Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hockey coach and ball hockey competitor Ashley Gilbank talks about Skate4Life

1: SSSS: Hayley Wickenheiser introduced you to the Calgary Dinos women’s hockey team. Of note, they made a donation of $1000. What was the experience like of meeting the team?

Gilbank: The experience was amazing. They came off the ice the coaches went in the dressing room and gave a small speech and then they pulled me right in the dressing room. I was shocked how quickly they welcomed me. I was able to go in and talk a little about S4L and the girls listened and then asked me a lot of questions. It was really neat to be able to share my experiences with such an elite level of women's hockey players. Ever since I was a little, it was always my dream to play university hockey and I was in awe of every single one of them. Not to mention I was speaking to Danielle Goyette and Hayley Wickenheiser - two future hall of famers and pioneers of women's hockey. It was amazing to have their support. They also blew me away when they donated $1,000. It literally was such a shock... not only because it was 1,000$ but also because I was striving hard to reach $10,000 and they had just brought me so close that I knew at that moment I really could hit $10,000 by the end of my journey.

2: SSSS: What was your biggest highlight in Ontario?

Gilbank: Now that is a tough one to answer as Ontario was 45 days long... longer than the first 5 provinces combined... so it was very eventful... I think getting hit by the transport is a memory that will always stick out but I would say my absolute biggest highlight would be a tie between the Hastings event and Pontypool. I kind of tie those two memories together as they happened so close to each and they both surprised me with how supportive they were... Hastings was a small country town with a population of 1,500 that raised $1,500 and Pontypool population 1,500 raised $1200. In Hastings the whole town came out to support me and as I skated into Pontypool I was able to stop at the Spearing farm and pay tribute to Rachel and her family. Those two days are unforgettable.

2A: SSSS: What was your biggest highlight in Alberta?

Gilbank: It’s hard to pick just one... When I think of Alberta I think of hockey - touring the Rexall Center and the Saddledome, watching team Canada practice and meeting some of the girls but I would have to say skating into the mountains in Canmore was something I will never forget. It was like someone had dropped a big green screen in front of me. It was one of the easiest skating days as I was so distracted by the scenery. I think Pierre had me pull over every km to take a picture!

3: SSSS: On the Skate4Life facebook page, you mentioned that the mother of your late friend was in BC to greet you. What was it like to see her there?

Gilbank: She surprised me... I had no idea she was coming to see me end the journey. Her and a few of Rachel’s closest friends came out the eve of my last skating day and surprised me as Pierre, my dad and I were eating our dinner at Boston Pizza in Victoria. I can probably say to this day that is the most surprised I had ever been in my life. I didn't realize that this journey had meant so much to them and that they were following me every step of the way. I also can't really explain to you what it was like to have them finish with me. The experience was that much more meaningful to me and my husband.

4: SSSS:  As you reached the end of your journey in Victoria, what were the emotions that you felt?

Gilbank: Actually the last few days I felt very numb. I was worried about finishing the journey. The night before we finished, when Sandy Spearing showed up, that changed everything.  To explain what I mean, I have a quote of my journal entry I wrote that night.
"Today I had to write. It is the last night of my journey. It is amazing to see how far I have come although to me I wasn't happy. I wasn't sad, I wasn't really anything. I was numb. -And I was scared to finish numb. I didn't want to look back on this day and regret it. I don't have that fear anymore. I feel fulfilled like tonight was just what I needed. The weight has been lifted."

5: SSSS:  After your journey finished, there was a tragic case of teen suicide in BC. What do you feel that we can do as a society to prevent such a horrible loss?

Gilbank: The Amanda Todd suicide actually happened while we were in Vancouver. It was the same day I was speaking at a suicide prevention seminar at the BC Children’s Hospital. I feel very bad for the Todd family. I know what the Spearing's went through, and are going through and I know that is happening again with the Todd Family. I also know the sad truth that this will not be the last suicide victim in our country. It was reported to me not long ago that a boy had died in my hometown from suicide. Only 20 years old.

My opinions are very blunt when it comes to what we can do as a society and I am not afraid to share them. I believe that the media needs to take responsibility for how they report suicides. I believe they need to be more proactive in sharing help services in their reports whether it’s an article, news cast, radio broadcast etc. Teens/Adults/teachers/everyone needs to know what they can do or where they can turn.

After Amanda Todd’s death there were several facebook pages created and petitions signed against bullying but did 1 student go up to their teacher and ask them if they were trained in how to deal with suicidal teens? Or even better did they demand the school must implement policies to get the teachers trained?

Did anyone donate to their local mental health facility or start educating themselves on suicidal signs or how to cope? Or did they just like a Facebook group? ...... There are so many ways we can change but the biggest way we can prevent these from happening is to educate ourselves, our kids, our society and end the stigma that surrounds mental health. There is help out there and we need to make sure everyone needs to know how to access that help.

6: SSSS: Once you have a well deserved rest, what is your next step in the fight for mental health causes?

Gilbank: The first thing I am working on is registering Skate 4 Life as a registered charity... We are also setting up a Gala next spring, plus we are working on a few ways to tell my story and we will take it from there. There will be a lot of exciting things to look forward to from Skate 4 Life.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Halloween Matchup Between Boston Rivals Sees Alex Carpenter Log 5 Points

Heading into a Halloween night contest between rivals Boston University and Boston College, it seemed unlikely that B.C. had a losing record. While BU boasted a 7-1 record, which featured Kerrin Sperry break the BU record for most wins by a goalteder, No. 8-ranked B.C. sported a disappointing 2-3-0 mark.
Despite the home ice advantage, BU feel behind in the first period. Senior captain Blake Bolden assisted on a goal by Taylor Wasylk at the 4:47 mark.
Heading into the second, BC continued to add to their lead. With Lexi Bender serving her second penalty of the game, Alex Carpenter scored a shorthanded goal at the 3:52 mark. Carpenter would continue by assisting on the third B.C. score of the night. Emily Field would bury the puck past Sperry at 8:15 for a 3-0 lead.
Two minutes and twenty-eight seconds later, Carpenter logged her fourth score of the season with freshman Haley Skarupa earning the assist.
After the 4-0 lead, B.C. made some mistakes and were penalized twice. Less than 30 seconds after Carpetner’s goal, Blake Bolden was called for hitting after the whistle. The 13:22 mark saw Louise Warren called for tripping.
The power play for BU was ineffective as they were unable to score on Megan Miller. With less than three minutes in the second stanza, freshman Sarah Lefort assisted on BU’s first score of the evening. Canadian national team member Marie-Philip Poulin extended her point scoring streak to nine games as the period ended 4-1 in favor of B.C.
The 1:06 mark of the third saw BU’s Jenelle Kohanchuk called for hooking. Alex Carpetner capitalized on the power play to put B.C. ahead by a 5-1 mark with only three seconds remaining on said power play.
Three minutes and thirty-four seconds later, Carpenter contributed her fifth point as she (along with Blake Bolden) assisted on Meghan Grieves second marker of the season. At the 12:33 mark, B.C. extended its already insurmountable lead to a 7-1 tally as Kristina Brown scored on an overwhelmed Sperry. With the goal, Alissa Fromkin relieved Sperry between the pipes for BU.
Alex Carptener was named first star of the game, while the second star was Bolden. Megan Miller, who earned her first win of the season, was named the third. Miller stopped 32 shots as B.C. went 2-for-5 on the power play. Marie-Philip Poulin of BU would finish the month of October leading all Hockey East skaters in assists with 12, and points with 16.

Open letter to the AHL: give women’s players a chance when the lockout ends

While the theme of the 2012-13 AHL season is to help provide young superstars like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Cody Hodgson, Jake Gardiner and Sean Couturier an opportunity to mature and develop their skills, what shall the league do once Lockout 3.0 comes to an end? While said lockout has created an opportunity for the AHL franchises and their fans to benefit from this sudden embarrassment of riches, there is another drawing card that warrants serious consideration.

As the AHL has always served as a buffer to experiment with rules changes and other ideas that the big league ponders, perhaps it is time for the AHL to be proactive on another front. It may be considered revolutionary yet ground breaking; what if the league were to have one female ice hockey player on every roster? With Manon Rheaume recently celebrating the 20th Anniversary of breaking the NHL’s gender barrier, now would be the most opportune time to pay tribute to that remarkable event by pushing the boundaries of hockey like they have never been before.

Several years ago, a television network in Quebec had a reality show based on hockey. The premise was that two teams (one representing Montreal and the other Quebec City) would compete against each other in a series of contests. In paying tribute to the classic Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques rivalry, the key difference was that each team had at least one woman on their roster.

Former Connecticut Huskies legend and Clarkson Cup champion Dominique Thibault played forward for Team Quebec. Jenny Lavigne, a police officer and teammate of Thibault in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League stood between the pipes for Team Montreal. Of note, the matches were full contact hockey and Thibault was not immune to being on the receiving end of physical play (just like Angela Ruggiero endured in her one game with the Tulsa Oilers).

There is no question that many women today are more than good enough to play on the same ice as their male counterparts. Gillian Apps (whose father and grandfather both played in the NHL) would be perfect as a player for the Toronto Marlies. She could wear the number 10 like her grandfather did when he led the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup many generations ago.

The hockey hotbed of Montreal features several female residents that could be productive members of the Canadiens farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs. Jesse Scanzano is a 6 foot tall power forward and a member of the NCAA 200 point club that. In addition, Caroline Ouellette, one of the greatest women’s hockey players in modern history is another Montreal resident that could hold her own with the Bulldogs.

Of course, there are a plethora of goaltenders that could easily add a new dimension to the way the game is contested at the AHL level. Noora Raty, the greatest goaltender in the history of the Minnesota Golden Gophers would be a suitable member for the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate. Jessie Vetter, the Babe Ruth of NCAA women’s hockey set so many remarkable records with the Wisconsin Badgers that she would be an ideal choice to guard the Milwaukee Admirals net.

Shannon Szabados has all the tools to be the next Manon Rheuame. She has played with men’s teams in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Western Hockey League, and with Grant McEwan College. In 2010, many in the Edmonton media believed Szabados should have been used by the Oilers when the struggling franchise required an emergency goaltender. Szabados has the poise and endurance to stand between the pipes for the Oklahoma City Barons.

While fans may argue that it may take a man’s job away, the same concerns existed when European players joined the National Hockey League. Canadians still comprise the majority of NHL players, and men would still be the overwhelming majority in the AHL. In today’s world of sport (like all other areas of business), a key component of survival is innovate or fall behind. Women’s ice hockey players would draw remarkable media interest, while bringing new female fans to the gate. Even if the league were to do this for one season and fail miserably, the newfound respect and admiration that the AHL would gain from so many would put the league in a better position than it ever had.