Ice sledge hockey star Christina Picton part of AthletesCAN

Having first mounted the sled with the Niagara Thunderblades in 2004, Christina Picton has become one of Canada’s finest female competitors. In addition to building a remarkable sporting legacy, she has also built a legacy of leadership. Currently, she serves as captain of both the Thunderblades and the Canadian National Women’s Ice Sledge Hockey Team.

Although she was born with a deficiency that altered the growth of her legs, eventually resulting in the amputation of her lower right leg, Picton’s enthusiasm and high energy are a source of encouragement. Having recently graduated from Niagara College among the top of her class, Picton has ambitions to become a graphic designer.

With her attendance at the annual AthletesCAN Forum held in Mississauga, Ontario, it was a chance to extend her legacy and obtain insights that can make the national team stronger and encourage teammates to unleash their full potential. Of note, AthletesCAN is an association for Canadian national team athletes, allowing such talented and inspiring individuals the opportunity to gather outside of competition.

Representing the national team at the event, Picton did more than raise awareness that women play ice sledge hockey. Her presence proved to be a way to inspire others that disabled athletes are prominent members of the sporting community, able to make remarkable contributions if given the chance.

Surrounded by a remarkable group of Canadian female athletes such as Claire Carver, Perditia Felicien, Karina LeBlanc, Rosanna Tomiuk and Betty Trevino, it was an opportunity for Picton to gain perspective as to the triumphs and obstacles that other women in Canadian sport have experienced.

Bringing an eagerness to learn, the event proved to be highly rewarding for Picton. Topics of discussion included “Determining your Own Path to Leadership”, plus “Best practices in Athlete Representation models”. A presentation focusing on “Why Athlete Representation?” was also on the agenda.

Common ground among all the athletes on hand included funding, something Picton and her teammates are not immune to. While she juggles career with athletics, costs such as international travel, ice time and equipment could be eased with the assistance of sponsorship.

With women’s ice sledge hockey poised to be a demonstration sport at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, the next three years are essential to providing some much needed attention to the players and their admirable efforts. Taking into account that the Labbatt USA has become a sponsor for US ice sledge hockey in 2015-16, it should help raise awareness for the sport, hopefully providing the Canadian women’s team with a much needed sponsor. For now, the Canadian team has merchandise available on its website, while several players, including Picton have established pages on a fund raising site.

To support Picton’s athletic dreams, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/christinasledge

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Kathryn Clewley gets creative with inspiring performance in Canada Army Run

As one of the most heartwarming and inspiring events on Ottawa’s sporting calendar, the Canada Army Run features 25,000 proud participants. Showing their support for Canada’s military, the Run also raises money for the Military Families Fund and Solider On program. With Canadians running alongside veterans and current armed forces members, people from all walks of life and athletic backgrounds come together for a great cause.

One such individual also has proud roots to the Canadian national women’s soccer team. Taking into account that Ottawa was one of the host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup of Soccer, it was of great excitement to have former national team member Kathryn Clewley participate.

A former goalkeeper for the Canadian national women’s soccer team, the 36 year-old played for head coaches such as Neil Turnbull and Even Pellerud. Among her career highlights, she appeared in the 1999 Pan American Games, and also recorded a shutout in a contest against Costa Rica.

At this year’s Canada Army Run, Clewley made a memorable impression. Engaging in the rare feat of running backwards in the Army Run’s half marathon, it was an extension of her proud athletic legacy. Of note, she gained the idea after taking her four year-old Schnauzer on her daily run. Upon her pet slowing down, she turned around to safeguard but continued running, doing so in a backwards position.

Since hanging up her soccer shoes, Clewley has become active in the long distance running community. In 2009, she ranked among the top 600 Canadian women in 10K races. Finishing the 117th Boston Marathon on 15 April 2013, it represented a great milestone in her running career.

The chance to engage in her empowering backward half marathon in the Ottawa Army Run only adds to such momentum. Considering that her sister Rachel lives in the city, it was an appropriate location to attempt such a run. With Rachel as her running mate, her presence added to the magic of the effort.

Having built up her endurance by allowing for an extra 15 minutes during the run times of her weekend workouts, Clewley also told Sun Media that was prepared for the weird look she may get from observers. The only look that she deserved was one of admiration.

Although her goal was to become the first Canadian to finish a half marathon backwards in less than 2 hours, there was no feeling of loss on this day, as the humanitarian cause held far greater relevance than the race itself. At an event where racers were running to raise funds for charity and remember family members that may have been wounded or worse during their brave military service, Clewely had a special cause in her heart. Raising money for her area’s YMCA, where she is also employed in the capacity of program director.

Follow Clewley on twitter at: https://twitter.com/ultrafitkat

Jordanna Peroff the perfect acquisition for the Montreal Stars

As the Montreal Stars look to capture their first Clarkson Cup since 2012, a former star player with the McGill Martlets may be the final piece of the puzzle. With 12 players from the 2014-15 Stars roster not returning, Peroff brings two very valuable elements to the club.

In addition to having already won a Clarkson Cup championship (with the Toronto Furies in 2014), Peroff enjoyed a stellar university career with Montreal’s McGill Martlets. In five sensational seasons with the Martlets, Peroff participated in five Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship tournaments.

Although Peroff did not find her scoring stride with the Furies (traditionally, they have always been an offensively starved team, her positive attitude did not wane. Known as a social butterfly, Peroff tends to be a popular player and teammate wherever she plays.

Raised north of Toronto in Keswick, Ontario, a municipality in York Region, Peroff was part of several key events in Furies franchise history. Of note, she played with the club at Air Canada Centre in November 2013, which was the first CWHL regular season game played in an NHL arena.

In addition, she would help the club capture its first-ever Clarkson Cup, an emotional 1-0 overtime win against the Boston Blades. Adding to Peroff’s jubilation was the fact that the victory came in Markham, Ontario, also part of York Region, making the win feel like it was literally in her own back yard.

Making her CWHL debut on October 20, 2012, it resulted in a winning start as the Furies prevailed by a 4-3 tally against Brampton. Appearing in 20 games, she only logged two penalty minutes, showing strong discipline.

In the opening match of her second season (2013-14), a November 9 contest against the Calgary Inferno, Peroff logged her first career goal. Of note, it was a memorable goal providing her with a special milestone. Peroff would log the game-winning tally as the Furies prevailed by a 3-2 count against the visiting Inferno.

By season’s end, she would log assists in a pair of losses to Montreal (February 15) and Brampton (March 9). Ironically, the loss against Brampton represented the only game all season in which Peroff had a positive plus/minus rating (+2).

With only six penalty minutes in more than 40 career games played at the CWHL level, her remarkable discipline reflects a great style of play that should enable her the chance to make an impact with the Stars.
With the blue and white, Peroff’s role occupied more of a forechecking capacity, proving that preventing goals comprises a key role. Paying attention to such details is just as important as a teammate that may have scored a goal on the opposite end of the ice.

PeroffCup

Competing with the Stars, it is highly likely that Peroff shall establish new bench marks for most goals and points in one season during her CWHL career. Reunited with the likes of Martlet teammates such as Ann-Sophie Bettez (a BLG Award winner), former captain Cathy Chartrand, 2015 second round pick Katia Clement-Heydra and All-World goaltender Charline Labonte, there are strong feelings of familiarity and pride on this year’s edition of the Stars.

In Montreal hockey circles, it had only been one year earlier (2011), when Peroff solidified her legacy. Leading the Martlets to a victory over the highly talented St. Francis Xavier X-Women in the 2011 CIS national title game, Peroff assembled a solid two-point performance that set the tone for the remainder of the game. For her efforts, she was recognized as tournament MVP, a remarkable milestone in her fabled career.

Graduating with 139 career points with the Martlets, Peroff was also an alternate captain for three seasons. Her leadership followed later in her career. Having also dressed the shirt of Macedonian Suns in the Canadian Multicultural Hockey League, she acquired the 2013 MVP award.

Although Peroff was not part of CWHL play during the 2014-15, she was equally prominent. Competing with the Italian club, the Bolzano Eagles, she participated in Group G of the Euorpean Women’s Champions Cup. Playing alongside Chelsea Furlani during the season, Peroff logged a pair of assists in a 7-3 final on December 6 against the Espoo Blues.

PeroffBolzano

During the 2014-15 EWHL season, Peroff was one of seven Canadians competing in the league. She was joined by the likes of Alex Gowie (KHM Budapest), blueliner Regan Boulton (EHV Sabres Vienna) and Abygail Laking (DEC Salzburg Eagles). Of note, the Neuberg Highlanders featured the most Canadians of any European roster. Consisting of three players, including scoring champion Devon Skeats, forwards Shelby Ballendine and Paula Lagamba completed the Canadian trio.

With a very strong roster this season, Peroff may likely be a third line player with the Stars, but her talents give her the potential to be remarkably effective, giving the Stars solid depth. Possessing an impressive skill set, she also has the ability to occasionally shift to a second or first line, showing versatility. Possessing championship experience, Peroff not only knows what it takes to win a Clarkson Cup, her positive attitude and team first approach make her an ideal teammate.

Personal best provides Amber Bowman with memorable victory

Having already won four consecutive national championships in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, Amber Bowman is one of the competition’s shining stars. One of the most underrated stars in sports, Bowman is a highly deserving sporting icon worthy of a bigger audience.

Extending her remarkable legacy beyond national championships, Bowman has enjoyed multiple world championships, establishing herself as more than a legend, but a hero and role model as well. A competition in which fire fighters battle the clock in a series of simulated emergency situations, the demanding event is testament to the hard work and sacrifice required to take part in such an occupation.

Taking into account that fire fighting has traditionally been a male-dominated occupation, remarkable women such as Bowman are helping to break barriers. For young women in the communities of Aurora and Newmarket, where Bowman proudly serves, she may inspire them to take on such a career.

Bowman’s first foray into sport involved a memorable run as an ice hockey player with the Ohio State Buckeyes, where she also served as captain. In addition, Bowman also spent several seasons in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and won an OWHA Senior title with the Aurora Panthers. As a side note, former Burlington Barracudas teammate Amanda Shaw is another female hockey hero that has entered firefighting as a post-playing career.

Image obtained from: http://www.fitbyfire.com/

Image obtained from: http://www.fitbyfire.com/

Despite accomplishing so much, one goal had eluded Bowman. Entering the 2015 edition of the FireFit National Championships in Kitchener, Ontario, this would prove to be a key motivational factor for the member of Central York Firefighting Services. In the four years prior, Bowman had never broken the two minute barrier. During the 2014 season, she had mentioned it on social media as a target she was aiming for.

Although it was five years in the making, Bowman set a personal best and a new event (and world) record as the first female to
break the elusive two-minute barrier in the Firefighter Combat Challenge. The fans on-hand in Kitchener were witnessing history, observing the presence of a legend, whose record time will inspire future generations of female competitors to reach Bowman’s hallowed benchmark.

Setting the new gold standard with a time of 1:58, it stands as one of the finest sporting achievements of 2015. The element that made Bowman’s performance so much more heroic was the fact that she suffered from a concussion in May. Medically cleared in early August, her Amazonian-like commitment to training paid remarkable dividends. Finishing in second was Swift Current’s Karla Cairns, while North Vancouver’s Carla King Penman finished third. Of note, Bowman and Penman hold the world record for in the women’s tandem, set in 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Suddenly, five years of hard work, the culmination of sweat, tears and the remarkable endurance through pain vanished, as all that remained was glory and jubilation. Assembling one of the great female sporting dynasties in modern Canadian history, Bowman proudly proclaimed on social media, “Dream It, Believe It, ACHIEVED IT!”

‪#‎StrongHER‬

Diana Brown the jewel in the crown for Greater Toronto Area ball hockey

In a sterling playing career that lasted an astounding 22 years (1991-2013) on the ball hockey court, very few people have carved a legacy as spectacular as Diana Brown. An ambassador for the sport provincially (with the Ontario Ball Hockey Federation), nationally and internationally, her career has included roles as player, coach and league founder.

Having enjoyed the opportunity to compete in the national championships 15 times, including four different Toronto-based teams, she was also a pick-up player, a sign of respect in the ball hockey community. Twice she competed with Vanier United, an Ottawa-based club, along with a club from Edmonton.

Managing a podium finish on eight separate occasions, she would emerge with five gold medals. The recipient of the Sara Butterworth Award (2008), Brown gained entry into the CBHA Hall of Fame, gaining the honor in 2013. As a side note, she is among the first women to be inducted, part of an empowering group of women breaking new barriers, following the likes of Shirley Cameron, Carol Zaborski and Stéphane Arsenault.

Starting her career with the Toronto Dragons, she would have the privilege of calling Hockey Hall of Famers Angela James and Geraldine Heaney as teammates. Her first gold medal at the nationals came during her inaugural ball hockey season, her first with the Dragons (1991). As a side note, James would score the gold medal clinching goal. Brown and the Dragons would follow it up with silver in 1992 and 1994, along with three straight provincial titles (1991-93), respectively.

Internationally, Brown had represented Canada on three occasions, including the inaugural World Championships held in Pittsburgh in 2005. She would capture two world titles, while also earning a silver medal. As ball hockey continues to grow internationally, perhaps one day it shall be contested at the Summer Games.

Brown would transition into coaching in 2012, adding several more milestones. Serving as a player and coach from 2012-13, she led the Toronto Shamrocks to the 2012 CBHA National Title. In 2013, she built on such momentum by appearing once again as a player/coach at the OBHF Provincials.

With the ISBHF Worlds being hosted on Canadian soil, Brown was also involved. Gaining valuable international experience, she served as an assistant coach for Team Italy.

Of note, Brown already possessed a strong coaching background. During the 1990s, she served as an assistant coach on Karen Hughes’ coaching staff with the University of Toronto Varsity Lady Blues. Joining the program in 1992, she would capture several OWIAA (known today as OUA) conference championships.

She would also manage to juggle a successful career as a women’s ice hockey player. Competing with the University of Toronto Varsity Lady Blues for six seasons, she was the team captain during the 1989-90 season. Patrolling the blueline, Brown would capture five conference crowns, and would capture the Jay Westlake Award, given to the Lady Blues most outstanding defender.

Some of the players that Brown coached included Justine Blainey, an activist for women’s hockey in the 1980s, Jen Rawson, who would become a head coach with York and UBC. She would also have the privilege of coaching several players who would carve a legacy with the Canadian national women’s team.

Among them were Andria Hunter (the founder of whockey.com), Laura Schuler, a silver medalist at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, and Lori Dupuis, who is currently serving as the general manager of the Brampton Thunder.

Her greatest legacy may be yet to come. As a co-founder of the Greater Toronto Women’s Ball Hockey League in 2014, an extension of her legacy may be her role as a builder. Recognizing the need for a Canadian junior women’s ball hockey program (a program that exists on the men’s side), it may present the next opportunity for a new venture in her career.

For now, Brown’s remarkable leadership has resulted in the ability to recruit elite talent with the Toronto Shamrocks. Quickly emerging as the GTWBHL’s signature club, Brown’s leadership, along with the efforts of co-founder Flora Panunzio has provided the league with the opportunity to attain status as one of Canada’s finest.

Since transitioning to coaching, no year may have been as memorable for Brown as 2015. Working with Team Canada GM, Gwen Ranquist-Lemieux, the two were an ideal pair to help Canada defend its gold medal at the 2015 ISBHF World Championships in Zug, Switzerland.

Following such a milestone moment in her coaching career, Brown successfully navigated the highly competitive waters of the CBHA National Championships, emerging with another title to solidify her standing as one of the greatest. Contested in the ball hockey hotbed of Ottawa, Ontario, Brown had an exciting Shamrocks team that consisted of a blend of veterans and new players.

Veterans such as Meagan Aarts, Lexie Hoffmeyer and Kristy Zamora, complemented by new faces such as Carolyne Prevost, Jamie Lee Rattray and Rebecca Vint, all working in perfect cohesion, testament to Brown’s strong abilities behind the bench. Fittingly, the gold-medal winning goal was scored by Jenny Brine, who is considered one of the 50 greatest Canadian women’s ball hockey competitors of all time.

Employing wisdom, positivity and mentoring, Brown may be the most influential and important force for women’s ball hockey in Toronto. As the defining quality of Brown’s career is a remarkable respect for the game and the women who play it, the future holds potential to already build on a Hall of Fame career that is a standard of excellence for younger women in the sport to aspire to.

References: CBHA.com

KK Matheny’s competitive edge a key factor in Seattle Mist’s championship success

While the contraction of the Jacksonville Breeze truly marked the end of an era for indoor women’s football in America, several players found new homes, bringing their work ethic and love of the game. Among the former Breeze members that joined the Mist, KK Matheny and Bryn Renda comprised a superlative free agent class that also included Danica Brace, formerly of the Las Vegas Sin.

The result was an amazing gridiron trinity that brought the Mist and its proud fan base an elusive Legends Cup championship. Such chemistry blended with the likes of leaders such as Jessica Hopkins and Stevi Schnoor to help cultivate a championship instinct that transformed the Mist into the champions that they wanted to become.

From the very beginning, Matheny established herself as the field general of the Mist, bringing a newfound confidence for a highly talented team looking to reach the next level. A star basketball player at Chiefland High School, Matheny has never lost her competitive edge, and that was highly evident during the Mist season.

Image obtained from Facebook

Image obtained from Facebook

Joined on the Mist by former Breeze teammate Bryn Renda, the result was a remarkable offensive synergy. Several times throughout this season, Matheny relied on Renda for key plays, usually resulting in first downs or touchdown scores, and their familiarity shone through. Both members of the American Collegiate Intramural Sports and Fitness Hall of Fame, the two were also teammates at the University of West Florida (based in Pensacola, FL). In addition, the two appeared in the national finals three years in a row, having won championships in 2006 and 2008.

Despite losing their first game of the season, the Mist never looked back with Matheny showing the way. She proudly followed in the footsteps of former Mist quarterbacks such as Laurel Creel, second-generation player Angela Rypien and LFL Canada champion Mary-Anne Hansen, jubilantly displaying the Mist colors, while establishing her own superlative legacy.

Winning on the road against the Los Angeles Temptation, at the world-renowned Memorial Coliseum, truly signified the turning point for the Mist. After suffering a disappointing playoff loss to the Temptation in 2014, along with a visceral loss to open the season, the Mist needed to beat them in order to establish its championship confidence.

Although the Legends Cup championship would represent the pinnacle of Matheny’s career, her finest moment may have come in the Western Conference championship game. Facing the Temptation once again, Matheny displayed the poise that would set a positive tone for the team throughout the tumultuous contest. The chance to win a conference crown in 2015 represented a liberating importance to Matheny.

Unforeseen at the time, Matheny’s final game with the Breeze took place in a hotly contested 2014 Eastern Conference championship game against the Atlanta Steam. Resulting in a hard-fought loss, it was compounded by pushing and shoving in its emotional aftermath. The one parallel between the Breeze and the Mist throughout the season was that they were both highly competitive but had never reached the opportunity to compete in the Legends Cup title game.

To beat the Temptation made a very powerful statement. Considering that the archrival Temptation were hungry for a fourth league title, it represented redemption for Matheny, proving that she deserved to be looked upon as an elite quarterback able to take her team to the next level, while providing a feeling of redemption for the entire Mist organization.

No longer were such talented competitors looked upon as merely contenders. Earning the opportunity for the biggest prize in their sport, Matheny and the Mist did not disappoint. With the Legends Cup championship game taking place on home soil in Kent, Washington, the Mist jumped out to a quick 20-0 lead against the two-time defending champion Chicago Bliss.

Just like the playoff victory against the Temptation, the chance to beat the Bliss only validated the Mist’s championship effort, proving that they were truly worth of being looked upon as the very best.

As the honor of champion has been bestowed upon Matheny, she becomes Seattle’s sweetheart, emulating Russell Wilson’s great success in bringing a football championship to a highly loyal fan base. Although her passing numbers may not have been among the league’s highest, her heart, determination and team-first approach were metrics that could simply not be measured. Continuously displaying remarkable composure in high pressure situations, complemented by self-confidence, they were exceptional factors that defined Matheny’s unforgettable season.

Emily Fulton extends hockey career with Toronto Furies

Selected second overall by the Toronto Furies in the 2015 CWHL Draft, Emily Fulton brings the promise of strong offensive skill to a club that ranked near the bottom in league scoring last season. Having grown up south of Toronto, in Stratford, Ontario, the chance to don the Furies blue and white sweater represents a special homecoming for her.

Following her senior season with the Cornell Big Red, Fulton emerged as Cornell’s second leading scorer, accumulating an impressive 48 points, on the strength of 27 assists. Having earned All-Ivy and All-ECAC honors in her proud collegiate career, she brings the confidence and team-first approach that should enable her to duplicate such success at the CWHL level.

Fulton’s first brush with hockey greatness came in a historic gold medal effort with Team Canada at the 2010 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds. Contributing to Canada’s first-ever gold in tournament history; she was joined on the team by fellow 2015 CWHL Draft Picks Jillian Saulnier, an eventual teammate at Cornell, along with Jenna McParland, who was claimed by Brampton.

Of note, such a legendary team also included players that would eventually be selected in the 2014 CWHL Draft. Said players included Brampton Thunder picks such as Jamie Lee Rattray and Erica Howe, along with Calgary Inferno selection Jessica Campbell, who would go on to become the first rookie to serve as a captain in CWHL All-Star Game play. In addition, all the roster players from that 2010 team were featured on hockey cards in Upper Deck’s World of Sport card set, representing a proud career milestone.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the top four selections in the 2015 edition of the CWHL Draft consisted of alumnae from Hockey Canada’s Under-18 program. Fulton was joined by the likes of first overall pick Sarah Edney, Marie-Philip Poulin, who went third to Montreal, and Calgary’s pick, Brianne Jenner (who played with Poulin at the Sochi Winter Games), going fourth overall, all part of a very historical draft class.

Like Fulton, Jenner also carved a remarkable hockey legacy at Cornell, marking the first time in CWHL Draft history that two Cornell players were nabbed in the first round. As a side note, Saulnier went in the third round, resulting in the second straight season that the CWHL Draft Class featured three Cornell players among the Top 25 picks.

Last year, Calgary nabbed Hayleigh Cudmore with the eighth overall pick, while Jessica Campbell emerged as one of the steals of the draft, going to Calgary at 19th overall. Fellow Cornell alum Alyssa Gagliardi went 20th overall to Boston, culminating her rookie season with a Clarkson Cup championship.

Heading into this season, the biggest adjustment for Fulton may be competing against so many Cornell teammates that she experienced on-ice glories with. Whether it is Laura Fortino, Brampton’s first overall pick in 2014, Lauriane Rougeau with the Montreal Stars, or the large number that now call Calgary home, emotions will certainly be high in her inaugural games against each squad.

Should the Furies hope to emerge victorious in such games, an important element is the need to improve on their offensive output from last season. As the Furies will be looking for their second Clarkson Cup in franchise history, Fulton’s play-making abilities may prove to be crucial in such an effort. Last season, the Furies only managed 51 goals, ranking fourth in league play, while trailing third-ranked Montreal by 16 goals.

With several strong scoring talents on the Furies, it shall be imperative for Fulton to establish strong on-ice chemistry. Possessing the ability to help the squad improve on their past season scoring totals, she is not only a Rookie of the Year candidate, but she has the potential to provide the Furies with the opportunity to remain in the playoff picture.