Detour, it would be no surprise that the title of the fifth episode was “Who Designs these Torture Tests?”

Unfortunately, a mix-up in finding the dog tags for the competing dogs supplied a setback for Spooner and Mikkelson. As teams had to untangle said tags, Among a group of competitors that had to return to the cabin to look up the names of the competing dogs, the hockey heroes were included.

Despite the setback, only one team enjoyed any significant time advantage. Of note, another team could not place the tags on the dogs, while another team had their dogs run away. It would not take long for the hockey heroes to get back into contention. Even with Spooner falling out of the sled, her skills as a world class hockey player resulted in quickly running across the frozen surface and returning to the sled.

Advancing to the next leg of the race, the physical attributes of our hockey heroes would prove to be a key factor. Participating on a closed Biathlon course at Grey Mountain, Spooner opted to participate. As the course had dry land, a 5 km bike trek replaced the traditional skiing option. Quickly finishing the 5 km course (of note, biking is a significant part of dry land training for women’s hockey players), Spooner would earn five rounds of ammunition, which would be utilitzed to hit five targets.

Showing the potential for a second Olympic career as a biathlete, Spooner successfully hit the first four targets. Although she would miss the last target, resulting in another 5 km bike ride (so that she could earn another five rounds of ammunition), it would not deter Spooner. Upon receipt of another five rounds, she would hit the fifth and final target with ease, placing the hockey heroes in second overall.

Attempting to climb into first, the final leg of the race consisted of rowing down the Yukon River towards the pit stop. Of note, the pair that was in first were struggling miserably to not only carry their canoe through the forest, but had difficulty navigating the river. Sadly, no comeback was to occur for the hockey heroes. Mikkelson was still struggling to recover from a broken wrist that plagued her at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Therefore, carrying the canoe was a difficult task.

Upon arrival at the Pit Stop, the hockey heroes were in third place. Another team had overtaken them, while engaging in a little trash talking. Saying “Hello Girls” in a sarcastic tone, the two have become villains on the show. Unfortunately, their third place finish was part of a sad day for Canadian women in sport. Of note, Eugenie Bouchard lost a tennis match in her hometown of Montreal while the Canadian Under-20 women’s soccer team lost their opening match of the FIFA U20 World Cup (on home soil no less).

Through it all, the hockey heroes showed tremendous poise, not succumbing to the petty jealousies and trash talking that occurred. Considering that so many teams worry about avoiding last place, the hockey heroes possess so much physical and mental strength that they are always contending for first place.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Cardboard Immortality: A visual history of women's hockey cards (Vancouver to Sochi)

Heading into the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, collectors were witness to resurgence in women’s hockey cards. Upper Deck presented the promise for a bright future as its O-Pee-Chee brand featured a unique insert series recognizing the Canadian men’s and women’s hockey teams.

The insert series featured the roster of the 2009 Canadian women’s team that competed at the IIHF Worlds. For players such as Marie-Philip Poulin and Shannon Szabados, these issues would prove to be their rookie cards. In addition, a foilboard card of Manon Rheaume (in her Tampa Bay Lightning uniform no less) was an added attraction, building the momentum of her previous card release in Upper Deck Masterpieces.

In the aftermath of Vancouver, Upper Deck issued another insert series titled The Champions. Randomly inserted in 2009-10 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey (released in late winter 2010), the series honored American and Canadian Winter Games heroes past and presented. Collectors would also search for variants that were autographed.
Among the group of women’s hockey players included were Canadians such as Jennifer Botterill, Cassie Campbell, Kim St. Pierre and Hayley Wickenheiser. In addition, Campbell was featured in an insert series offered by World of Sport. Titled Clear Competitors, these were acetate cards randomly inserted in packs that were see-through. Including the likes of Tiger Woods and Nancy Kerrigan, Campbell was among the featured athletes. Adding to the collectibility was the fact that several American hockey heroes were part of the series. Cammi Granato (who was previously featured in 2005-06 Upper Deck hockey as part of its Young Guns subset) was joined by Julie Chu and Natalie Darwitz.
Of note, all of these players were back on card issues during the 2011 World of Sport trading card set, also issued by Upper Deck. While the set also featured female athletes from other sports, women’s hockey fans were pleased by the issuing of cards featuring members of Canada’s Under-18 Women’s Hockey team that won the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds.

Featuring the likes of Erin Ambrose, Christine Bestland, Melodie Daoust (who would win a gold medal at Sochi 2014) Jamie Lee Rattray (the 2014 Patty Kazmaier Award Winner) and Jillian Saulnier, all five are possibilities to be part of Canada’s roster at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. The U18 heroes in the set added to the excitement of a ground-breaking card set which was akin to the pleasant surprise of women’s players included in the 1997-98 Collectors Choice set (also by Upper Deck).
Unfortunately, there would not be a repeat of U18 players in the 2012 edition of the World of Sport set. It was a disappointment taking into account that Upper Deck currently has an exclusive licensing agreement with Hockey Canada.

Instead, players such as Botterill, Campbell, Chu and Darwitz were back in the 2012 set. Although cards of Granato and Wickenheiser were also featured in Upper Deck’s Goodwin Champions set, with miniature variations (which pays homage to the tobacco sets of the early 20th Century), it was of little consolation.

The only other option at the time was rummaging through Sports Illustrated Kids. A monthly magazine that features nine perforated trading cards in the middle of the magazine, every issue tends to have at least one female athlete featured. In the last two years, Hilary Knight and Amanda Kessel were the only women’s hockey players that SI Kids produced cards of.

With the emergence of women’s hockey at the NCAA level, a unique collectible sprouted at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Custom cards honoring senior captains on various varsity sports were produced by RIT Sportszone. During the 2010-11 campaign, Sarah Dagg would earn the cardboard treatment, making for a treasured keepsake.
Even more disappointing was the release of a Hockey Canada-themed set issued by Upper Deck in the autumn of 2013. A 100-card base set depicting players that have competed for Canada’s national team at various events (such as the IIHF World Juniors, Senior World Championship and/or Olympic levels), there were also Short Prints (SP), autographs and other insert themes. Sadly, not one card (base, SP or insert) featured one member of Canada’s women’s team. Considering that the set was released a few months before the Sochi Winter Games, a few cards of female players would certainly have helped build interest. 

Despite Upper Deck not issuing any women’s cards in the Team Canada set, it did manage to provide one very special female player with the cardboard treatment. The late Mandi Schwartz was honored with a Game Jersey card in the 2013-14 Upper Deck Series 1 hockey issue. Schwartz’s parents donated the blue Yale jersey in order to make the card a reality.

Of note, Upper Deck staff had worked closely with the Schwartz family and Yale University (where Schwartz played) to honor her life. Discussing internally the interest to find an inspirational athlete to honor with a hockey card, Upper Deck believed that Schwartz was an ideal choice as the card would also help raise awareness of the foundation that honors her name. While the card was short printed, Upper Deck manufactured more cards to be sold through the website for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation.

Regarding the Sochi Winter Games, the Topps Company would manage to appeal to women’s hockey collectors. Issuing a 100-card set recognizing male and female members of the American contingent, three women’s hockey players were given the opportunity to appear on cardboard. Hilary Knight and the Lamoureux Twins (Jocelyne and Monique) gained official Rookie Card status. As an added bonus, there were memorabilia cards and autographed versions randomly inserted.

Sadly, they would be the only three players to have a trading card during 2013-14. Another Topps product that features female athletes is its annual Allen and Ginter release every spring. While the spring 2014 release features the likes of Diana Nyad, Allyson Felix and Carli Lloyd, not one hockey player was featured. Two women’s players that would have been good options were Meghan Duggan, who came back from a concussion to become the US captain, and former player Caitlin Cahow, who served on President Obama’s delegation at Sochi.

With Upper Deck recently gaining an exclusive license with the National Hockey League (to complement its Hockey Canada license), future card issues with women’s hockey players are unlikely. Except for the annual Allen and Ginter release, the only other hope Topps collectors have for female hockey players appearing on cardboard is the possibility of a set for the 2018 Winter Games (as a side note, Topps shall issue a US Olympic set for the 2016 Summer Games).

Panini, who holds the exclusive license with the NBA, occasionally produces card sets featuring individuals from popular culture. Such sets are the only chance in which a women’s hockey player could earn the cardboard treatment.

Canadian-based In the Game once had a license with Hockey Canada and featured a pair of sets with women’s cards in the late 2000s. Perhaps they should consider a license with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, issuing a subset of the league’s finest players in their annual releases. Taking into account that Kraft Foods is also a CWHL sponsor, it would be exciting to see Blades, Furies, Inferno, Stars and Thunder players on the backs of Kraft Dinner boxes, the way NHLers appeared on such boxes in the early 1990s.