While the actuality of goalie as team captain is rare, it is an honour that is deserving heading into the Toronto Furies 2013-14 season. Team founder (and CWHL co-founder) merits the opportunity to be part of league history by becoming the first goaltender selected as a team captain.
Although her greatest quality may be her humility, the truth is that there is no one more deserving in the league to be considered a team captain. One of the most hardworking and dedicated women in sport today, Small has possibly carved a greater legacy as a builder of the game than she did as a player.
As Furies team captain Tessa Bonhomme is bypassing the 2013-14 season for another opportunity to compete at the Winter Games, the blue and white are in need of a new leader. While players such as Megan Aarts, Martine Garland, Lexie Hoffmeyer and Amanda Shaw are all deserving candidates, Small has had such a mark on the game that the captaincy would be the ultimate mark of gratitude.
Over the past few seasons, Roberto Luongo was named captain of the Vancouver Canucks. Genevieve Lacasse, the first rookie to win a Clarkson Cup, was captain of the Providence Friars. There are some instances in which a goaltender is such an integral part of a team’s culture that it is the most logical selection.
Small has worked tirelessly in an off-ice capacity to ensure that the league has a future. The sponsorship of two NHL clubs, the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs were partly attributed through her efforts. Complemented by her charitable work and contributions at various hockey events (especially as an instructor), she was a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. Well-spoken, articulate and university educated, she is more than just a hockey player and business woman, but a role model to an entire generation of girls that wanted to play hockey and follow their dreams.
To understand Small’s dedication to the CWHL, all one needs to do is consider that at one point, the league headquarters were in the basement of her residence. This is reminiscent of former National Football League commissioner Bert Bell. When he ruled the NFL, the league was headquartered out of his Philadelphia home.
While one could argue that as Small occupies a backup capacity to Christina Kessler, it would be difficult to get off the bench and discuss certain calls with referees, there is a feasible solution. The Furies could either have an alternate captain consult with referees or simply name a second captain.
On many hockey teams, it is not always the leading scorer or the most popular player that gets bestowed with the honour of donning the C on their sweater. Sometimes it is the player that helps set the tone in the locker room or someone that the others trust and consider a friend.
There is no question that Small is a tremendous asset to the CWHL. As one of only two founders still competing today (the other is Lisa-Marie Breton, a captain with Montreal), it would be the perfect footnote to a Hall of Fame worthy career.