Saturday, 27 August 2011

Rockland hosts another chapter in Canada - US rivalry

One element that was established at the Under-18 ice hockey exhibition between Canada and the United States in Rockland, Ontario is that the rest of the world is not yet ready to catch up to them. Those three games were filled with as much emotion and drama as the gold medal hockey games at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Both teams played their hearts out and impressed all in attendance. Canada and the US split the first two games, and the third game was tied at 3-3 after two periods. The level of intensity in ice hockey between these two countries is clearly at all competitive levels. With all the excitement and high level of competition (including scouting by former Winter Games head coaches Melody Davidson and Ben Smith) that was displayed on the ice, there were several players that intrigued:
                Erin Ambrose: Hockey card aficionados already know that she has appeared on cardboard (2010 Upper Deck World of Sports card # 173). Ambrose’s on-ice leadership is reminiscent to that of IIHF Hall of Famer Geraldine Heaney. It was no coincidence that she was named captain of the Canadian team. After the third game, she was at a table near the media room with teammates signing for fans, young and old, while making new friends in the process. All signs indicate that fans will see Ambrose suit up for Canada at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
                Laura Stacey: Like Gillian Apps, Stacey has strong roots to the Toronto Maple Leafs. With her ponytail sticking out of her helmet and gliding through the air, Stacey led all Canadian players in scoring. Her performance reinforces the roots she comes from. As the great granddaughter of the immortal King Clancy (the first NHL player to play all six positions in one game), and the niece of 1964 Winter Games competitor Terry Clancy, she is more than able to carry the torch and continue the proud legacy laid down by her family. Expect Stacey to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the debut of women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games with a medal proudly adorned around her neck at the 2018 Winter Games.
                Meghan Dufault: Based on the performance of Manitoba at the 2011 Winter Games (of which Dufault was a member); Manitoba is quickly becoming a women’s ice hockey hotbed. Following in the steps of the Ste. Anne Three (Bailey Bram, Melanie Gagnon, Jocelyne Larocque), the legendary Jennifer Botterill, and former Under 18 players such as Christine Bestland, Shelby Bram and Caitlin MacDonald, Dufault’s three power play goals in the series make her the next great hockey star to come from Manitoba. Clearly, this level of talent is helping Manitoba catch up to the likes of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec in women’s ice hockey prominence.

Morgan Richardson: With her parents (former NHL player Luke Richardson is her father) in attendance, Morgan is representing Canada like father did at the World Juniors in 1986-87. More importantly, the Richardson family is a great source of inspiration and character. After the death of her younger sister, Daron in November 2010, Morgan was one of the key figures in ensuring the DIFD (Do It for Daron) charity became a reality. With DIFD becoming a source of inspiration to others, Morgan’s performance on the ice is equally so. Had she decided to stop hockey due to her sister’s passing, no one would have blamed her. Her determination to continue and persevere by coming part of Canada’s Under 18 team displays a great deal of inspiration. May her continue for many more years.
Alexandra (Alex) Carpenter: Of all the players on the United States team, Massachusetts native Carpenter is the real deal. The daughter of Bobby Carpenter (Stanley Cup champion with New Jersey in 1995) was rightfully named captain of the United States squad. Not only did she display a strong, physical game, but she consistently displayed strong puck control. On more than one occasion in the series, Carpenter would grab the puck from the US end of the ice and bring it up to the Canadian end. It was shades of another Massachusetts hockey legend, Bobby Orr. Heading to the Boston College Eagles in the autumn, Carpenter should easily be able to replace outgoing BC alum and All-America selection, Kelli Stack.
Like her opposing captain in the series, Erin Ambrose, she is another prodigy who should have a roster spot reserved for the 2018 Winter Games. If the rivalry continues to develop between the two, the fans in attendance in Rockland, Ontario will say they were there when it started.  

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Snyder becomes a hockey hero

With the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in her native Calgary, there should be strong consideration for Joan Snyder as a builder. Snyder’s donations in 2011 ($500K to the Calgary Dinos women’s team and $2 million towards the Winsport Canada facility) are a watershed moment in Western Canadian women’s ice hockey history.
Snyder’s contributions help bring stability and structure to a sport that deserved it, but struggled to find it. With the CWHL’s ambitious westward expansion, Team Alberta now has a foundation it can build on. The concept that the club has their own dressing room and training facilities may be taken for granted in other sports, yet it brings this expansions franchise professionalism and dignity.
Of note, the discussion of allowing the facility to be used for other women’s teams in the world has also been visited. Although the opportunity of using the Winsport facility as a springboard towards respectability is alluring, it will take a generation (or two), before the rest of the world catches up to Canada and the United States.
Although the Canadian – American rivalry will continue to be visceral, and augment conversation throughout hockey circles, what will occur once the rest of the world catches up in women’s hockey? Will the powers that be in the future allow the facility to still be used by foreign countries? What if Kazakhstan were to one day beat Canada in the Winter Games, would Canada recognize this as long overdue parity or would the cries come out to no longer have the facility be accommodating to non-Canadians?
The reality is that as more women continue to play hockey throughout the world, the key element of the donation is that it allows for more ice time, and more importantly, opportunity. Quite possibly, the next Hayley Wickenheiser or Angela Ruggiero will have had the opportunity to play hockey because Snyder helped open the door.
The only way this donation could be viewed as a failure is if the future generations forget what she meant to the sport at this time. For many players in the future, Joan Snyder might be the best friend they never met.