Thursday, 25 September 2014

Mallory Deluce soars into the skies for her second career

While the obligations of the real world place many women’s hockey players into a difficult crossroads, Mallory Deluce has engaged in a labor of love. Although her playing career saw her reach great heights with gold medals for Team Ontario and the Under-22 Canadian Team, an NCAA Frozen Four title, complemented by a stint with the Toronto Furies, Deluce is reaching even bigger heights as an airlines pilot.

Many women’s hockey players have the game in her blood, with previous generations having played. In Deluce’s case, it was flying that was in her blood as her father and brother both work as commercial pilots. Currently a First Officer of the Air Georgian team, which flies routes for Air Canada, she is also a spokesperson for Air Georgian’s Cadets Program.

In between winning the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four and being selected by the Toronto Furies in the second-ever CWHL Draft, Deluce earned her private license at the St. Thomas Flight Centre in southwestern Ontario. For her instrument ratings, she went to the Professional Flight Centre at Boundary Bay near Vancouver. Of note, she lived at the Centre with over a dozen students from throughout Canada.


While Deluce, who led the Furies in scoring during her rookie season, now competes in pick-up games rather than competitive hockey, she is still in touch with some of her earliest hockey roots. The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association has established a partnership with Air Georgian. Providing players from intermediate AA with viable career choices, services include interview opportunities. Interested players would begin with the piloting Cadet program, following in Deluce’s accomplished footsteps. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Cardboard Immortality: A visual history of women’s hockey cards (Aftermath of Sochi)

Leading in to the Sochi Winter Games, just one trading card set featured women’s hockey players (the Topps US Olympic and Paralympic Set). The set had cards of Hilary Knight and the Lamoureux Twins, marking a disappointment for women’s hockey card collectors who were expecting a wider selection. In a hobby where there are very few trading cards of female athletes of any sport available (except Topps’ Allen and Ginter Sets), the aftermath of Sochi breathed new life into the hobby.


The 2014 Crown Royale hockey card set featured five women’s hockey players in its Fans of the Game insert set. Of note, the players in the set included Tessa Bonhomme, Jennifer Botterill, Meghan Duggan, Julie Chu and Meghan Agosta. Unfortunately, each card had a limited print run of 99 per card, making it a very difficult pull for collectors. While each card was autographed, they were difficult to find in the secondary market. Taking into account that the Meghan Duggan card marked the first time that she was given the trading card treatment, the rarity makes it difficult for any of her friends and family to obtain one.

As the insert set was a Fans of the Game theme, each card had an NHL logo in the background, signifying the favorite team of the women’s hockey player. Bonhomme, who recently joined TSN as a member of its SportsCentre broadcast team, had the Maple Leafs logo on her card. As a side note, she once worked for Leafs TV as an on-air personality. The NHL logo on Botterill’s card was the Pittsburgh Penguins, where her brother works as an assistant general manager.

The Boston Bruins logo was displayed on Duggan’s card, who also served as Team USA’s captain at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, while her long-time teammate on the US squad, Julie Chu, a three-time Clarkson Cup champion, had the New York Rangers logo on her card. Having grown up in Windsor, Agosta was a Detroit Red Wings fan and that was the appropriate logo that adorned her card.


As September marks the release of some of the earliest hockey card issues for the upcoming winter, Upper Deck made a bold statement with its 2014-15 Team Canada Juniors set. Upper Deck, which has an exclusive licensing agreement with Hockey Canada, ensured that women’s hockey cards were part of the offering.

After the disappointment of the 2013-14 Team Canada set, which featured only men’s players, this year’s set makes up for it with an incredible assortment of women’s players. Every member of the roster that claimed the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games is featured in the set.




In addition, several players from last year’s Canadian Centralization Camp, such as Courtney Birchard, Bailey Bram and Tessa Bonhomme are included. Having retired after the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Sarah Vaillancourt is also part of the set.

Sadly, Centralization participants Vicki Bendus, Jenelle Kohanchuk and Brigette Lacquette were not given the trading card treatment. While no statement has been released by Upper Deck, it is disappointing as 11 women’s players have two cards in the Juniors set, one in the Base Set and one among Short Prints (please see checklist below).

Despite the omission, this is the most in-depth offering from Upper Deck with regards to women’s hockey cards. Past Upper Deck issues included the 1997-98 Collectors Choice set, 2009-10 O-Pee-Chee hockey and the 2011 edition of World of Sports, which featured the first-ever cards of competitors from Canada’s Under-18 national women’s team.



In addition to the cards from the Juniors base set along with the short prints, there are also variants for the hardcore collectors. A gold offering (which features the Upper Deck logo and the lettering in gold foil) is complemented by two variants with numbering. A red-foil variant of every base card is numbered out of 99, while a high gloss variant is numbered out of 10.



Having been the first company to introduce randomly inserted autograph cards and game jersey cards (which are hockey cards with a swatch of a jersey attached to said card), Upper Deck continues that tradition in this set. There are even printing plates in the set, numbered 1 of 1, making it an extremely rare find. Of note, some plates have shown up online and are selling for $40. While it would be physically impossible to obtain at least one of every insert, it certainly adds to the collectibility.




An added bonus is the fact that this set marks the first time that several women’s players have been featured on hockey cards, hence, adding to their collectability as they are what collectors identify as rookie cards. Of note, the rookie cards in this set include Courtney Birchard, Bailey Bram, Laura Fortino, Genevieve Lacasse, the first rookie backstop to win the Clarkson Cup, Jocelyne Larocque, Natalie Spooner, who recently competed in the second season of Amazing Race Canada, Jennifer Wakefield, who will compete in Sweden this year, and Tara Watchorn.

The last time such an in-depth offering featured women’s hockey cards was back in 2008, when Canadian-based company In the Game released its O Canada set, which featured most of the Canadian roster from the 2007 IIHF Women’s Worlds. Just like the Upper Deck Juniors set, there were randomly inserted autograph cards along with jersey cards, which are still popular today among collectors.

Checklist: Women’s Cards from 2014-15 Upper Deck Team Canada Juniors

Base Set  

Card #
Player
Card #
Player
63
Hayley Wickenheiser
64
Courtney Birchard
65
Tessa Bonhomme
66
Bailey Bram
67
Sarah Vaillancourt
68
Meghan Agosta-Marciano
69
Gillian Apps
70
Melodie Daoust
71
Laura Fortino
72
Jayna Hefford
73
Hayley Wickenheiser
74
Hayley Wickenheiser
75
Rebecca Johnston
76
Charline Labonte
77
Genevieve Lacasse
78
Jocelyne Larocque
79
Meaghan Mikkelson
80
Caroline Ouellette
81
Marie-Philip Poulin
82
Lauriane Rougeau
83
Natalie Spooner
84
Shannon Szabados
85
Jennifer Wakefield
86
Catherine Ward
87
Tara Watchorn



Short Prints

Card #
Player
Card #
Player
140
Brianne Jenner
141
Charline Labonte
142
Caroline Ouellette
143
Catherine Ward
144
Hayley Wickenheiser
145
Jayna Hefford
146
Gillian Apps
147
Meghan Agosta-Marciano
148
Natalie Spooner
149
Rebecca Johnston
150
Shannon Szabados




Friday, 19 September 2014

New Brunswick provides Spooner and Mikkelson with seventh victory in Amazing Race Canada

Fair play paid positive dividends for Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson in the semi-finals (11th leg overall) of The Amazing Race Canada. Having left Peake’s Wharf in Charlottetown at 4:32 am, the hockey heroines were among four times that had to drive over the Confederation Bridge towards New Brunswick.
Upon reaching one of Canada’s first four original provinces, the drive continued for another 140 kilometres to Shediac, known throughout Atlantic Canada as “the lobster capital of the world.” As a side note, this marked the first time that the program ever held a leg in New Brunswick.

While the brother/sister team arrived at Shediac first, they were lost en route to their destination, leaving the door open for Spooner and Mikkelson to be the first team to arrive. The first challenge in the race may have also been the easiest of the entire race. Arriving at an Acadian birthday party at a local Dairy Queen (of note, the fast food giant is also a sponsor of the program), the racers had to make tasty Blizzard treats and decorate ice cream cakes. Of note, all the competitors seemed to enjoy turning the Blizzard upside down as there were no mistakes whatsoever.

Once again, Spooner and Mikkelson finished the challenge first. Headed towards the Albert County Museum, the hockey heroines found their next clue, but it would prove to be their most difficult challenge yet.

As the Detour was at the Hopewell Rocks, teams had to choose between the “By Land” option or the “By Sea”. Every team opted for “By Sea”, quickly eradicating any time advantages that teams may have had upon their arrival. Instead of opting for “By Land”, where teams to use GPS devices to find hidden treasures, the “By Sea” choice involved all teams learning the tradition of International Sea Flags.

In the middle of a stressful detour, Spooner and Mikkelson kept taking down the sea flags and repositioning them in the hopes of advancing. During their undertaking, the brother/sister team approached them.

With the tenth leg of the race becoming a two-team race to the Pit Stop, tensions rose between the two teams. The siblings pulled over for directions towards the pit stop and noticed the hockey heroines driving by. They tried to point the hockey heroines in the wrong direction. Frustrations would come to a boil at the pit stop as the siblings managed to come out ahead, prompting to Mikkelson to express her frustration, feeling that they played dirty.

Despite the chance to issue some payback, Spooner and Mikkelson maintained their composure during the Detour. As the siblings misplaced their copy of the clue, they asked the other teams for a look. Mikkelson would show them her copy of the clue as she stated that she wanted the race to be fair. Although she would say in the video confessional that she felt like she may have given away half a million dollars, the gesture of decency would not go unnoticed.

Although the hockey heroines thought about switching Detours for the first time in the race, they realized the error of their ways. Seeing that a flag hung on the rope was incorrect (as it looked so similar to the correct flag), they would quickly get back into the race, still holding on to first place.

From there, Spooner would engage in the race’s obligatory roadblock. Participating in a steep rock cliff at Camp Enrage, Spooner not only had to glide down a rope, she had to look for an Amazing Race card hanging off one of the rocks, near some brush. Upon reaching the ground, Spooner had to go to another end of the cliff and climb her way back.

Showing why she is a world class athlete, Spooner applied due diligence and treaded carefully. Although there seemed to be an element of fatigue as she was climbing up the cliff, there was no sign of quit. Despite another team quickly following behind, Spooner would reach the summit first. With Mikkelson, the two would head to a zip line tower and zip down towards a lighthouse where the Pit Stop awaited.

Winning their seventh leg in the race, Spooner and Mikkelson earned $5,000 on their ScotiaBank gold card. In addition, they won a trip anywhere that Air Canada flies in the United States. With a spot in the finals reserved, the hockey heroines have a chance to become the first women to win The Amazing Race Canada.


Photo credits: Mark O’Neill, Bell Media and http://www.ctv.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada.aspx#tab=all

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Amber Bowman maintains gold standard at Canadian firefighting championships

With the goal of becoming the first female competitor in the Firefit Nationals to break the two-minute barrier, Amber Bowman’s determination and perseverance is an inspiration to all who compete. At the 2014 Firefit Nationals, Bowman extended her sparkling legacy with another overall title.

Having played hockey at the NCAA level with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Bowman would also play professionally in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with the Brampton Thunder, Burlington Barracudas and the Toronto Furies. As a side note, former Furies teammate Amanda Shaw is a firefighter in Hamilton.



In the middle of the jubilation of winning her third national title, Bowman encountered desolation as she was viscerally close to breaking that elusive two-minute barrier. Of note, she would share her experience on social media, describing how close she was to achieving her long-time goal.

During preparations, Bowman found herself across the finish line with a time of 1:58. Sadly, the dummy’s feet were still on the finish line. It was a sign of encouragement, building Bowman’s confidence heading into the nationals.

With only 15 feet to go, she was on pace to break the two-minute barrier with a record time of 1:56. Along the way, she would have to re-grip and pick up the dummy again. In that time frame, precious seconds can feel like a lifetime.  

Despite the fact that Bowman could not top her personal best, there were so many small victories along the way, culminating in a win that may be one of the most cherished. Acknowledging the support of Oakville, Hamilton and Barrie fire for letting her train at their facilities, it resulted in very long travel days.

This was compounded by many weekends sacrificed for competition, a new nutrition plan, coping with injuries and the loss of a dear friend. Finding the emotional strength and character to excel under such circumstances is testament to what makes Bowman a champion. While Bowman would be quick to acknowledge the support of her Fit by Fire clients and the sponsorship of Duivenvoorden Haulage, her motivation is what make such support worthwhile.


Employing the motto, “Dream It, Believe It, Achieve It,” the desire and self-discipline that Bowman possesses is what separates a challenger from a champion. Bowman’s dominance is nothing short of a modern-day Canadian sporting dynasty. With the World Championships in six weeks, Bowman is ready to add to her remarkable legacy. Even if the World Championships finds Bowman not breaking that elusive two-minute barrier, she is already a champion in the hearts and minds of her fans. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

IIHF World Championships comes to British Columbia for first time in 2016

As Canada gets the honor of hosting the IIHF Women’s World Championships in 2016, the venue shall shift to the Pacific coast for the first time in Canadian hockey history. Kamloops, British Columbia shall be the host city for the event as Canada looks to avenge its gold medal game loss from 2013 (the last time that Canada hosted the event).

Coincidentally, Kamloops had placed a bid to host the event in 2013, but lost out to Ottawa, Ontario’s bid. The six previous times that Canada hosted the IIHF Women’s Worlds, the province of Ontario hosted four times (1990, 1997, 2000, 2013). Interior Savings Centre and McArthur Island Sports and Event Centre shall host a total of 22 games during the event in 2016. 

Of note, the city of Kamloops does hold a connection to Hockey Canada’s newly appointed president and CEO, Tom Renney. Having once coached there, he led the Kamloops Blazers to the Memorial Cup in 1992. Kamloops becomes the second city in Western Canada to host the IIHF Worlds. The first occurred in 2007 when Winnipeg, Manitoba hosted the event, which ended in a gold medal triumph for Canada.

In the last few years, the province has begun to develop elite talent. One of Western Canada’s finest hockey academies, the Pursuit of Excellence is based in British Columbia. The Okanagan Hockey Academy, which featured 2010 Olympic gold medalist Gina Kingsbury as an assistant coach for several seasons, is also well-renowned.

A product of Okanagan Hockey Academy is Saanichton, BC’s Micah Hart, who was named captain of Canada’s Under-18 team in July 2014. Other home grown talent includes the likes of Brielle Bellerive, Alyssa Erickson and Hannah Miller, all teammates of Hart with Okanagan. Among the home grown stars competing at the Pursuit of Excellence include future NCAA stars such as Sarah Potomak and Lauren Spring. As a side note, Hart, Potomak and Spring were part of Canada’s gold medal winning roster at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds.

Heading into 2016, there will likely be some new faces on Canada’s roster, earning a chance to prove themselves. For Kamloops fans, the chance of homegrown talent such as Hart or Potomak or Spring donning the Canadian jersey would certainly be a feel-good story. In years past, there has not been a player from BC on the senior team, although it may change soon.

Kamloops shall have an opportunity to gain further relevance on the women’s hockey map as it hosts the Four Nations Cup in November 2014. The competing teams shall include Canada, the United States, Finland and Sweden.

With the event looming soon, it is possible that Charline Labonte may retire from Canada’s national team. Past interviews have seen her hint that Sochi may have been her swan song. It would certainly be a source of great excitement for Kamloops fans if Kimberly Newell was part of Canada’s roster for the event. Hailing from Vancouver, Newell is currently a starting goaltender with the Princeton Tigers.


Sandwiched in between Kamloops’ hosting of the Four Nations Cup and the 2016 IIHF Women’s Worlds shall find Europe hosting elite women’s hockey. Prior to 2016, the city of Malmo, Sweden shall serve as the host city for the 2015 edition of the IIHF Women’s Worlds. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Taylor Crosby to stand between the pipes for the Northeastern Huskies

Carrying on in the tradition of elite goaltenders at Northeastern, Taylor Crosby joins the program in the autumn of 2014. Starting with Chanda Gunn, who would play for the United States national team, other prominent goaltenders included Leah Sulyma (who once made 100 saves at the Canada Winter Games), Florence Schelling, who earned a bronze medal at Sochi 2014, and current backstop Chloe Desjardins.

The younger sister of Sid “The Kid” Crosby, she is doing more than following in his footsteps. Of note, her father, Troy was a goaltender drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1984. Eight years younger than her brother, she began playing at the age of 10, while her brother was competing with the Rimouski Oceanic. Coincidentally, future Clarkson Cup champion goaltender Jenny Lavigne attended the Oceanic training camp.

Despite the age difference, Sidney would shoot pucks at her while she was 14. Prior to Northeastern, she would compete at the prep school level at Shattuck St. Mary’s, where her brother led the school to a national title in 2003. As a side note, elite women’s hockey talent such as Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel and the Lamoureux Twins once played at Shattuck as well. Crosby’s teammate, Brooke Boquist, shall suit up for Hockey East rival Providence College.

Last summer, Crosby was invited to the Hockey Canada National Women’s Program U18 goaltending camp. She was joined by the likes of Kassidy Sauve and Shea Tiley, who would help Canada win a gold medal at the 2014 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds. As a side note, Tiley committed to the defending Frozen Four champion Clarkson Golden Knights.

Other goalies at the camp included Hannah Baker, Amelia Boughn, Marlene Boissonnault, Alysia DaSilva and Julia VanDyk. Their paths may likely cross with Crosby in future NCAA play. Crosby’s participation at the camp was complemented by an opportunity to participate in the prestigious IIHF U18 High Performance Camp, held in Sheffield, England.

This season at Northeastern, she will likely occupy a backup role to Chloe Desjardins, as she transitions to NCAA hockey. Of note, Desjardins spent her freshman season apprenticing behind Florence Schelling. Having logged 40 wins over the last two seasons, Desjardins is a capable mentor for Crosby.

Later in September, the Huskies shall compete in an exhibition game against the CWHL’s Montreal Stars, the team that Lavigne led to a Clarkson Cup in 2012. As a side note, Crosby’s mom, Trina, was a member of the CWHL’s Board of Directors for the 2013-14 campaign.

If Crosby were to make her Huskies debut against a team from Montreal, the NHL city that drafted his father, along with its women’s hockey legacy, it would bring her young and promising career full circle. Another possibility to consider is one that was brought up by Al Daniel in his column. Marie-Philip Poulin, dubbed the female Sidney Crosby, logged the gold medal winning goals in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games. In addition, Sidney scored the gold medal winning goal for the men’s team in 2010.

Of note, Poulin competes for the Boston University Terriers, one of the Huskies conference rivals. The chance for the two to play against each other would make for a unique chapter in modern women’s hockey history.

Besides the chance to play Poulin, the Hockey East conference (which includes four Boston-based teams) will offer Crosby some formidable goaltending foes. Emerance Maschmeyer, another product of Hockey Canada’s Under-18 national team stands between the pipes for Harvard.

Fellow Shattuck alum, Mia Becker is entering her sophomore season with Boston University. Freshman Erin O’Neil, the winner of Minnesota’s Let’s Play Hockey award, will solidify BU’s goaltending. A pair of freshman goaltenders, Katie Burt and Gabriela Switaj, comprises the future for Boston College. Such talent ensures that the future of Hockey East play remains great.


Taking into account that Northeastern has claimed regular season conference titles and Beanpot championships; a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament has eluded them. As Crosby hopes to emulate her brother’s championship ways, such ambitions may prove to be a winning partnership with Northeastern.

Clarkson Cup champion Toronto Furies show support in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Having won the Clarkson Cup for the first time in franchise history, it has only increased the importance of the role of the Toronto Furies as outstanding hockey humanitarians. From participating in the Furious Hockey Tournament (hosted by Deirdre Norman) to the Toronto Pride Parade, the Furies have proven to be remarkable ambassadors for women’s hockey in Canada’s largest metropolis.

Once news spread about the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge, it did not take long for videos to appear on social media featuring numerous Furies players proudly participating. Having become a pop culture phenomenon during the summer of 2014, the objective is to promote awareness of the disease while raising proceeds towards research. While the origins are unclear (Sports Illustrated acknowledged former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates as the one who helped make it popular), the on-air personalities from Golf Channel’s Morning Drive participated in a live challenge in late June 2014, providing the first significant mainstream media attention.

Among the Furies players that would partake, the three newest members of the Triple Gold Club for Women (players that have won Olympic gold, IIHF World gold and the Clarkson Cup) led the way. Tessa Bonhomme, Sami Jo Small and Natalie Spooner all earned Gold Club status with their 2014 Clarkson Cup win. Renowned for their charitable work, all three posted videos of their ice bucket challenge participation throughout social media, receiving praise from fans.

Not only would Furies fans emulate their heroes, but it would provide an inspiring message south of the border. Devoted Furies fan Ed Goodman would post an ice bucket challenge video on social media. Based out of Ohio, he saw future Furies such as Bonhomme, Spooner, Amber Bowman and Erika Vanderveer compete for the Ohio State Buckeyes program.

Bonhomme’s video may have been the most visually striking based on the fact that the world-renowned CN Tower was in the background. A backyard soaking featured Spooner while Small took part in the ice bucket challenge with a handful of other participants. As a side note, Carolyne Prevost, who would earn an assist on the Cup-winning goal, also participated in the challenge with a group. Said group involved the members of the Cross Fit gym that she trains with.

Afterwards, Small went to social media and nominated Furies coach (and 2014 CWHL Coach of the Year recipient) Sommer West, along with league commissioner Brenda Andress. Nominations are a common aspect of the challenge, as nominees are expected to participate within 24 hours or make a donation. Of note, the commissioner would show great leadership by participating in the challenge, as her grandson stood atop a playground with ice bucket eagerly waiting to pour.

Three members of the Furies rookie crop emulated the veterans on the team by posting their own videos. The trio included Holly Carrie-Mattimoe (who once competed with the Syracuse Orange), Jess Vella (the first player to register for the 2013 CWHL Draft) and Lisa Mullan. Of note, Vella’s video was shot in scenic cottage country, standing on a dock under the bright sun. After the shower of ice and water, she would impressively do a back flip into the lake.

A pair of veterans, Lexie Hoffmeyer and Christina Kessler also posted a video. Standing on a balcony together, the two continued what has become a proud off-season effort from the blue and white. Kessler, who earned a shutout in the Clarkson Cup win (who was also the first CWHL goaltender to earn a shutout in an NHL arena), would get soaked for a good cause while Hoffmeyer held the camera.


Of all the ice bucket challenge videos, the funniest may have belonged to Kori Cheverie. Also giving back to the women’s hockey community in Toronto with her participation at Ryerson University (who play their home games at Maple Leaf Gardens), Cheverie approaches centre ice, sitting in a chair, while a group of youngsters watches on. After a group of individuals soak Cheverie, warm cheers follow. It is all part of the Furies providing inspiration while continuing to set a positive example in the sporting community.  

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ninth leg in Amazing Race Canada sees Spooner and Mikkelson off to Montreal

The ninth leg of the second season of Amazing Race Canada found Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson returning to Canada along with the remaining competitors. After sweeping the pair of race legs in France, the hockey heroines were looking for a seventh victory.

A strong start provided the impression that it was possible. The Roadblock challenge found the teams getting behind the wheel at the International Centre of Advanced Racing. Dressed in racing gear, Mikkelson would engage in a series of high-speed turns.

Looking very confident behind the wheel, Spooner could not help but compare Mikkelson to female racing superstar Danica Patrick. A quarter drift and a reverse 180 comprised the turns for the Precision Driving challenge with Mikkelson finishing first.

Reaching the landmark Atwater Market ahead of the remaining competitors, Spooner and Mikkelson contemplated the Fast Forward. With Mikkelson acknowledging that such a challenge involves high risk in exchange for high reward, the duo was wise to avoid it. The Fast Forward involved competitors participating in a life drawing class.

With the Detour offering the change to participate in “Flamed” (attempting glass beading) or “Grilled”, naming the distinct cheeses utilitzed in 10 grilled cheese sandwiches, the hockey heroines opted for “Grilled”. Unfortunately, it would prove to be a taxing and difficult challenge.

Bickering over how to taste the cheese and the method to name the cheeses, Mikkelson seemed uneasy. Admitting that the grease of the sandwiches took its toll, Mikkelson wanted to stop tasting the cheese. After ten attempts which yielded a negative result, Spooner and Mikkelson asked one of the other teams to work with them, facing rejection. That same group would boast that if eating grilled cheese sandwiches was an Olympic sport, they would be Olympians. Obviously, an element of jealousy emanates from this team. 

As a side note, one group failed after 32 attempts, opting for the glass beading challenge. No one could have foreseen that the grilled cheese challenge could have presented so many impdeiments. While Spooner and Mikkelson managed to succeed in the “Grilled” challenge, the problem was that the ninth leg of the race had already been won. Two groups actually engaged in the Fast Forward, with one of them successfully completing the challenge, and reaching the Pit Stop first.

The group that actually refused to assist Spooner and Mikkelson finished in second, just a few seconds ahead of them. While the third place finish represents another podium finish, they showed grace and class, happy that they are in the running for another leg of the race.