Wickenheiser logs first career CWHL points as Inferno sweep defending Clarkson Cup champs

In the opening weeks of the 2015-16 CWHL season, anticipation built as living legend Hayley Wickenheiser was prepared to make her debut for the Calgary Inferno. Having played for the Calgary Oval X-Treme in the now defunct WWHL and with the Calgary Dinos in Canadian Interuniversity Sport play, the CWHL’s Inferno remained the final Calgary-based team for Wickenheiser to suit up for.

Despite being 36 years of age, Wickenheiser is still among the world’s finest competitors, able to provide a superior level of play against competitors half her age. No one is expecting Wickenheiser to be the player that she was 10 years ago. On talent alone, she can cause potential nightmares for opposing defenses. Her presence alone is enough to generate confidence in her teammates while her vast knowledge can only help improve the quality of her teammate’s play.

With the Inferno’s season opener taking place on October 24, 2015, it would prove to be a test for the club. Facing off against the defending champion Boston Blades, a victory would make a significant statement.
Taking into account that it was also Wickenheiser’s CWHL debut, the fact that the contest took place on home ice at the Winsport Arena only added to expectation. As highly touted draft picks Brianne Jenner and Jillian Saulnier, also members of Canada’s national making their CWHL debuts in the contest, opening game would prove to be an indicator of what fans could expect.

It was an outcome where Wickenheiser would deliver on all accounts. Like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, Wickenheiser has the gift of making others around her better, increasing their confidence. It would not take long for her to make an impact in the season opener.

At the 12:14 mark of the first period, Wickenheiser and Kristen Hagg would earn an assist on the first goal of the Inferno season. Scored by Jillian Saulnier, it also signified the first goal in her CWHL career. After goals by Elena Lovell (just 19 seconds after Saulnier’s goal) and Jessica Campbell, who gained the distinction of being the first-ever rookie to serve as captain at the CWHL All-Star Game, another first followed. Less than four minutes after Saulnier’s goal, Brianne Jenner would log the first goal of her CWHL career, resulting in four Inferno goals in a time span of just three minutes and 37 seconds.

With Jenna Cunnigham, a link to the Inferno’s former Team Alberta days, and Campbell scoring in the second period, the game was out of reach for the beleaguered Boston Blades. Although Blades’ forward Megan Myers would break Delayne Brian’s bid for a shutout in the third period, the 7-1 final proved to be the largest margin of victory on opening day in franchise history. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that the Inferno peppered Blades goalie Genevieve Lacasse with an astounding 56 shots.

Following the convincing opening day win, Wickenheiser also added her name to the stat sheet in the second half of the two-game set. Logging another assist, she was one of nine different Inferno players to register a point in a 4-1 victory.

Similar to the opening day win, the Inferno came out strong and did not relent. Brianne Jenner would open the scoring with her first career power play goal as Hayleigh Cudmore and Brittany Esposito earned the assists. Sarah Davis, the first Newfoundland-born player to compete on the national team, scored the second goal of the first period, which would prove to be the game-winning tally.

Wickenheiser and Jacquie Pierri would add to the Inferno’s 2-0 lead as they logged the assists on a goal scored by Boston University alum Louise Warren. As a side note, Warren would finish the game with a stellar three-point performance. Just 10 seconds after Warren’s goal, Blayre Turnbull, a former captain with the Wisconsin Badgers, scored her first career CWHL goal, placing the game out of reach for the Blades.

Tara Watchorn, in her first season as the Blades captain, scored the last goal of the second period, which would prove to be the final goal of the game. With Elena Lovell serving a penalty for too many men, Watchorn snapped another shutout effort for the Inferno.

Despite three power play opportunities in the third period for the Blades, Kathy Desjardins nullified all of them, preserving the win for the Inferno. Having not played during the 2014-15 season, as she temporarily relocated to British Columbia, she would be among the other feel-good stories of the game. Earning her first CWHL win since March 2, 2014, coincidentally that win also came against the Boston Blades, part of a 29 save effort in a 4-2 final.

For the Calgary Inferno, a weekend sweep of the defending Clarkson Cup champions made a remarkable statement. The addition of Wickenheiser has helped to add a new dimension to an already explosive offensive attack for the Inferno, ambitiously seeking their first-ever Clarkson Cup. Should the Inferno’s Clarkson Cup dreams come true, it will allow two of their members, Wickenheiser and Brianne Jenner the rare privilege of having won the IIHF Women’s Worlds, Winter Games Gold, and the Clarkson Cup, a symbolic crossroads for a pair of elite scorers simultaneously representing the heritage and the future of women’s hockey in Canada.

Sam Faber on the ground floor of another New England hockey revolution

As the NWHL becomes the first professional hockey league for women in the United States, there is a feeling of relevance with the on-ice involvement of veteran star forward Sam Faber. One of the first players to sign with the Connecticut Whale, she is part of a new era of promise for the hockey-mad state. On the momentum of strong women’s hockey programs at the NCAA level such as Storrs’ UConn Huskies, New Haven’s Yale Bulldogs and Hamden’s Connecticut Bobcats, Faber shall be the cornerstone of an offense looking to capture the inaugural Isobel Cup.

Raised in Mount Sinai, New York, Faber’s first brush with New England women’s hockey came as a member of the University of New Hampshire’s Huskies. With an astounding 51 points in her freshman season, she would compile 189 points (on the strength of 112 assists) and an astonishing 23 game winning goals during her distinguished NCAA career. In addition, she would skate with the US National Team in a gold medal effort at the 2008 IIHF Women’s Worlds.

Perhaps an element of greater importance may be her experience at the professional level in New England women’s hockey. Of note, the Whale does not reflect her first sojourn into pro hockey. When the Boston Blades became the first American-based in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Faber was one of the club’s charter members.

Playing alongside the likes of CWHL co-founder Mandy Cronin, All-World blueliners Caitlin Cahow and Angela Ruggiero, along with current Boston Pride GM Hayley Moore plus Huskies leading scorer Jaclyn Hawkins, Faber was part of a remarkable chapter in American women’s hockey.

During that inaugural Blades season (2010-11), Faber brought an offensive flair and playmaking ability that resulted in finishing said season as the Blades scoring leader. Although Montreal’s Caroline Ouellette captured the scoring title that season, Faber’s 30 points helped propel the Blades into the postseason, simultaneously demonstrating that there was a market in the United States for professional women’s hockey. As a side note, she ranked second to Julie Chu that season among American-born scoring leaders in CWHL play.

Faber’s first career point with the Blades came in their inaugural game. Along with Karen Thatcher, both would earn the assists on Jessica Koizumi’s third period goal, the first in Blades franchise history, part of a 3-0 win against the Burlington Barracudas. The following day, Faber would contribute 4 points, including her first career goal with the Blades, sweeping the Barracudas.

Accumulating at least one point in 15 games played, Faber also registered eight multi-point efforts. Her finest single-game performance was a five-point output which included her first career hat trick in a 6-5 win against eventual Clarkson Cup champions Montreal on January 30, 2011. Earlier that season, Montreal would provide another memorable moment for Faber.

Just six days before Christmas, the Blades did more than just spoil Montreal’s bid for an undefeated season. Fighting back from a 2-0 deficit, Faber would score Boston’s first goal of the game, signifying a shift in momentum. Ruggiero would score the dramatic game-winning tally in overtime while Cronin made an astounding 74 saves in one of the greatest goaltending performances in league history.

Such experience shall place Faber into a key leadership position with the Whale this season, as she also holds the unique distinction of being the first player signed in franchise history. Taking into account that former Blades teammate (and two-time Clarkson Cup champion) Jessica Koizumi shall be joining her on the Whale, it only adds to the veteran impact that should contribute to a fundamentally sound game on the ice. As a side note, both have also worked as coaches, with Koizumi serving on the Yale Bulldogs staff and Faber with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.

Among the crop of youthful free agents that should benefit most positively from their leadership includes the likes of Quinnipiac grads such as Shiann Darkangelo and Kelly Babstock, plus Clarkson Cup champion Kaleigh Fratkin. The younger players shall definitely reciprocate as they bring enthusiasm and high energy, strong motivational factors for Faber.

Having last played during the Blades inaugural season, Faber has remained in the game off the ice as the Chelsea Piers Youth Hockey Director in Stamford, Connecticut. Among her accomplishments with Chelsea Piers includes the fact that she oversees the largest Mite League program in the state. The chance to return to the rink for the first time since 2011 shall serve as an opportunity to inspire the young players that have passed through Chelsea Piers. Being part of the NWHL’s inaugural season as a member of the Connecticut Whale presents Faber (and Koizumi) with the rare opportunity to make history twice in New England women’s hockey.

Brittany Ott continues New England women’s hockey legacy with Boston Pride

As the free agent freezy continues for the incipient NWHL, a key element involves which player shall stand between the pipes for the inaugural puck drop. While the Buffalo Beauts won the Brianne McLaughlin sweepstakes, the Boston Pride may have found a dark horse in accomplished backstop Brittany Ott.

Ott’s first brush with women’s hockey in New England involved four stellar seasons with the Maine Black Bears in Hockey East conference play. Not only would she set a new program record for most saves in a regular season game (accomplished in 2010), she would break her own record in 2013 with a sterling 72 save performance against Boston College in a 2-1 overtime loss.

Although her final season at Maine did not translate in a lot of wins, that was attributed to a rebuilding year for the program. Had Ott not been between the pipes for the Black Bears, the potential for a disastrous season was highly possible, testament to her superlative skills.

Selected in the fifth round, 25th overall, in the 2013 CWHL Draft, Ott would prove to be one of the steals of the draft. No other goalie drafted past the fifth round in draft history enjoyed as many wins, let alone play in the Clarkson Cup championship game.

With Genevieve Lacasse placed on reserves that season, due to her commitments with the Canadian national team at the Winter Games in Sochi, Ott proved to be a blessing in disguise, allowing the club to maintain its great standard of superlative goaltending. Taking to the ice in her powder blue goalie pads, it was not only endearing, but a fitting reminder of what made her an elite goaltender in Hockey East play.

Heading into the final month of the 2013-14 CWHL season, Lacasse returned to the Blades but Ott has established herself as one of the league’s finest goaltenders. Her 10 wins ranked second in league play to rival Catherine Herron of the Montreal Stars, while her .921 save percentage and 475 saves were tops in the league.

In the aftermath of the golden outcome at the Sochi Winter Games, Lacasse earned some playing time with the Blades, but Ott had proven that she belonged among the elites of the game. Such effort was reflected in the fact that Ott became only the fourth rookie goalie to get the start in the Clarkson Cup championship game. The decision was a show of gratitude, testament to her dedication and perseverance during the season.

Despite the Furies by a narrow 1-0 margin in overtime, Ott provided a valiant performance with three solid periods of shutout hockey, stopping 23 shots. The following season, Ott contributed a 10-6-0 mark, establishing herself as the finest backup goaltender in CWHL play. Complemented by a Blades’ Clarkson Cup victory, it represented redemption.

Such solid numbers are what the Pride is hoping that Ott can provide for the inaugural season. With the aim of winning the first-ever Isobel Cup, it would only solidify Ott’s standing as one of the finest American-born goaltenders in hockey today. It would also make her the first goaltender to have won both the Clarkson and Isobel Cups.

There will certainly be some familiar faces surrounding Ott in this quest for history. Joining her on the Pride include several former Blades teammates that were part of the run for the 2015 Clarkson Cup. Players such as Jillian Dempsey, Alyssa Gagliardi and Jordan Smelker (the first player from Alaska to win the Clarkson) are joined by three other Blades that have represented historic signings.

From Blake Bolden becoming the first African-American player to sign with the NWHL, to Kaleigh Fratkin becoming the first Canadian-born player to join the league, there is another exciting acquisition. Jessica Koizumi, the first player to register 50 points with the Blades (she also scored the first power play goal in Blades history), has become the first signee to have played in the former Western Women’s Hockey League. Such familiarity should enable the Pride to have the strongest on-ice chemistry of all NWHL clubs while Ott’s presence between the pipes maintains the high standard of goaltending that she has established during her stellar hockey career in New England.

Upon the Pride’s first faceoff, Ott should retain her powder blue pads from Maine. Taking into account how goaltenders are some of the game’s most unique characters, identified by the creative artwork on their masks, or the style of their equipment, Ott’s powder blues make her instantly identifiable, an element that should establish her as a fan favorite in Boston and throughout the NWHL.

From Providence to the Clarkson Cup: Buie and Weber become Blades heroes

Despite coming from two different hockey backgrounds, Minnesota-raised Corinne Buie and Austrian national team member Janine Weber established a strong on-ice chemistry that culminated in the Boston Blades capturing the 2015 Clarkson Cup, their second in franchise history. In a tightly contested championship game against archrival Montreal, Buie and Tara Watchorn (the 2015 CWHL Defenseman of the Year Award winner) would earn the assists on Weber’s Cup-clinching goal, breaking the 2-2 overtime deadlock.

The uniqueness of Buie and Weber’s hockey odyssey is that the two were also teammates the season prior (2013-14) at historic Providence College, competing for the Lady Friars. Making the jump together from the NCAA to the CWHL Draft, where both were selected by the Blades, they would join fellow Providence alumnae Ashley Cottrell and Genevieve Lacasse, the Blades’ starting goaltender. As a side note, Cottrell would score against Providence in a January 3, 2015 exhibition game that saw the Blades prevail by a 3-1 score.

Buie and Weber would both make their CWHL debuts on November 15, 2014, defeating the Toronto Furies by a convincing 6-2 final. Both would also log points in their CWHL debuts. Buie would log an assist on Weber’s first CWHL goal, scored in the second period against Christina Kessler. Finishing the campaign with nine points, the black and gold posted an 8-1-0 mark when Buie logged a point, while the club enjoyed an undefeated mark of 6-0-0 when Weber registered at least one point.

While Buie competed at the high school level in Minnesota, earning All-State selections while at Edina High, where she would finish her career as a finalist for the 2010 Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award, Weber’s experience stemmed from time with the EWHL’s Vienna Sabres. With the Sabres, she won two league championships, and suited up for the Austrian national team at both the Under-18 and Senior levels, respectively.

In the autumn of 2013, their paths would cross for the first time. While Buie was entering her senior season for Providence, Weber would suit up for the Lady Friars as a graduate student. A former Hockey East All-Rookie selection, Buie would become the 33rd Friar to reach the 100-point career plateau. Bringing her strong hockey background to the same school that produced the likes of Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato, Weber would make her first mark in New England women’s hockey very quickly.

Competing in the 19th annual Mayor’s Cup, a match-up featuring the two NCAA programs in Providence, Rhode Island (the Lady Friars and the Brown Bears, where Digit Murphy holds the record for most women’s hockey games won by a coach), it would provide Weber with her first opportunity to become a New England hockey hero. Scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to provide the Lady Friars with their seventh Mayor’s Cup in program history, it was the highlight of Weber’s only NCAA season.

One season later, Weber would add to her legend with another Cup-winning goal. Playing together on an all-rookie line with Buie and Jordan Smelker, their presence was testament to a strong 2014 draft class for the franchise. While the early rounds featured the likes of Jenny Potter, Monique Lamoureux and Brianna Decker selected by the Blades, Weber (41st overall), Smelker (43rd overall) and Buie (55th overall) would emerge as a trio of unearthed gems.

These gems earned the chance to shine brightly in the Clarkson Cup final. Of note, Weber’s goal would make history in multiple ways for the black and gold. From the outset, Weber became the first European player to log a Cup-winning goal. In addition, she became only the second European player ever to hoist the coveted Cup. Ironically, the first was also a member of the Boston Blades. Czech Republic national team member Katka Mrazova contributed to the Blades first Cup win in 2013.

Said goal also resulted in the Blades becoming the first American-based franchise to win two Clarkson Cup titles, while head coach Digit Murphy became the first female head coach to win achieve two Cup wins. Murphy’s role as an advocate for sporting equality and her support for pay equity in the game certainly rang home for Weber.

The occasionally harsh economic realities of the women’s game created a conundrum for Weber. Considering that the Hockey Hall of Fame wanted Weber’s stick on display, the soon-to-be artifact was one of only two sticks in Weber’s possession (and the other was broken). Although Weber acquiesced to the Hall’s request, online support resulted in manufacturer STX Hockey (who also sponsors Blades superstar Hilary Knight) graciously supplying Weber with a new stick to replace the donated one. With the stick earning a place in the Hall, Weber now shares a unique place with fellow Providence alumnae Granato, the first American woman inducted into the Hall.

From a Mayor’s Cup triumph to the privilege of having their names engraved on the Clarkson Cup, Buie and Weber have carved admirable hockey legacies. Coming from different areas, their unlikely path towards establishing themselves as New England hockey heroes now becomes part of another special chapter in women’s hockey, one which helps to establish the early mythology of the coveted Clarkson Cup.

Dream season for Digit Murphy culminates with Clarkson Cup

One of the most accomplished coaches in New England women’s hockey, Digit Murphy continues to add new and notable accomplishments to a distinguished career. Always inspiring and encouraging players with her trademark phrase, “Everyday we are making history”, those wondrous words represented her memorable brush with history during the 2014-15 CWHL season.

In the aftermath of leading the Blades to an emotional overtime win in the 2015 Clarkson Cup, it would prove to be part of a sparkling trinity of coaching milestones. Beginning in December 2014, Murphy became the first coach in league history to win the CWHL All-Star Game as Team Red fought back from a 2-0 deficit to prevail by a 3-2 mark at Toronto’s fabled Air Canada Centre.

This was followed by Murphy leading the Blades to the best record in the regular season, which provided the franchise with the Chairman’s Trophy. The Blades league-best 15 wins resulted in a 35 point season, finishing two points ahead of the upstart Calgary Inferno. Concluding with the Clarkson Cup triumph, Murphy became the first coach to win all three in the same CWHL season.

Such a historic feat was complemented by two other milestones that would add to Murphy’s legacy as one of the finest coaches in American women’s hockey history. Having won her first Clarkson Cup title in 2013, the 2015 triumph allowed Murphy to become the first female head coach to capture the Cup twice. In addition, Murphy also gained the unique distinction of becoming the first American-born coach to win two Cups.

Of note, the first coach to win the Cup twice was Patrick Rankine, leading Montreal to the summit in 2011 and 2012. Prior to Murphy’s first Cup win in 2013, only one female coach had even led her team to a Cup win (Montreal’s Isabelle Leclair in 2009, the inaugural year that the Cup was contested). In 2014, Toronto’s Sommer West (who played against Murphy’s Blades) would become only the third female coach to claim the Cup.

Although Montreal would score first in the championship game of the 2015 edition of the Cup, Murphy did not panic. Being interviewed by CWHL co-founder and Sportsnet sideline reporter Jennifer Botterill (the only player to win back-to-back Patty Kazmaier Awards), Murphy showed remarkable composure and stayed positive, signs of her strong leadership.

Murphy’s positive influence would prove to be crucial for the black and gold as Montreal would tie the game late in the third to force overtime. With Janine Weber becoming the first European player to log a Cup-winning goal, it also represented great redemption for Murphy and the Blades, who were bested in overtime by a visceral 1-0 tally one year earlier.

Widely admired and respected for her efforts in sporting equality, while helping to strengthen the women’s game for future generations, Murphy’s ability to inspire is one that can hardly be matched. Her devotion to providing instruction for elite hockey talent currently represents a transformative era in the game. Hopefully, Murphy’s efforts shall promise better days ahead, including pay equity in the game, which would certainly represent Murphy’s greatest victory.

Pair of women’s hockey heroes join Clarkson’s coaching staff

As the Clarkson Golden Knights open the 2014-15 NCAA women’s ice hockey season in defense of their national title, two highly accomplished individuals shall be part of the new-look coaching staff. Meghan Duggan, a three-time Frozen Four winner and two-time Winter Games silver-medalist shall be joined by Britni Smith, who scored the game winning tally in the 2014 Clarkson Cup finals.

The two will have big shoes to fill, replacing long-time coaching staff members Shannon Desrosiers and Matt Kelly, who left the program in the aftermath of the 2013-14 campaign. Since the program became part of NCAA Division I hockey in 2003, Shannon Desrosiers was part of the coaching staff and certainly part of the team’s heartbeat.

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Her option to leave the team was to spend more time with her family. Of note, Kelly joined the program in 2008 and is becoming the head scout for the US National Women’s Team.

Duggan’s experience and dedication makes her a remarkable mentor for the players at Clarkson. Having served as the US captain at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, she made national news when she opened up about her problems with concussions, making her inactive for one year.

Of note, Duggan’s hockey resume is sterling, with four gold medals at the IIHF Women’s World Championships and a Patty Kazmaier Award at the NCAA level, where she graduated with 238 career points. Serving on head coach Matt Desrosier’s coaching staff will allow her to continue to compete for the US National Team, along with her role as one of the superstars on the Boston Blades.

Taking into account her reputation as an ambassador for the game, Duggan is poised to be a positive influence on the players on the roster. Her experience playing for some highly talented and successful coaches should translate well at Clarkson. At the University of Wisconsin, Duggan played for Mark Johnson, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. With the Boston Blades, where she helped the club win its first championship, she played for Digit Murphy, one of the most winning coaches in the history of NCAA women’s hockey, reaching over 300 victories with the Brown Bears.

Blueliner Erin Ambrose is certainly on Hockey Canada’s radar as a player that may contend for a spot on the Canadian roster at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. With two seasons of eligibility remaining, there is no question that Duggan has the potential to be a mentor for her.

An added bonus for Clarkson is the fact that someone of Duggan’s reputation on the coaching staff shall certainly help in the recruiting of future stars. With the nearby region of Eastern Ontario having produced many stars for Clarkson, the chance for such players in that area to play for a coach with Winter Games experience will be a strong selling point.

Having played for archrival St. Lawrence University, the site of Smith behind Clarkson’s bench will bring with it high emotion when the two play each other for the first time this season. Of note, she does bring some coaching experience to the position. During the 2013-14 season, she juggled time playing for the Toronto Furies while serving on Vicky Sunohara’s coaching staff with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, who enjoyed a 21-9 campaign. Fellow Clarkson alum Brooke Beazer played alongside Smith for the Furies, as the club won their first-ever Clarkson Cup title.

Once again, Ambrose may be a beneficiary of Smith’s arrival. Not only has Smith also served in various coaching capacities with Hockey Canada’s female programs, she has also played with Team Canada’s U22 program (like Ambrose). Her experiences playing defense, along with her tenure in the CWHL may prove vital as Ambrose looks to take the next step in her career. Eligible for the 2016 CWHL Draft, Ambrose may be destined to go as a first-overall pick.

Raised in Port Perry, Ontario, east of Toronto, Smith would compete in 146 contests for the St. Lawrence Skating Saints. Having graduated in 2010, she recoreded the third highest points by a blueliner in NCAA play during her senior season. In addition, she was a top-10 finalist for the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.

This was complemented by Second Team All-ECAC Hockey honors as a junior and senior. A former winner of the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year award, Smith also scored the first CWHL goal in an NHL arena (Toronto’s Air Canada Centre).

With Clarkson starting a new chapter in its storied history, it is encouraging to see former female hockey stars expand their careers with coaching roles. Gina Kingsbury, who opposed Duggan at the 2010 Winter Games, was hired as a coach with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, another proud NCAA program. While the transitions of Duggan and Smith to coaching at the NCAA level should be relatively smooth, they could not have asked to be involved with a better program.

Hockey hero Cherie Hendrickson competes in 2014 Boston Marathon

Over the last year, Cherie Hendrickson has experienced a whirlwind of exciting yet highly emotional moments. From winning the 2013 Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades, to gracing the field at Fenway Park, Hendrickson even travelled to Russia, where she competed for Lokomotiv hockey club with Blades teammate Kelley Steadman.

Throughout this time of remarkable personal milestones, Hendrickson also participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon. One of the darkest chapters in the history of the world renowned city, a malicious bombing tragically injured many of the participants. Having altered the lives of so many, Hendrickson, who was luckily not injured, was part of a proud group of citizens that became Boston Strong.

Such strength was clearly on display at the running of the Marathon in 2014. While most sports fans in New England identify Hendrickson as an ice hockey player, this accomplished athlete was part of a great social and athletic movement in which Boston’s residents showed their spirits could not be broken.

Photo credit: S. Dubuc, Obtained from Facebook

Photo credit: S. Dubuc, Obtained from Facebook

As one of an astounding 36,000 runners that participated, Hendrickson was not only helping to raise funds for DFMC, but she was running in remembrance of those affected by last year’s tragedy. While she experienced dehydration in the hills that comprise part of the Marathon’s course, crossing the finish line was never in doubt.

With the support of family and friends as a great source of inspiration and motivation, Hendrickson’s journey to the finish line was well worth it. Although the finish was somewhat slower than she had anticipated, the effort provided her with tremendous fulfillment. Like so many of her Blades teammates, Hendrickson’s efforts on and off the ice make her a role model for young female athletes in New England.

She would share her feelings of jubilation on social media on a day where everyone truly experienced victory, “Lucky to have been a part of the loudest, biggest and most passionate crowds I’ve seen at the marathon, lucky to call Boston home, honored to run for such an amazing organization, and lucky to have experienced the Boston Marathon again. We finished the race.”

Hockey legend Caitlin Cahow a courageous symbol of empowerment

A member of the US squad that captured a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Caitlin Cahow will be returning to the world’s biggest stage. With the 2014 Games being hosted in Sochi, Russia, Cahow shall be serving on US President Barack Obama’s delegation that shall represent the US at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Having retired from ice hockey after leading the Boston Blades to the 2013 Clarkson Cup championship, Cahow has managed to remain involved in the sport. In addition to attending law school at Boston College, she appeared at the Boston Blades’ first-ever “Women in Sports” series, recognizing Meghan Duggan.

Appearing on NBC's Today Show

Appearing on NBC’s Today Show

Introducing Duggan at the event, Cahow also spoke about being an openly gay athlete and the struggle for equality. As Cahow is part of a modern-day group of accomplished female athletes challenging cultural norms about the role of women in sport and society, she is a champion for the cause of acceptance.

Ivy League educated and articulate, Cahow is also a proud member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. With the CWHL a proud partner with the You Can Play! Foundation, looking to remove bullying and homophobic behavior, Cahow also reinforces a courageous message that athletes have the right to not feel shame or stereotyping based on the way they identify themselves.

In travelling to Sochi, Cahow brings a powerful message about values such as equality and empowerment. An openly gay athlete, her presence is a direct rebuttal to the law that the Russian government passed in June 2013 prohibiting the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations. In addition, she will be joined on the US delegation by tennis legend and champion for women in sport Billie Jean King, another gay athlete.

King shall be part of the delegation that will appear at the opening ceremonies. Joining her are University of California president Janet Napolitano, the first female secretary of Homeland Security, Michael McFaul, the United States ambassador to Russia, deputy chief of staff for policy Robert Nabors and Brian Boitano, a gold medalist in figure skating at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games.

Of note, McFaul shall also participate in the delegation for the closing ceremonies. Cahow shall be part of said delegation, joined by speed skating legend Bonnie Blair, Dr. Eric Heiden and William Burns, the deputy secretary of state.

Having been interviewed for CBS News, along with making an appearance on NBC’s Today Show, Cahow is truly paying it forward. As the Modern Olympic Movement preaches the removal of ignorance and working towards social progress, Cahow is part of a diverse yet inspiring group of delegates that prove the US is dedicated to preserving and reinforcing civil and human rights.

Also serving as an advocate for concussion research, an injury which sidelined her for most of 2012, Cahow is symbolic of today’s intelligent, strong and ambitious women. For all the LGBT athletes that have endured fear or lived in silence, Cahow and King are part of a bold statement that encourages freedom. Their mission is also one of a humanitarian nature, extending sport, where the hopeful outcome is one where ignorance can be eradicated and a greater understanding of celebrating the human spirit.

Legendary women’s hockey coach Digit Murphy bestowed with another accolade

In the last twelve months, Digit Murphy has had a remarkable series of moments that shall provide a lifetime of memories while strengthening her legacy. From being recognized by Brown University in their famed portrait gallery to becoming the first American-born coach to garner Canadian Women’s Hockey League Coach of the Year honors, such accomplishments were complemented by Murphy grabbing her first-ever championship as an elite coach; the coveted Clarkson Cup.

Murphy at the unveiling of her portrait unveiled and placed in the Brown Hockey Legends gallery at Meehan Auditorium. (Image obtained from Facebook)

Murphy at the unveiling of her portrait unveiled and placed in the Brown Hockey Legends gallery at Meehan Auditorium. (Image obtained from Facebook)

As 2014 begins, Murphy is the proud recipient of another remarkable accolade. Bestowed the honor of the American Hockey Coaches Association’s Women’s Ice Hockey Founders Award, it is testament to her skills as a remarkable teacher of the sport. The award shall be given to Murphy, only the fifth female hockey coach to be honored, during the AHCA’s Celebration of Women’s Hockey in Naples, Florida on May 2.

As a long-time member of the AHCA, the association (formed in May of 1947) has expanded to include coaches at the professional, junior and high school levels as well as college. Open to both men and women, the group is devoted to maintaining the highest possible standards in the game.

Murphy flashing the peace sign as the Blades are honored by the Red Sox at historic Fenway Park. (Image obtained from Facebook)

Murphy flashing the peace sign as the Blades are honored by the Red Sox at historic Fenway Park. (Image obtained from Facebook)

The award recognizes the individual’s growth and development of the sport in the United States, it is a worthy prize for an individual who has coached for nearly three decades. In addition, Murphy has also had a tremendous impact in helping the sport grow internationally. Of note, she is part of the IIHF Mentorship Program, serving as a coaching consultant for the Slovakian national women’s team.

As the first woman at the NCAA level to win 200 and 300 games, seven of her Brown Bears players would become competitors in the Winter Games; Pam Dreyer, Kim Insacalo, Kathleen Kauth, Becky Kellar, Katie King, Tara Mounsey and Chie Chie Sakuma.

Kauth would become a co-founder of the CWHL, the league Murphy currently calls home. Kellar, a former CWHL competitor, was the first Canadian defender to appear in four consecutive Winter Games competitions. King has proudly followed in Murphy’s coaching footsteps, having turned Boston College into a perennial contender.

Although her coaching acumen stretches over several generations, no legacy may generate as much pride as her daughters. They have also followed in her footsteps as players (Murphy was an elite scorer for Cornell University). Her daughters would be part of the inaugural Rhode Island state championship team in 2002.

She has had a positive impact on the lives of the young women that have played for her at all levels of the game. The legacy that she built at Brown University, and the new one she is crafting with the Boston Blades, not only makes her worthy of consideration for the United States Hockey Hall of Fame but the coveted Hockey Hall in Toronto.

Kelli Stack looks to complete heroic comeback with golden win at Winter Games

One of the offensive catalysts for the CWHL’s Boston Blades, Kelli Stack’s electrifying 2012-13 season was sidelined by a knee injury. Since then, she has valiantly rebounded to be named to the American contingent competing at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The roster was named on New Year’s Day during the second intermission of the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. While the event set a world record for attendance, it offered Stack with a chance at redemption. After tearing her cruciate knee ligament in December 2012, it has been a road filled with perseverance and dedication. The first step was when she returned to skates on September 9 at the US training camp in Bedford, Mass with the result being her confidence was quickly restored.

On the ice at Michigan Stadium after being named to the 2014 US Olympic Team (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/kstack16)

On the ice at Michigan Stadium after being named to the 2014 US Olympic Team (Image obtained from Twitter: https://twitter.com/kstack16)

Stack’s return is one of the feel-good stories for USA Hockey. Her presence was certainly felt on December 30, 2013 when she contributed two assists along with the game-winning tally for Team USA in a 3-2 exhibition victory in front of 17,227 fans at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. As the final match-up between the eternal rivals until Sochi, it provides confidence for a US team looking to claim its first gold medal in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games since Nagano 1998.

Evading Canadian defender Catherine Ward in a 3-2 win on December 30 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre (Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today Sports)

Evading Canadian defender Catherine Ward in a 3-2 win on December 30 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today Sports)

After missing two significant milestones in US women’s hockey history due to injury, Stack is hoping to make more history at Sochi. Stack was in street-clothes when she saw her Boston Blades achieve a Clarkson Cup victory over a Montreal Stars team that had not allowed a goal in round robin play. A few weeks later, the US would hand Canada its first IIHF Women’s World Championship gold medal game loss on home ice. Missing both events only helped to motivate Stack.

The all-time BC Eagles and Hockey East scoring leader with 133 points is a former All-America selection. The year she won the Bob Allen Award (awarded by USA Hockey for the Most Outstanding Female Player) in 2012, she played on a line with sensational twin sisters Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux. Known affectionately as the “Stacksicles”, all three are part of the US team for 2014.

Stack (second from right) still recovering from injury when the Boston Blades claimed the 2013 Clarkson Cup (Photo credit: Brandon Taylor, Courtesy: CWHL Images)

Stack (second from right) still recovering from injury when the Boston Blades claimed the 2013 Clarkson Cup (Photo credit: Brandon Taylor, Courtesy: CWHL Images)

She is one of 11 players on the 2014 roster that have competed in a previous Winter Games. In addition, she joins five other Boston Blades competitors, Kacey Bellamy, Meghan Duggan (Team USA captain), Hilary Knight (the first US born player to be named CWHL MVP), Gigi Marvin and goaltender Molly Schaus.

A gold medal in Sochi would provide Stack, her five Blades teammates and Julie Chu entry into the Triple Gold Club for Women. The criterion includes a Clarkson Cup, IIHF World Gold and Winter Games gold. Currently, the only American-born player to have achieved this rare milestone is Jenny Potter.

As Stack gets ready to make her mark in the next chapter of the eternal rivalry between the Canadian and American women’s hockey teams, she has already earned the respect and admiration of many hockey fans. Her comeback is one that not only inspires but motivates others to never give up on their dreams. While it is impossible to determine which team shall claim the gold due to the high level of talent, Stack already has the heart of an empowered champion, placing her with much admiration in the hearts and minds of the game’s fans, Canadian and American.