Triple Gold Club for Mikk and Wick among others

While there is a tremendous element of prestige that comes with winning a Clarkson Cup, it is also part of a bigger picture in which the remarkable accomplishments of women in hockey deserve to be celebrated on a grander scale. Less than 20 women have enjoyed the achievement of winning Winter Games Gold, IIHF World Gold and either the Clarkson or Isobel Cup. Although it is not yet recognized by the IIHF, the “Triple Gold Club for Women” is one that deserves to be honored, regardless of its status.

In the aftermath of the Calgary Inferno defeating Les Canadiennes de Montreal in an exhilarating 8-3 final at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre, five jubilant women enjoyed more than just the glory of the 2016 Clarkson Cup, the first contested on NHL ice. They earned the chance to join the Triple Gold Club for Women and add another significant accomplishment to their distinguished hockey resumes.

Photo credit: Justin Tang, The Canadian Press

Photo credit: Justin Tang, The Canadian Press

Among the most notable new entrants into said Club were Meaghan Mikkelson and living legend Hayley Wickenheiser. Having gained celebrity status with her appearance on The Amazing Race Canada, Mikkelson has enjoyed three major championships in five seasons. Starting with IIHF World Gold in 2012, she would follow it up with a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Canada’s Miracle on Ice, and the 2016 Clarkson, which saw her log an assist in the Finals.

Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Mikkelson had the opportunity to share in the glory of the Cup with a very special member of her family. With infant son Calder Reid was among the young spectators in attendance at the Finals, she skated around the ice with him during the postgame celebrations. Although he was far too young to absorb what had transpired, it was definitely a heartwarming moment when he was part of a group picture with his mom’s Inferno teammates and the coveted Cup.

Although most fans may not know that Wickenheiser is also a mom, having adopted a son named Noah approximately 14 years ago, her son’s personal growth has run parallel to her growing legacy as an icon in hockey. Undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer, Wickenheiser’s accomplishments in hockey are Gretzky-like. Throughout all these sensational seasons, the one achievement that eluded her was a Clarkson Cup.

Having once skated for the Calgary Oval X-Treme in the former WWHL, Wickenheiser would join the University of Calgary Dinos squad following the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. While she would lead the Dinos to a CIS national championship, Calgary fans were left to wonder if Wickenheiser had enough left in the tank following the Sochi Winter Games to try and play for a Clarkson Cup. Not only would she please said fans by registering in the 2015 CWHL Draft, conquering a frontier that had yet to be challenged, her presence provided the Inferno with the perfect blend of offensive depth and leadership needed to propel the club into the title conversation.

Rebecca Johnston, established her legend with the Inferno by achieving several historic firsts. She would end 2014 by scoring the first All-Star Game winning goal. In February 2015, Johnston would become the first member of the Inferno to capture the Angela James Bowl. Fast forward one year later and Johnston would make history again by scoring the first goal for the Inferno in a Clarkson Cup final.

Such efforts yielded positive results as Johnston gained Triple Gold glory. Having played alongside Mikkelson and Wickenheiser at both the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Winter Games, career milestones intertwine with two of the most prominent hockey figures from Western Canada.

Having made her Winter Games debut at Sochi 2014, Brianne Jenner represents the future for the Canadian national women’s team. Just like Mikkelson, she experienced the same glorious run, consisting of IIHF Gold in 2012, the miraculous run to gold at Sochi 2014, and the thrill of receiving the coveted Clarkson at centre ice in a memorable first season in the CWHL.

Selected by the Inferno in the first round of the 2015 CWHL Draft (Wickenheiser would be nabbed in the third round), her arrival definitely signified a turning point in franchise history, as a Clarkson Cup title became possible. With Jillian Saulnier, who played alongside Jenner at the NCAA level with Cornell, selected in the second round, she may one day be part of the Triple Gold Club as well. Definitely on Hockey Canada’s radar for the 2018 Winter Games, Saulnier will be looking to capture her first IIHF gold in 2016.

Despite her rookie status, Jenner would have the honor of the captaincy bestowed upon her. Like Johnston, she would score twice on Canadiennes goaltender (and Sochi teammate) Charline Labonte in the 8-3 final. Having also led all CWHL rookies in scoring, Jenner’s debut season has been nothing short of remarkable

The fifth member of this remarkable group of women gains entry into the Club in a rather historic manner. Gina Kingsbury, who served as an assistant coach on Shannon Miller’s coaching staff at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2014-15 (which also featured fellow Cup champion Brigitte Lacquette in her senior season at UMD) became the first member of the Triple Gold Club for Women to gain entry as a coach.

Having joined the Inferno’s coaching staff in the autumn of 2015, she would prove to be an integral component to the success to follow. With a pair of Winter Games gold medals to her credit, and multiple IIHF World Championships, her experience as a player made her a member of the coaching staff that players could relate to. Making her mark on women’s hockey history, Kingsbury’s feat represents the potential for so many more historic accomplishments in the game’s future.

Andi Petrillo adds to growing role of women in sportscasting with Canadian Screen Award

In recognition of her work during the 2015 Pan Am Games, Andi Petrillo was the recipient of a Canadian Screen Award and a brush with history. Becoming the first woman to win an award in the category for best sports host in a sports program or series, the body of work that contributed to such a monumental milestone was the Pan Am Afternoon show. Adding to the jubilation is the fact that there was a unique element of coincidence as the awards ceremony was held on International Women’s Day.

During the 16-day long Pan Am Games event, hosted in Toronto, Petrillo was definitely the glue that held the broadcast together as fans would be eager to see them report on another triumphant day for Canada’s finest on home soil. Not since the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games had a sporting event captivated so many Canadians, capturing their hearts and minds. Petrillo’s presence helped enhance the feeling of national pride as Canada’s home grown athletes enjoyed unprecedented success at the Games.

With the 2016 Rio Summer Games in sight, Petrillo has continued to help build the momentum as Canada’s Olympic Committee works towards its dream of Owning the Podium. In her superlative work with Scott Russell, their collaboration as co-hosts on CBC’s Road to the Olympic Games has resulted in obligatory weekend television sports viewing, adding a human element to the sweat and sacrifice required to compete, and hopefully excel, at the highest levels of competition in the world.

Such a role is fitting for Petrillo as she shall be part of Olympic Games Daytime from Rio de Janeiro with David Amber this summer. Petrillo definitely brings some familiarity with Brazilian sport as she hosted CBC’s coverage for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, also from Brazil. Of note, 2014 definitely marked a year of milestones for her, including Olympic credentials.

During the 2014 Sochi Games, Petrillo hosted overnight coverage, another international event filled with many glories for Canada’s sporting heroes. As Canada hopes for its greatest Summer Games medal haul at Rio, Petrillo may very well be a good-luck charm.

Petrillo first came to prominence as the first woman to be part of CBC’s long running Hockey Night in Canada broadcast team in-studio. As a side note, she is also the first woman to host a daily sports radio talk show (TSN1050’s Leafs Lunch)

Joining the HNIC group in 2011, it was the culmination of former producer Ralph Mellanby’s vision. One of the most deserving candidates for entry into the Hall, Mellanby hired Helen Hutchison in the 1970s, making her the first woman to work with HNIC. Although Hutchison would leave the show, it was a precedent which was fulfilled to greater heights by Petrillo’s impact.

Stuntwoman Jacqueline Legere captures Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship

With the most exciting season of Red Bull Crashed Ice having wrapped up, the final outcome saw an inspiring and energizing woman combine a great love of athleticism and competition into a memorable run towards Jacqueline Legere’s first world championship. While her time off the Crashed Ice course is spent in the courageous profession of stunt woman, her championship contributes to a proud Canadian legacy of champions, which has included Fannie Desforges (2012) and Dominique Thibault (2013) grace the top of the podium.

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A unique coincidence between all three is that each possesses a hockey background. Legere, who hails from St. George, Ontario, has competed at the PWHL level with the Hamilton Hawks from 2009-11. Prior to that, Legere was a member of the Cambridge Roadrunners in the LLFHL, complemented by a Brant County high school championship. Desforges served as captain for the Ottawa Gee-Gees in CIS play and Thibault spent several seasons as a member of the Connecticut Huskies at the NCAA level. In addition, Desforges and Thibault would be teammates for one season with the CWHL’s Montreal Stars. The hockey connection was also prevalent for the 2015-16 season as Myriam Trepanier, who would rank third overall in the Crashed Ice standings once played hockey at the NCAA level for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.

In the aftermath of the 2015-16 Red Bull Crashed Ice season, which was the fifth for Legere, her 2800 points finished 500 ahead of second place Alexis Jackson and Trepanier. Of note, Legere was joined by four other Canadians in the top 10 rankings. Along with the aforementioned Trepanier, the proud Canadian content included fourth place Elaine Topolnisky. Maxie Plante would grab sixth place while Tamara Kajah, who hails from nearby Brantford, Ontario, finished the season with a respectable seventh place finish. As a side note, Kajah would gain a third place finish at the final race of the season in St. Paul, Minnesota. The men’s category also saw a prominent Canadian influence as Scott Croxall ranked second and Dean Moriarty enjoyed a third place standing.

Legere’s run to the women’s Ice Cross Downhill World Champion involved a pair of victories during a season filled with five races in both North America and Europe. First place finishes at a Riders Cup win in Bathurst, New Brunswick and a Red Bull Crashed Ice race win to close out the season in Saint Paul, Minnesota proved to be significant victories after a fifth place finish in a Quebec City competition. Other results included a second place finish in Jyväskylä-Laajis, Finland, along with another podium finish in Europe, grabbing first at a race in Munich, Germany.

Considering that she will only turn 25 when next season begins, the potential to remain in the championship picture for seasons to come is strong. Finishing her fifth season as world champion is crucial to her confidence heading into next season.

Poker player Anna Khait played to win on Survivor

Making her mark as a female professional poker player, an appearance on Survivor Kaoh Rong should have brought with it better results for an ambitious and energetic Anna Khait. Instead, the 26-year-old (originally from St. Petersburg, Russia) saw her status as one of the favorites evaporate as the odds were no longer in her favor. Calling Brigantine Beach, New Jersey her home, the member of the Beauty tribe saw her chances to continue and thrive take an unforeseen turn for the worst as a swap contributed to her ousting.

Voted out of the Gondol tribe on Day 14, her arrival in the new tribe saw her at odds with former Beauty-tribe member Tai Trang. Throughout the first four episodes, rantings online had some favoring her to emerge as the eventual winner. As the game of Survivor is one filled with elements of the unpredictable, host Jeff Probst announcing “Drop your buffs” brought a new dimension.

No longer able to rely on her all-girls alliance, Khait faced very difficult odds of surviving in her new tribe. Despite her best efforts at trying to survive the immunity challenge, the game took an even more ironic twist as the ousted player would be replaced by Julia Sokolowski. Of note, Sokolowski had been sent to exile island for three days. Had Khait won immunity and Sokolowski replaced another player, the reality is that Khait would have been able to build a new alliance.

With an alluring sex appeal which is without dispute, Khait felt that she was most like infamous (and perhaps strategically manipulative) contestant Parvati, able to display charm and reveal an innocent side while seducing the male competitors. Having declared on the official site of Survivor that she felt she could survive the game because she is not lazy and has the physical capability along with tons of energy, while helping procure food for the tribe, there was also a heartwarming side to her.

Despite a heartbreaking finish to her run on Survivor, the chance to compete was the culmination of a dream come true for Khait. Such a run is still poised to propel her into celebrity status on the poker tour. Currently a correspondent on Poker Tube, she has already captured the imagination of poker aficionados as she was dubbed one of the “Iron Princesses of Poker” by the World Poker Tour. Having enjoyed five career cashes, she competed in her first World Series of Poker Main Events in 2014.

Miesha Tate adds to intrigue of UFC women’s bantamweight division as its champion

On the surface, Holly Holm’s first title defense as women’s bantamweight champion at UFC 196 seemed like a warm-up match. Taking on Miesha Tate, who had been soundly defeated twice by Ronda Rousey, the unbeatable champion that Holm dethroned, there was no question who the underdog in this match was.

Continuing the trend of the unexpected developing in the women’s division, Tate has now staked her claim, reigning on top with the most prestigious title in female mixed martial arts. The shocking win, which was attained through a fifth-round submission choke hold, shook UFC to its core.

Photo credit: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Photo credit: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A rematch between Holm and Rousey would have resulted in a significant event that would have likely resulted in record revenues for the women’s division. There were definitely visions of Rousey-Holm being the Ali-Frazier of women’s mixed martial arts, an epic rivalry that would have only strengthened the role of UFC’s women’s division.

Instead, the possibility of an eventual Tate vs. Rousey match shall hold no appeal. Unless Rousey enters such a match unprepared or out of shape, the reality is that Tate will struggle to mount a strategic attack against a fighter who has dominated her. In addition, a defeat of Tate would seem a hollow victory for Rousey, as it was Holm that she needed to avenge her loss to.

Holm’s future in UFC is one that is unknown as Tate’s presence contributes to a bizarre triangle of drama for the women’s division. As the third women’s champion in the last six months, Tate does not really have an opponent to prepare for yet. Rousey has not declared when she will return. If Rousey does not return by year-end, Holm could face a rematch situation with Tate.

In reality, Holm deserves the chance at a rematch. Although she claims it was her decision to fight Tate before Rousey, one could understand that it may have been her prerogative to be seen as a fighting champion, rather than sight casually idle and wait for the big payday against Rousey. Should such a rematch with Tate occur, it would definitely be the fight to save Holm’s career. With due deference to Holm, known as “The Preacher’s Daughter”, she now faces the predicament of being considered a one-and-done champion, similar to James “Buster” Douglas, who was immortalized for his defeat of Mike Tyson.

Meanwhile, Tate is certainly trying to stimulate interest on a possible renewed rivalry with Rousey, while proving that she is worthy of the moniker of champion. While Rousey posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue following her loss to Holm, it only adds ammunition to Tate’s weaponry of words. Calling Rousey a broken woman, criticizing a pereceived softer persona, Tate has proceeded to call her the B-word and making comments about her body odor.

The only statement that will have any value is defeating her in the cage. Even if Rousey is considered kinder and gentler, Tate’s words may push her buttons, reigniting an intensity which may result in Tate facing her downfall. While Tate deserves to be admired for bouncing back from losses to Rousey, able to climb to the top of her profession and become a champion after a career that seemed in decline, her lack of humility may only serve to contribute towards another title change, rather than establishing a legacy.

Dalhousie hockey player Sarah MacNeil a portrait of strength in the face of adversity

Having won the Atlantic University Sport version of the Marion Hilliard Award for two consecutive years, Sarah MacNeil has helped establish a gold standard, while exemplifying the great humanitarian spirt of women’s hockey. Despite her fifth and final season with the Dalhousie Tigers ending abruptly with an ankle injury on January 2, 2016 at the Theresa Humes Invitational in Montreal, as she was tangled up with a player and going blades-first into the boards. One could argue that the remainder of the season may have been her finest hour.

Refusing to wallow in self-pity after suffering said injury, one that resulted in foot surgery and a cast, MacNeil was still present at games, lending moral support. While the biggest aspect of injury is dealing with the reality that one requires assistance from others during the recovery process, MacNeil has handled it with admirable dignity.

Taking into account that the Tigers are like a second family, she found other ways to contribute to the team with feedback and encouragement, all part of a positive attitude that is testament to her strong leadership skills. Bringing her trademark smile to the rink every day, she was named an assistant captain during the 2014-15 campaign, leading the team cheer before games, while stirring the team with high energy.

Such values were evident when she competing for her home province of Nova Scotia (also the host province)at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, she would quickly earn a reputation as one of the hardest working players on the ice.
Upon coming to Dalhousie, perhaps more impressive was her accomplishments off the ice. Specializng in Recreation Management, she earned the honor of being recognized on four separate occasions as one of Dalhousie’s Academic All-Canadians. Such exceptional dedication was extending into the community, proudly serving as the Tigers liaison for community volunteering and fundraising.

MacNeil’s presence was nothing short of remarkable. Charities that benefitted from her heart of gold included Operation Christmas Child, the Easter Seals sledge hockey program, the Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle campaign, plus the North End Parent Resource Centre in Halifax. As a side note, she was also part of the ‘La Coupe Mustache’ charity hockey game, in which net funds raised went towards both breast and prostate cancer research.

In addition, MacNeil was involved with a pair of terrific team initiatives. Among them included her efforts with the Chronicle Herald Holiday Parade of Lights, part of a fundraising initiative for the program Elevate—dedicated towards ensuring Atlantic Canadian athletes can accomplish their dreams of international competition. She has also brought betterment to the hockey community by donating her time towards the Hockey Players for Kids (HP4K) for two consecutive years, a two-month long reading competition at a local elementary school. ,

That dedication to her team and her community, which included her role as a student-at-large board member for Recreation Nova Scotia, were significant factors in bestowing the honor of the AUS version of the Marion Hilliard Award upon her once again. In AUS history, she becomes only the third competitors to earn the Award in consecutive years, joining Saint Mary’s Kori Cheverie and Kayla Blackmore of St. Thomas.

While the sun sets on MacNeil’s proud Tigers hockey career, she plans on remaining active, with an eye towards triathlons. Representing tremendous ambition and drive, MacNeil is destined to remain a significant part of sport in Nova Scotia as an internship with Sports Entertainment Atlantic will see her work towards bringing the men’s basketball CIS Final 8 Tournament a successful one, as Halifax shall be the host city for 2017. Although Tigers hockey will not be the same without MacNeil, her legacy is one that helped define a positive and empowering era for the program, while setting a proud standard for future players to emulate.

Breanna Stewart lands on Sports Illustrated cover as she looks to win fourth Final Four tourney

For the second time in less than six weeks, a female athlete graces the cover of Sports Illustrated, signs of positive growth. Following in the path of Ronda Rousey, who graced the cover of the SI Swimsuit Edition in mid-February, Connecticut basketball icon Breanna Stewart lands on the cover (dated March 22, 2016). As a side note, it represents her second appearance on a cover, as she was on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated on March 14, 2014.

Featuring several collectible covers as part of SI’s March Madness preview, Stewart is the only female player to gain the cover treatment. The other athletes include senior forward Brice Johnson from the Tar Heels, Buddy Hield on the Oklahoma cover and Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff. Stewart is part of Sports Illustrated’s preview coverage of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, which sees the Huskies seeded number 1 in the tournament (for the tenth consecutive year) along with a top ranking in the AP Polls. It was a fitting honor for Stewart to be recognized with such a sporting milestone as she looks to end her NCAA career on a historic note.

StewartSICover

Destined to be the first pick overall in the 2016 WNBA Draft, she is not the only Huskies superstar that is poised to become a first-round pick. Along with Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, each has a date with destiny as they aim to become the first-ever players to capture an unprecedented four NCAA Final Four championships in a career. In their combined careers wtih Connecticut, they have amassed an astonishing 145-5 record, which includes an undefeated mark of 18-0 in the NCAA tournament.

Hailing from North Syracuse, New York, Stewart’s 2014 appearance on the cover marked the eighth time that Huskies nationally renowned women’s basketball program gained such prestige. With astounding career marks including 2,554 points (top ten all-time in Huskies lore) and 1,113 rebounds, she has also dished out 404 assists while terrorizing opposing offenses with 395 blocked shots. Complementing her three Final Four titles is the fact that she was named the Most Outstanding Player all three times.
The only male player to reach such heights was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, accomplishing the feat for UCLA.

Favored to repeat once again as the winner of the Associated Press Player of the Year, the Naismith Trophy, the Wade Trophy Winner, John R. Wooden Award and USBWA Player of the Year honor, Stewart’s legacy in the game is secure. While a fourth championship would definitely earn another deserved cover spot, one could also argue that she would establish herself as an early favorite for the Sportsperson of the Year Award.