Ailish Forfar’s “The Dream Gap” documentary a declaration of the game’s hopes

While a key focus of the PWHPA has involved, understandably, the players and the collaborative goal of heralding a golden age for the game, the feeling of teamwork is certainly just as impactful off the ice. Such an impact goes beyond the number of dedicated volunteers and sponsors. The definition took on a more profound meaning, enhanced by a highly creative visual production, representing an amazing assembly of talent by the affable Ailish Forfar that put its finger on the pulse of the raison d’etre of the PWHPA.

Through her academic obligations, working towards completing her studies in Ryerson Sport Media, it served as the portal, which provided Forfar with a creative vision to engage in a film project that would incorporate her appreciation of hockey, stimulating a sense of mission to raise awareness about the PWHPA and its collective goals. Dubbed “The Dream Gap”, the title paid homage to a key staple of the PWHPA’s first year of events, as a barnstorming tour throughout North America also featured the same name.

Realizing the concept in late summer, Forfar saw the potential to incorporate the best of both worlds. With the current state of professional women’s ice hockey in a type of somnambulism, there was a strong sense of inspiration to provide a visual narrative. Finding a heightened sense of purpose, it was a project perfectly suited to bring out Forfar’s passion for the game. Preserving the persistence among those in the game that is poised to stand as a template for future generations to emulate.

“The Dream Gap film/project was my final practicum for Ryerson Sport Media – the four year program I have officially just graduated from (virtually!). I was working with some classmates who I had formed a great relationship with over the years and had similar interests in covering women’s hockey stories. So I pitched the idea to them late August before classes started up to do something on the new PWHPA movement as I was joining and was personally motivated to help tell our story.

It was a perfect meshing of my academic and athletic passions. With the access I would have as a player/teammate to the PWHPA, and with my classmates’ incredible skill sets, I knew we would be able to create a really meaningful and personal project that would help tell our story.”

Having called the likes of Erin Ambrose and Laura Stacey as teammates with the PWHL’s Toronto Jr. Aeros, Forfar later starred at the Ivy League level with the Dartmouth College Big Green, playing alongside Stacey once again. Forfar’s university odyssey would conclude with a tribute to her Greater Toronto Area roots, skating with the Ryerson Rams, whose home ice at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, based inside the former Maple Leaf Gardens, helped maintain a proud hockey legacy in the city.

Serving as team captain of the burgeoning program, excelling under the tutelage of Lisa Haley, enjoying the prestige of a First-Team OUA All-Star, complemented by the privilege of wearing the Maple Leaf at the Winter Universiade, Forfar’s skills and acumen for the game established her as a top prospect for the professional ranks.

Selected by the defending Clarkson Cup champion Markham Thunder with the ninth pick of the 2018 CWHL Draft, a team that serendipitously featured Stacey on its roster, Forfar remained associated with the Rams program following her eligibility as a player. Serving dutifully as a member of Haley’s coaching staff; the experience ran parallel to her inaugural season of professional hockey, marking a highly eventful time for the product of Sharon, Ontario.

Although Forfar’s first season with the Thunder proved to be the last in franchise history, she remained highly occupied during 2019-20, as the path taken was one spurred by a highly unforeseen announcement. As the Thunder no longer had a league to play in, the franchise thrust into stasis, the result was a shift in focus.

Maintaining her role on the Rams coaching staff, Forfar provided a welcome presence. As an alumnus not far removed from her glory days in Rams colours, she combined elements of empathy and friendship, providing an approach that maintained her proud legacy as one of the program’s finest leaders.

With a highly talented roster featuring Kryshandra (Krash) Green, who followed Forfar’s example by serving as team captain, Lauren Nicholson and Erica Crouse led the team in scoring with 26 and 25 points each. The season culminated with a sweep of the Brock Badgers in the opening round of the McCaw Cup playoffs as former OUA All-Rookie selection Brooklyn Gemmill scored the series-clinching goal. Enjoying their first-ever semi-final victory, as Nicholson logged the game-winner in a 3-2 opening game triumph against cross-town rival Toronto Lady Blues. Although the program was unable to reach the McCaw Cup Finals, the transfers of Laurier’s Jamie Watson and All-Canadian Annie Berg are poised to ensure that the run of momentum continues.

Worth noting, Forfar’s duties during a highly eventful, yet exciting, time involved another unique endeavor. While engaged in her studies through the Ryerson Sport Media curriculum, Forfar also established a remarkable online presence as a reporter for Yahoo Sports, covering NHL hockey with a highly entertaining weekly program during the 2019-20 NHL season. Currently working with Steve Dangle on NHL Chatroom, which debuted during the 2020 NHL Playoffs, Forfar’s on-air proficiency was evident two years prior. At the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, Forfar was an online video blogger for Samsung. Additionally, Forfar contributed a written piece to Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Hooked on Hockey prior to enrolling at Dartmouth, demonstrating a positive attitude and a profound maturity that would serve her well.

In committing herself to the project of “The Dream Gap”, such values were highly evident, as it also resulted in Forfar accepting her competitive limitations. Sacrificing a season of play, withdrawing from any PWHPA exhibition games, the focus of the documentary allowed her to maintain a heartfelt association with hockey, a highly satisfying facet. Indubitably, the sense of teamwork that encompassed Forfar’s on-ice career remained essential behind the lens. Fittingly, Forfar would find a muse in a former Thunder teammate.

Liz Knox, the franchise’s all-time winningest goaltender, was a member of the PWHPA’s Board during the filming of the documentary. In addition, a volunteer firefighter in the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, which includes footage during the documentary with Knox in uniform, she graciously stepped down from the Board in September 2020 to allow Sarah Nurse a place. Remaining in the capacity of advisor, her reputation for strong leadership and revered standing as a model teammate shined through during Forfar’s labours. Among the interview subjects, Knox’s highly articulate and poignant insights added significantly to the documentary’s tone.

“My teammates were supportive of this idea and appreciative of the fact I would have to cut back on my involvement on the ice. I was balancing being a full time student at Ryerson, a part time coach with the Ryerson Women’s Hockey team, all while having a full time job as a Reporter and On-Air host at Yahoo Sports covering the NHL. I basically knew by September, I could not add in 2-3 practices a week in the evenings up in Markham, plus games/travel on weekends with all of that, while also producing the documentary for my program.

The decision to step off the ice and focus on this storytelling passion was necessary for my sanity too! Any teammates I reached out to for help were always so supportive, especially Liz Knox, who I frequently bothered. My Ryerson group had a great time working with the players and staff and helping tell this story and wish we could have had more time to do more (Ryerson semester only allowed us to complete the project from mid September – end of November for grades).”

Billie Jean King in the PWHPA jersey

As production ensued, Forfar’s passion and focus on strong production values were evident. Considering that a key aspect of the documentary would involve interview footage, she was determined to feature people of prominence, providing a sense of importance to the current state of affairs in the game, while enriching the compelling story unfolding. In addition to the aforementioned Knox, other iconic hockey figures that were interview subjects included Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, also the all-time leading scorer in Thunder franchise history and current Operations Consultant of the PWHPA, along with Hilary Knight, a gold medalist from the 2018 Winter Games.

Of all the individuals that provided their commentary to the documentary, perhaps none held as much influence as the legendary Billie Jean King. Having become a household name in 1973, the same year that she founded the Women’s Tennis Association, when she opposed Bobby Riggs in the famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis challenge at the Houston Astrodome, she was also named Sports Illustrated’s Sportswoman of the Year in 1972. Also founding the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974, King’s effect not only extends beyond the hardcourt but also remains relevant to this day.

Determined to ensure a voice for women in sport, another aspect of King’s mission involves ensuring that female athletes know their value, embodying the sentiments shared by the PWHPA and the likes of Alex Morgan, who remains highly vocal in the US national women’s soccer team’s fight for pay equity. Considering how King’s influence has transcended generations, her presence in women’s ice hockey resulted in coverage from The Wall Street Journal and

Undeniably, the opportunity for King to appear in front of the camera and share her insights on the current mission of the PWHPA provided Forfar, who drove to Chicago with her colleagues, a tremendous feeling of achievement and validation. Decked out in the white jersey with sharp red and blue trim, also worn at the PWHPA Magellan Showcase in Chicago, of which Billie Jean King Enterprises also provided financing for the event, her vision for the future of the game involves three key pillars. An emphasis on ensuring women have a place to compete, gain appreciation for their accomplishments and earn a living wage. One of King’s comments in the documentary included the very well stated, ‘…we will no longer settle for crumbs.’

“I set our sights very high initially in the planning stages of production, knowing that big names and support from icons for women in sport would only help with the validity and storytelling of our documentary. Luckily, I knew Jayna (Hefford) personally from the CWHL and she was eager to help with our story and to help us get access to our players and others that supported the PWHPA’s movement. She was helpful in securing an interview with Billie Jean King in Chicago, which was one of the coolest career moments of my life so far.

Billie has lived through almost exactly what is happening right now with women’s hockey, and is a leader and an inspiration for most female athletes regardless of which sport you play. Interviewing her was one of the most inspirational conversations I have ever had; being able to see and feel her passion for equality and empowerment and to know that she was hearing our own wishes and our own vision was huge.

She is also a firecracker and hilarious and so generous with her time, and we could have talked for an hour and still wanted to hear more. I’m proud to have been able to pull that interview off – we drove to Chicago and back just to meet with her (all of this entire production was paid out of pocket by us, as students!).”

In conjunction with the PWHPA’s first event of 2020, a weekend affair spanning from January 11-12 in Toronto, highlighted by the Secret Showcase, featuring an unprecedented six teams, the Saturday night festivities included the first screening of The Dream Gap. Representing a major milestone for the assiduous Forfar, highlighting a new chapter in her hockey journey, a flood of emotion overtook her.

“The entire documentary screening night was definitely a blur of excitement, nervousness and high expectations – kind of like a hockey game – and one of the proudest nights of my life. We had two incredible panels before and after the documentary (audio is available on Homestand’s PuckTalk page) to provide context, to get the audience thinking and help bookend our story.

When the documentary started playing, I looked around the audience and saw a packed crowd fully engrossed into a project we had poured our heart and soul into, and I felt really proud of my entire team and everyone involved. After it ended, and the audience started clapping and standing on their feet… I had tears in my eye and a lump in my throat because I was overwhelmed with emotion, gratitude, exhaustion, excitement, relief and champagne.

The response after, the messages we received, the amount of people who wanted to see it again and show their friends, teammates, co-workers, families, and more, just proved that we had a story worth telling. Admittedly we are in talks to get it shown on TV very soon, but even if that does not work, we will keep trying to get it seen by many because we do believe that it is necessary to show and help that next generation understand what we are fighting for.”

Following the screening, Forfar hosted a Player’s Panel with the likes of Knight, Knox and Marie-Philip Poulin, whose golden goals at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games placed her in the same stratosphere of Canadian hockey mythology as Paul Henderson. Their collective presence was not only a source of great interest for the audience; it added a feeling of both, importance and endorsement for the documentary itself.

Sharing the common thread of having all played in the final CHWL season, Forfar and Knox aligned with the Thunder, while Knight and Poulin were garbed in the tri-colore of Les Canadiennes de Montreal, appearing in the last Clarkson Cup Finals. Definitely, the sense of mutual respect and shared love of the game set the tone for a fascinating discussion.

“It is always a weird feeling to just casually say that these legends are… my friends? I am so lucky, really, to know and be surrounded by such passionate, influential, bad-*ss women who are leaders in everything they do.”

Certainly, the Dream Gap documentary represents a …. With a tremendous admiration for the game and its players, Forfar’s focus

I respect all female hockey players, across all leagues, organizations and countries, for their dedication to a sport and a cause that often does not provide everything we desire, and frustrates us, exposes inequalities, and makes us question the future of that next generation.

Because without girls like these, or stories like ours, we will never move forward and make a change that will last. I am so proud to have started a conversation, to have sparked debate or helped new perspectives form. It is important to keep women’s sports in the spotlight, because we deserve to have people want to tell our story not only when it is convenient or when it is necessary, but always.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Hilary Knight breaks barriers with Anaheim Ducks

In what continues to be a banner year for Hilary Knight, she continues to ride the wave of momentum by participating in a practice with the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks. After the 2014 Sochi Winter Games (where Knight emerged with a sliver medal), there was speculation that Knight would possibly compete against men at the Division III level in Sweden.

Knight joins the company of other women’s hockey forwards that have been involved with the NHL. Back in 1998, Hayley Wickenheiser attended the Philadelphia Flyers rookie camp. In the autumn of 2013, Fannie Desforges and Dominique Thibault were among a group of Montreal Stars that took part in a practice that was open to the public from the Montreal Canadiens.

Taking into account that the Ducks have engaged in a week-long campaign with a focus on girls hockey, it was only fitting that Knight was involved. As a side note, IIHF World Girls Hockey Weekend takes place on October 11 and 12. In a year that has seen Knight grace the pages of ESPN’s Body Issue, appear on NBC television and have her own trading card issued by Topps, she has emerged as the It Girl for United States women’s hockey.

After participating in an October 3 practice session with the Ducks, Knight took part in a meet-and-greet prior to the Ducks match with state-rival San Jose on October 4. It was part of the Ducks’ Girls Play Hockey Night at Honda Center. In addition to an autograph session, Knight also took part in a ceremonial puck drop with girls from local youth associations such as the Lady Ducks and The Rinks.

At 5-foot-10, Knight was not intimidated on the ice. With great speed and an impressively quick wrist shot, she impressed Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. Of note, Boudreau has never seen a women’s hockey game live. Of note, Knight took part in the first 25 minutes of the Ducks workout, participated in skating and passing drills. She would return for another session of shooting, although Ducks goatlenders Frederik Andersen and John Gibson looked much bigger than any of the women’s goalies that she traditionally faced. Later that day, Knight also served as a guest coach for a women’s team in another part of the Ducks’ training complex.

In addition, Ducks defender Ben Lovejoy grew up in the same town in New Hampshire that Knight did. The two became fast friends discussing their hometown roots. While Knight would love to play in an NHL exhibition game, there is certainly no shortage of talent. Earlier this year, Shannon Szabados practiced with the Edmonton Oilers and four time Winter Games gold medalist Caroline Ouellette would be ideal to participate with the Montreal Canadiens. With the quantum leap that women’s hockey is enjoying in North America, there is no question that such a dream may become a reality very soon.

Women in sport part of popular Lake Tahoe celebrity golf event

One of the most popular events during the golf season, the American Century Championships at Lake Tahoe is a celebrity-filled event with actors, recording artists, sportscasters and athletes (active and retired) who have a passion for golf. Considering that over 80 celebrities were registered for the 2014 edition of the event, its popularity continues to grow. Of note, the event utilizes the Stableford Scoring System (a system of points used for a Birdie, Eagle, Ace, Bogey).

With fellow US hockey Olympian Jeremy Roenick (left) at Lake Tahoe. Image obtained from Twitter

With fellow US hockey Olympian Jeremy Roenick (left) at Lake Tahoe. Image obtained from Twitter

Contested at Edgewood Tahoe South from July 15-20, one of the unique aspects was the fact that three women of sport participated. Lisa Cornwell, a popular broadcaster with the Golf Channel, LPGA living legend Annika Sorenstam and Hilary Knight, a two-time silver medalist in women’s hockey at the Winter Games were competing against a male-dominated field. As a side note, all three were participating in this event for the first time.

While Sorenstam has played against men before, there is no question that her superior golf skills made her a contender to win the tournament. The local sports book reported that most monies had been placed on Sorenstam to win the event. As a side note, Sorenstam came out of retirement in order to compete in this event for the first time. Taking into account that Sorenstam has a residence at Squaw Valley’s Incline Village, she holds a familiarity for the Lake Tahoe-area courses.

A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, she is the proud owner of 89 event championships, including 10 majors on the LPGA tour. Although this was her first time competing, she has attended as a fan for several years. This year, iconic race car driver Danica Patrick was in attendance as a fan, gracious with fans and posing for photos.

Lisa Cornwell would finish the tournament tied for 53rd with legendary National Hockey League goaltender Martin Brodeur. Under the Stableford System, Cornwell shot a 5 on Friday and Saturday. On the final day of competition, she would finish with a -3 as inclement weather caused a delay. A former Arkansas Female Athlete of the Year, she also played collegiate golf at Southern Methodist University and the University of Arkansas.

Throughout her career, she is not a stranger to golfing with some notable individuals. At the tender age of 8 years old, she met Lou Holtz, who gave her a high-five after making her first birdie. On the junior golf circuit, she partnered with Tiger Woods, and in her adult life, enjoyed playing with her cousin, former United States President Bill Clinton.

Meeting a young fan at the 25th American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe. Image obtained from Twitter

Meeting a young fan at the 25th American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe. Image obtained from Twitter

Hilary Knight, one of the most popular (and talented) women’s hockey players in the world has quickly emerged as the face of USA Hockey. She was joined by six others that have competed in ice hockey at the Winter Games. Of note, three had experience with USA Hockey, including Mike Eruzione, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. Eruzione was joined by Jeremy Roenick, a silver medalist at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games and T.J. Oshie, who competed at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Gold medalists Martin Brodeur and Joe Sakic were part of Hockey Canada when they graced the ice.

Despite the hockey connection, there were several other unique sporting connections for Knight. Other US Olympians at the event included Mardy Fish, a silver medalist in tennis, Dan Jansen, who earned gold at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games and Bode Miller, one of the most accomplished skiers in US history. Taking into account that Knight played collegiately at the University of Wisconsin, the other connection involved three past and current members of the Green Bay Packers football club; Aaron Rodgers, Jim McMahon and Sterling Sharpe.

Charles Barkley, a member of the 1992 United States Basketball Dream Team (competing in his 19th year) was the only player who finished ahead of Knight on the first day. Shooting a 34-over total of 106, he was two strokes better than Knight, who was a golf novice. On the day of competition on Saturday July 20, Knight would show great patience on the course, as she struggled on the 15th hole. Her drive went to the right from the tee and landed far into the woods. Eventually finding the bunker to the left of the green, multiple putts resulted in a difficult hole.

Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley jokingly shows World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam some tips on her swing. (Image obtained from Twitter)

Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley jokingly shows World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam some tips on her swing. (Image obtained from Twitter)

Although she acknowledged that many aspects of her game need improvement, she was all smiles throughout the weekend, making herself accessible to fans, and gaining some new ones. Golfing with famous sitcom dad Alan Thicke, he would state on social media that he just became a big fan of Knight. Thicke would finish 82nd in the standings, while Knight would manage to finish 85th, five strokes better than Barkley. Throughout the three days, Knight showed improvement. She would log -36 points (Friday), -30 points (Saturday) and -27 points (Sunday).

Sorenstam was definitely the most talked about player of the event. With the event covered on NBC Sports, the announce team of Bob Papa and Roger Maltbie acknowledged she was a competitor throughout the event. On the final day, she was partnered with former Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer and long-time celebrity golfer, Jack Wagner. While she never had control of the lead, she did finish tied for second with Roenick, both registering a total score of 65.

On the final day, Sorenstam shot a 23, placing herself within reach of the title. Throughout the back nine, former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien would dominate, shooting an astounding 33 on the day, beating Sorenstam and Roenick by 11 points. The two would each earn $57,500 for their second place tie. Already invited to return next year, Sorenstam is indecisive.

Physically and emotionally strong women part of 2014 ESPN Body Issue

As the 2014 edition of the ESPN Body Issue hits newsstands, the female athletes that are featured provide a message of inspiration and empowerment. In years past, sex appeal was a very significant factor. While the magazine is a diverse celebration of what makes an athlete’s physique so captivating, the overcoming of unique struggles among the female athletes that choose to appear has the ultimate appeal.

Jamie Anderson, who competed in Snowboarding at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, is a free spirit that has gone against convention while finding the confidence to succeed. As one of eight children, Anderson comes from a background where she was homeschooled and opted to not have a coach in her teens.

Having experienced the pinnacle of her sport, she treats her body with a natural and holistic approach. Methods such as yoga, meditation, reading, burning sage and incense are among her favorites. Along with a competitor from Norway (Kjersti Buaas), being in the presence of trees provides a sense of peace and serenity that provides relaxation should nerves prevail before a contest.

With calmness as one of her best qualities, she proves that a healthy mind is a key factor in a healthy body. Any discussion on the body is one where Anderson engages in the wonder of its healing properties. After rupturing her spleen several years ago, the ability to recover from it helps place value on her health and body.

Following in the footsteps of her sister Serena (who appeared on the cover of the Body Issue in 2009), Venus appeared in the 2014 edition. Her appearance is a real opportunity to celebrate the battle she has had with Sjorgen’s syndrome.

Despite being a world class tennis player, the syndrome is one where an individual can experience extreme fatigue. Although she acknowledges it was a life-changing experience, she also states that she does not like being defeated by anything.


Crediting her father with advice on new techniques, these alternative approaches to her game are testament to the creativity that she wants to bring to her game. Her willingness to always find a solution is what makes her a true role model.

One of the world’s most popular hockey players, Hilary Knight’s appearance in the Body Issue is one that may have brought about positive change. Considering that she added muscle to her frame (weighing 185 pounds) heading into the Sochi Winter Games, she talks about how there were concerns about muscle not being sexy.

Her appearance is one that helps challenge perceptions about body image and perceived views on weight. Challenging such notions, Knight proves that a woman should be able to feel comfortable in her own skin. As a side note, the ESPN web site even featured an infographic on how Knight got her physique.


With ambitions to compete in the triathlon, Danyelle Wolf made the transition to boxing because she was told by a trainer that she had the build of a fighter. Although she initially met resistance as she was told she could not succeed because she was a woman, it would prove to be the first of many obstacles that she overcame.

Currently a two-time US national champ and a member of the US national team, she has made believers out of her doubters. Proud of her chiseled physique, she also believes that there is more to the image of a boxer than a rough and tumble fighter. Highly educated, she also enjoys adorning herself in high heels and dresses, appreciating fashion.

Having gone from track and field to bobsled, Aja Evans has made the athletic transition similar to Wolf. While Wolf faced criticism over her gender, Evans faced concerns over looking too muscular. Although she does rely on ice cream as comfort food, Evans acknowledges that learning to embrace her physique was the turning point in her athletic life, making her feel invincible.

In Evans’ life, athletics runs in the family. Of note, her brother Fred is a Defensive Tackle with the Minnesota Vikings. Their father was an avid swimmer while mother ran track and field. Former major league baseball player Gary Matthews is an uncle, while current player Gary Matthews, Jr. is their cousin.

Having had the luxury of training with NFL stars, she learned quickly that off the field, friendship trumps competition. Like so many track stars, she made the transition to bobsled and it resulted in a bronze medal at the Winter Games. Despite the competition (only nine bobsledders travel during the season), she understood the values of teamwork as she was part of the four-woman bobsled team.

A superstar with the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, Angel McCoughtry has endured her share of physical and emotional scars. As a star player, she endured many cheap shots as a way of trying to get her off her game. Playing against boys when she was younger, blocking their shots would serve in verbal jabs, forcing her to tell others to treat her as a player and not as a girl.

Growing up, she endured many problems on the way she perceived herself due to her size. This was compounded by corns on her feet from wearing smaller-sized shoes as a child. Although she reflects on it as a mistake, she hopes it proves to young players that they need to be proud of who they are.

Amy Purdy, photographed by Zack Johnson

Amy Purdy, photographed by Zack Johnson

Professional surfer Coco Ho was captured on her surf board wearing nothing but confidence as she shared her own concerns about being muscular. Acknowledging that she had the legs of a gymnast, she mentioned that it took time to appreciate how the power of her legs made her powerful.

The love of the waves is definitely in Ho’s blood. Just like Aja Evans came from an athletic family, Ho’s family made their mark in surfing. Her uncle Derek was the first male world champion to come from Hawaii. Her father retired from competition as a two-time Triple Crown winner, while her borther actively competes today.

In a sport like surfing where everyone wears swimsuits, she feels that fans are more interested in the most attractive competitors rather than the most successful athletes. While it is an uphill struggle for the sport, she hopes the results will eventually serve as the substance in a female surfer’s career.

Of all the women that chose to be part of the 2014 edition of the ESPN Body Issue, Amy Purdy may have brought the most courage. Despite her disability of no longer having her legs, losing them at the age of 19 due to septic shock), Purdy approaches it with a remarkable perspective. Recognizing that the mind gives up before the body does, her enjoyment for life is only stronger.

Trying to figure out what was possible and what she could do with her prosthetic limbs was more important than self-pity. Surviving a coma that sidelined her for two and a half weeks was the greatest triumph in her life, setting the stage for more victories to come.
Being able to find a way to snowboard again would prove to be a source of inspiration for future fans. Despite struggles with kidney failure and weighing as low as 83 pounds, she never missed a snowboarding season. Even with the loss of her legs, she can still feel pressure, enhancing the awareness of her body and how to position herself in competition.

Recognizing the beauty of her beauty and accepting that muscle can be feminine is a common theme among these remarkable women who have captured the hearts and minds of sports fans the world over. Appearing in the ESPN Body Issue is more than just a celebration of their athletic accomplishments; it is an opportunity to understand that their past struggles are an endearing quality that shows a soft, human side. While these are women that are world class athletes, the ability to talk about the acceptance of their physiques and celebrate the overcoming of these mental hurdles makes them world class people.

10 Female Athletes that made an inspiring impact in 2013

In alphabetical order, please find ten female athletes that helped to make a tremendous impact in 2013, while advancing the already amazing world of female sport.

Angella Goran, Cycling

Cycling across Canada in hopes of raising funds for wildlife research, she channeled the spirit of other Canadians who have ventured on the road in similar efforts; Terry Fox, Rick Hansen and Ashley Gilbank. Looking to preserve Canada’s natural legacy while looking to educate and provide various education activities on her stops, Goran is a role model to both men and women who have undertaken environmental causes.

Emma Green-Tregaro, Track and Field

While the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships were a lightning rod for controversy due to issues of gay rights, Emma Green-Tregaro made a remarkable statement. Painting her fingernails in the colors of the rainbow as a gesture of support, it made worldwide news. While she was inititally warned it could be in violation of the code of conduct of the world championships, she stood her ground, inspiring men and women of any sexual preference to stand up for their beliefs.

Brittany Griner, Basketball

From the NCAA to NBA Draft speculation to the WNBA, Brittany Griner made national news on numerous stages. While her NCAA career at Baylor did not end on with a Final Four, she graduated as the all-time leading blocker among both male and female basketball players.

Speculation about the NBA Draft sparked rumors that she would become the first female selected. Although it never materialized, she would go first overall to the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 WNBA Draft. Her debut against the Chicago Sky (which featured second pick overall Elena Delle Donne) featured two slam dunks, the first player to do so in their WNBA debut.

Sami Grisafe, Football

One of the most inspiring sporting stories of 2013 (among men and women), football quarterback Sami Grisafe finished her storied football career in grand style. Having led the United States to a gold medal at the inaugural 2010 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, she followed it up as the field general for the US in 2013.

Her world gold would be followed up by a remarkable performance with the Chicago Force in the 2013 WFA postseason. Leading her club to their first-ever WFA National Championship, it was a fitting finish to Grisafe’s stellar career. Tackling the next role in her life, a promising musical career, her performance of the Star-Spangled Banner at the IFAF Worlds and at Wrigley Field are pulse-pounding.

Brooke Henderson, Golf

Only 16 years old, Brooke Henderson may become the Tiger Woods of women’s golf. A teen phenom who was recognized as Canada’s amateur golfer of the year for 2013, she was also featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd segment. Ranked number nine in the world among amateur female golfers, she would place third at the professional Canadian Women’s Open while placing 35 at the LPGA’s Manulife Classic.

Nikki Johnson, Football

One of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of women’s indoor football, Nikki Johnson used her star power to try and improve working conditions in her league. A former intern with NFL Films and a high school sporting legend in Nevada, her solid work ethic and leadership skills set a positive example for teammate and rival alike.

While her requests for health insurance and a more equitable setting in the league resulted in her untimely dismissal, her efforts are similar to Curt Flood in baseball and Ted Lindsay in hockey. Although she will likely return to the WFA (where she first honed her skills), Johnson is a strong, courageous woman whose principles make her a symbol of admiration and determination.

Hilary Knight, Ice Hockey

While Amanda Kessel had an outstanding 2013, in which she won the Patty Kazmaier Award and led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to an undefeated season, Hilary Knight was playing in the ultra-competitive CWHL against some of Canada’s greatest women’s ice hockey players.

With such sterling competition, Knight not only ranked third in league scoring (first among US-born women), but she would become the first American-born player to capture the CWHL’s MVP Award. She would follow it up by leading all players in postseason scoring as the Blades upset the Montreal Stars to capture the Clarkson Cup. A few weeks later, Knight (and Kessel) would beat Canada on their own home ice to capture gold at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. Featured on a trading card in the Topps Sochi Winter Games trading card set, her star is on the rise.

Yekaterina Pashkevich, Ice Hockey

A former women’s tackle football competitor in the IWFL, Yekaterina Pashkevich emerged as the feel-good story of the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. An original member of the Russian national team from 1993, she lived in Boston for several years after the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Making a comeback in hockey, Pashkevitch would capture the hearts and minds of fans 20 years later. As the oldest competitor at the 2013 IIHF Worlds, her acumen and leadership contributed to an emotional bronze medal for the Russian squad.

Winter Venecki, Running

In honor of her fallen father, Winter Venecki and her mother participated in marathons on every continent in the world. Looking to raise funds for cancer research, Venecki’s journey was one of inspiration and hope. Having established her own cause to raise funds, the teenaged Venecki is a great example of the great contributions youth can make to our society.

Serena Williams, Tennis

In a season that saw Williams amass an outstanding win-loss record of 78-4, she solidified her legacy as the greatest female tennis player ever. Her earnings of over $12,000,000 are the highest-ever in women’s tennis history and the fifth highest among both male and female players.

Honorable Mention: Christmas Abbott, NASCAR

As the first female full-time member of a NASCAR racing crew, Christmas Abbott is shattering barriers in traditionally male-dominated fields. Serving with the Michael Waltrip Racing Team, she is a proud member of Clint Bowyer’s pit crew. Able to change two tires weighting 60 pounds each, she paid her dues changing tires for female racer Jennifer Jo Cobb in years past. When not part of the pit crew, Abbott is also a competitor with Team CrossFitInvoke in the CrossFit Mid-Atlantic region.

Honorable Mention: Julie Paetsch, Football and Ice Hockey

One of the most influential women in Canadian sport for 2013, Julie Paetsch helped make history on two different occasions. Competing on defense with the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, she returned from an injury in-time for the WWCFL title game. Helping the Valkyries to a victory over the Lethbridge Steel, the Valkyries became the first team to win three consecutive WWCFL titles. Of note, she would earn Defensive Player of the Game honors.

A few weeks later, she would contribute to Canada’s silver medal effort at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Recognized as Canada’s Player of the Game in the gold medal match against the United States, it would prove to be the beginning of a memorable summer. In late August, she would be selected by the Calgary Inferno in the 2013 Canadian Women’s Hockey League Draft, becoming the first women’s tackle football player taken in CWHL Draft history. In addition, she would score a goal in her debut for the Inferno.

Honorable Mention: Whitney Zelee, Football

Having helped the Boston Militia to a national championship in 2011, Whitney Zelee has emerged as a key member for the WFA franchise. While she has been working tirelessly to help the squad claim a second, her mark on WFA and women’s football history reached unforeseen heights in 2013. As the first player to log 2,000 yards in one season of women’s football, Zelee became a legend in the sport. With several performances of 300+ yards in several matches, her efforts shed a new light on the excitement of women’s football and the growing relevance of the sport.

Sporting world to catch up with women’s hockey star Hilary Knight

Quite possibly the finest American-born women’s hockey player competing today, the year 2013 has brought with it a year of great milestones. The first three months saw Knight carve a great legacy within the ranks of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Although Knight finished third in the CWHL scoring race, and second among rookie scorers, she did manage to lead all American-born players in scoring. Perhaps more impressive, Knight, a CWHL rookie no less, became the first American to win the CWHL Most Valuable Player Award.

Knight becomes first American born player to win CWHL MVP Award. Photo credit: Brandon Taylor

Knight becomes first American born player to win CWHL MVP Award. Photo credit: Brandon Taylor

She would follow up the accolade by leading all players in scoring during the Clarkson Cup playoffs. Her scoring touch helped her club team, the Boston Blades, prevent the Montreal Stars from claiming their third consecutive Cup.

Knight celebrating the Clarkson Cup win with Meaghan Duggan. This dynamic duo has also won the NCAA Frozen Four and IIHF Women’s Worlds as teammates too. (Photo by Brandon Taylor)

Knight celebrating the Clarkson Cup win with Meaghan Duggan. This dynamic duo has also won the NCAA Frozen Four and IIHF Women’s Worlds as teammates too. (Photo by Brandon Taylor)

A few weeks after her Cup win, she would duplicate the feat with the US National Team at the 2013 IIHF World Championships in Ottawa, Canada. Facing an undefeated Canadian rival in the gold medal game (who had never lost a gold medal game on home soil), Knight helped the US contingent to its fourth gold medal in the last five IIHF Women’s Worlds.

While Knight has left an incredible legacy in women’s hockey, she also has an affinity for the great summer pastime of baseball. Two great baseball moments would help define Knight’s off-season.

Despite rainy conditions, Knight proudly joined her Blades teammates as part of a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park in Boston. Recognizing the Blades’ Clarkson Cup victory, the team was allowed onto the hallowed field for a pre-game ceremony.

Photo credit: Harry How at Getty Images

Photo credit: Harry How at Getty Images

A second baseball event would follow a few weeks after the Fenway ceremony. Back in her home state of California, Knight caught a game at Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. Joining her were four USA Hockey teammates; team captain Julie Chu (who played against Knight in the Clarkson Cup finals), Amanda Kessel and the Lamoureux Twins, Jocelyne and Monique.

These five fantastic hockey players were in Hollywood with Harry How, a photographer for Getty Images. As part of a photo shoot to help promote the efforts of the United States Olympic Committee at the 2014 Sochi Games, Knight and her teammates proudly represented the growing game of women’s hockey.

Even in the warm sun of California, Knight cannot escape hockey. Along with a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, Knight and her teammates were welcomed to Staples Center to catch a postseason sporting event. With the NHL Conference Semi-Finals underway, they had the opportunity to catch the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks in a playoff tussle. In addition, Knight had the opportunity to be featured on the NBC Sports Network talk show, The Crossover with Michelle Beadle.

Taking in an LA Kings playoff game with USA teammates the Lamoureux twins (Jocelyne and Monique) along with Amanda Kessel

Taking in an LA Kings playoff game with USA teammates the Lamoureux twins (Jocelyne and Monique) along with Amanda Kessel

While Knight will be looking help end the United States gold-medal draught in women’s hockey at the Winter Games, she will also be part of another unique way to promote the Sochi Games. Following on the success of their trading card series which recognized athletes competing at London 2012, the Topps trading card company (known for their baseball cards) has immortalized Knight on cardboard.

Along with Lamoureux twins, the three shall be featured on their own trading cards in said set. Other Winter Games hopefuls and heroes that shall appear in the Sochi trading card set include Gracie Gold, Julia Mancuso and autographed cards of Mike Eruzione.

Quickly becoming the face of US women’s hockey (following in the steps of other legends like Cammi Granato and Angela Ruggiero), a gold medal would help to transform Knight into an American sporting hero.

Having already won a Clarkson Cup, IIHF Gold and an NCAA Frozen Four, Winter Games gold would provide her with a unique grand slam. Of note, the only other woman to have won all four was Jenny Schmidgall-Potter.

While the sporting world is catching up to the greatness that is Hilary Knight, she may become more than just a household name, but a glowing example of women proving that they too can become sporting heroes. After Sochi, there is no question that the next generation of young female hockey players may grow up wanting to be like Knight.