With the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames having provided assistance to the CWHL, it was only fitting that the both franchises entered the season with a new outlook. While Calgary has undergone a complete and total makeover, the new look signifies what should be a new era of hockey.
For a team that is looking to return to the Clarkson Cup finals for the first time since 2011, the support of the Maple Leafs shows that the team has a future. Despite the absence of Natalie Spooner, Rebecca Johnston, Jennifer Wakefield and captain Tessa Bonhomme at Canada’s Centralization Camp (in anticipation of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games), the new logo sets the tone for the new faces and new hope arriving for the blue and white.
Selecting Katie Wilson second overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft should inject a winning attitude for the blue and white as she comes into training camp with an NCAA Frozen Four title. In addition, Wilson already helped make CWHL history. With her Minnesota-Duluth teammate Jessica Wong selected first overall by Calgary, it marks the first team that two NCAA teammates went first and second in the CWHL Draft.
Although players like Spooner and Wakefield are impossible to replace, there are some other worthwhile picks that should help ease their loss. Holly-Carrie Mattimoe was consistently a top scorer with the Syracuse Orange program.
Defender Sasha Nanji becomes the first person of East Indian heritage selected in CWHL Draft history. Her ability on the offensive side of the game should also help ease the loss of Bonhomme. Jessica Vella, who played at the NCAA level with the Providence Friars was the first player to declare for the CWHL Draft.
Another Furies draft pick with a unique backgrounds helps to define the spirit of the new-look Furies. Alyssa Baldin was the only CWHL Draft pick that had played at both the CIS and NCAA level. After the Wayne State Warriors program folded, she returned to Canada and finished her career with the Windsor Lancers.
Across the country, the Calgary Inferno are also looking to begin a bold new era. Their first two seasons in existence resulted in last place finished. Donning beautiful blue and gold jerseys, they were simply known as the Alberta Hockey Club.
While the blue and gold had shown great signs of improvement in their second season, the franchise wanted to make a bold statement. With the possibility of parity becoming the theme of the 2013-14 CWHL season, an ambitious Alberta franchise needed to build some momentum.
The first piece of the puzzle came with the selection of Jessica Wong as the top pick in the 2013 CWHL Draft. Although her career shall be eternally defined for having scored the most famous in NCAA Frozen Four history, a triple overtime tally against Cornell’s Amanda Mazzotta, there is much more depth.
A coachable player who served as team captain with the UMD Bulldogs, she brings great versatility. Having competed at both forward and defense, she will prove to be a great asset for a franchise facing the loss of its top three defenders to Canada’s centralization camp.
She will be joined by several other new faces that are hoping to bring the franchise its first berth in the Clarkson Cup playoffs. Goaltender Delayne Brian helped Canada win the gold medal at the World Ball Hockey Championships in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
One of her teammates on the Canadian contingent, Jessica O’Grady is also a new member of the team. Having played her university hockey with the Carleton Ravens, O’Grady once scored three goals in a shootout. Fans are hoping she can provide that impressive scoring punch at the CWHL level.
Defender Peggy Wakeham, the only Newfoundlander selected in the draft comes to the squad with unique credentials. She played for current coach Tim Bothwell when he was bench boss with the NCAA’s Vermont Catamounts. Familiar with his coaching style, she should be an anchor for a defense that is quickly emerging as the finest in the league.
Of note, some toughness was also part of the equation in the draft plan. A pair of women’s football players from the Western Women’s Canadian Football League was nabbed in the draft. Georgia Moore, a competitor with the Okotoks Lady Outlawz and Julie Paetsch, a three-time WWCFL champ with the Saskatoon Valkyries are looking to extend their hockey careers in the CWHL.
There is also an added intrigue to both players. Moore was born in Australia, making her the first Aussie ever selected in the CWHL Draft. Paetsch and fellow draft pick Julie Stone played together with the Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team. With CWHL veteran Chelsea Purcell a Huskies alumnae, it should provide remarkable chemistry for the budding franchise.
The coming out party for the franchise came on September 23, 2013. Prior to the Calgary Flames vs. New York Rangers exhibition tilt, defenders and franchise players Kelsey Webster, Meaghan Mikkelson, Jocelyne Larocque and Tara Watchorn came to center ice for the ceremonial face–off.
Although these four remarkable players are highly deserving of the big league recognition, their jerseys were the star of this event. Donning the brand new Calgary Inferno jerseys, one could see the pride bursting from the players faces.
Paying homage to the Calgary Flames, the Inferno adopted their red, white, yellow and black colors for the new jersey along with their unique striping pattern. With other teammates in attendance, the brand new uniforms provide an injection of confidence and a significant boost to the morale of this third year franchise.
While both franchises are looking to be in the upper echelon of the league like Boston and Montreal in recent years, the offseason has displayed that the right steps are being taken. Under strong leadership, a winning and exciting era for women’s hockey in both cities should reach its golden age very soon.