New era begins in CWHL as Team Alberta is rechristened Calgary Inferno

A bold statement was made on September 23, 2013 as Team Alberta and blue and gold sweaters were retired. Prior to the exhibition game between the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers, the new name and jerseys were unveiled. Going by the name of the Calgary Inferno, it marks a tremendous shift for the third year franchise.

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With the franchise’s four defensive stalwarts, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Tara Watchorn and Kelsey Webster, at centre ice for the ceremonial puck drop, it started a bold and exciting chapter. Although Larocque, Mikkelson and Watchorn will forego the season as they are part of Canada’s Centralization Camp (in order to gain a spot for the Sochi Winter Games), Webster shall have a much bigger leadership role this season.
Appointed as a representative for the CWHL Players Association in the upcoming season, it is a fitting tribute for such a dedicated athlete.

Appropriately, this new-look uniform borrows from the Calgary Flames jersey design. Incorporating the colors of red, white, yellow and black, it also uses the striping pattern from the Flames jerseys. The new Inferno logo shall adorn the shoulder. As the Flames (along with the Toronto Maple Leafs) have been onboard as CWHL sponsors since November 2012, it has brought a sense of vitality and sustainability to the budding league.

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Including an offseason that began with the acquisition of Jessica Wong as the first pick overall in the CWHL Draft, the franchise continues to gain momentum. In addition, the Inferno made some more history in the draft by selecting an Australian-born player (Georgia Moore) for the first time, along with a member of the Canadian national women’s tackle football team (Julie Paetsch).

The sharp new look and exciting direction of the franchise certainly points to brighter days. As Team Alberta (also known as the Alberta Honeybadgers) finished their first two seasons with the worst record in the league, this is an effort to inject new life in the promising franchise.

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With the Inferno’s home opener on November 29 versus the Toronto Furies, the franchise has a group of exciting draft picks and solid veterans. Led by head coach and former NHLer Tim Bothwell, he is also the head coach of the Canadian women’s Under-22/Development Team. A strong foundation with Kathy Desjardins and DeLayne Brian between the pipes, along with Webster leading the blueline corps should bring the Inferno its strongest season yet.

While the next goal for the Inferno is to earn their first berth in the Clarkson Cup playoffs, the new look is a reminder that the Team Alberta days are now part of the past. This year’s theme is moving forward and the path towards the future brings with it a renewed optimism.

Unsung heroes Webster and Hoffmeyer ready to bring leadership on and off ice in CWHL

As the Canadian Women’s Hockey League embarks on its seventh sensational season, two remarkable women are contributing in new leadership roles. Kelsey Webster and Lexie Hoffmeyer are going to add the role of player representatives with the CWHLPA to their on-ice duties.

Both members of their respective teams for several seasons, Webster and Hoffmeyer both patrol the blueline while providing strong leadership. Besides their new role as player representatives, the irony is that the two played against each other in the first-ever CWHL game held in an NHL arena; a November 2012 tilt in which Air Canada Centre hosted the Furies and Alberta. Another common ground between these two is that they are unsung heroes.

With Alberta, Webster has competed on a very deep defensive unit. Playing with Meaghan Mikkelson, one of the most popular members of Canada’s national women’s team, recently retired Bobbi-Jo Slusar, along with Jocelyne Larocque and Tara Watchorn, Webster is sometimes overlooked for her strong contributions on defense.

Having played for the York Lions in Toronto under the tutelage of head coach Dan Church (the head coach of the national women’s team playing at Sochi 2014), Webster saw her game improve as she helped make the program more competitive. While at York, her determination led her to a spot on the Canadian National Team that won gold at the 2009 Winter Universiade. Of note, Webster also competed in the first CWHL season of 2007-08 before enrolling with the Lions.

During the last season, Toronto had a new-look offense featuring the likes of Canadian national team members Rebecca Johnston, Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Wakefield. Garnering a significant amount of attention, Hoffmeyer played with a stoic, quiet dignity as she helped her team to a third place finish in the Clarkson Cup playoffs. Holding dual US and Canadian citizenship, Hoffmeyer played one season for the Mercyhurst Lakers and three with the Maine Black Bears.

Heading into the 2013-14 season, it is possible that both may hold another unique distincton; the C on their sweater. With Slusar having served as Alberta’s captain in her final CWHL season, head coach Tim Bothwell needs a new captain. Should past captain Chelsea Purcell not be given the nod again, it is an honour that would be most deserving for Webster.

The sentiment is likewise for Hoffmeyer. Team captain Tessa Bonhomme is joining Johnston, Spooner and Wakefield at Canada’s centralization camp. With the blue and white having drafted several new faces this season, a seasoned veteran like Hoffmeyer would be a great choice.

As the role of a leader is to help provide guidance, feedback and motivation, Webster and Hoffmeyer are friendly, mature and highly knowledgeable. These are great qualities that make them more than just player representatives for the upcoming season, but role models for the league’s rookie crop.