allowhertoplay selects its All-Time CWHL Teams

All-Time First Team
Forwards:

Jayna Hefford: Brampton Thunder
Caroline Ouellette: Montreal Stars, Canadiennes de Montreal
Marie-Philip Poulin: Montreal Stars, Canadiennes de Montreal

Defense:
Molly Engstrom: Brampton Thunder, Boston Blades
Catherine Ward: Montreal Stars

Goaltender:
Charline Labonte: Montreal Stars, Canadiennes de Montreal

Coach:
Patrick Rankine: Montreal Stars

All-Time Second Team
Forwards:
Jennifer Botterill: Mississauga Warriors, Toronto Furies
Noemie Marin: Montreal Stars, Canadiennes de Montreal
Kelli Stack: Boston Blades, Kunlun Red Star

Defense:
Cathy Chartrand: Montreal Stars, Canadiennes de Montreal
Becky Kellar: Burlington Barracudas

Goaltender:
Kim St. Pierre: Montreal Stars, Canadiennes de Montreal

Coach:
Digit Murphy: Boston Blades, Kunlun Red Star

All-Time Third Team
Forwards:
Ann-Sophie Bettez: Montreal Stars, Canadiennes de Montreal
Brianna Decker: Boston Blades, Calgary Inferno
Hilary Knight: Boston Blades, Canadiennes de Montreal
Defense:
Laura Fortino: Brampton/Markham Thunder
Annie Guay, Montreal Stars
Goaltender:
Sami Jo Small: Mississauga Warriors, Toronto Furies
Coach:
Dany Brunet: Canadiennes de Montreal
Honorable Mention
Forwards:
Meghan Agosta: Montreal Stars
Rebecca Johnston: Toronto Furies, Calgary Inferno
Natalie Spooner: Toronto Furies
Sommer West: Mississauga Warriors, Burlington Barracudas

Defense:
Kacey Bellamy: Boston Blades, Calgary Inferno
Jocelyne Larocque: Brampton/Markham Thunder
Shannon Moulson: Burlington Barracudas, Toronto Furies
Meaghan Mikkelson: Calgary Inferno
Goaltender:
Delayne Brian, Calgary Inferno
Liz Knox: Brampton/Markham Thunder
Emerance Maschmeyer: Calgary Inferno, Canadiennes de Montreal
Coach:
Pat Cocklin: Brampton Thunder, Burlington Barracudas

Triple Gold Club for Mikk and Wick among others

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

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

Photo credit: Justin Tang, The Canadian Press

Photo credit: Justin Tang, The Canadian Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spooner and Mikkelson provide valiant effort in final leg of Amazing Race Canada

Heading into the final leg of the Amazing Race Canada, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson found themselves in the nation’s capital of Ottawa. Of note, the last time the two were in Ottawa, they were part of the Canadian hockey team that competed at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. After a silver medal loss to the United States, the two were hoping that their return to Ottawa would provide them with winning redemption.

Beginning with kayaking on the Ottawa River, the final leg would prove to be a see-saw battle with the other teams. It was evident early on that the kayaking experience would take its toll on Mikkelson. Having gone through all eleven legs of Amazing Race Canada with a wrist that was still healing from an injury sustained at the Sochi Winter Games, Mikkelson looked to be in considerable pain as the team struggled to get the kayak in the water.

Spooner (left) and Mikkelson stoically holding back tears after an emotional finish to the race at Ottawa's Rideau Hall (Image obtained from ctv.ca)

Spooner (left) and Mikkelson stoically holding back tears after an emotional finish to the race at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall (Image obtained from ctv.ca)

Despite arriving at the dock for the entrance of the Rideau Canal in second place, Spooner and Mikkelson were still very much in contention. The next step involved visiting Parliament Hill, where teams opened an envelope containing an important date in the history of Parliament.

Finding the book that corresponded to the date in question, it had to present it to an employee at the Library of Parliament. Unfortunately, Spooner and Mikkelson did not see the envelope, heading straight to the Library.

Still trailing in second place after correcting their steps and finding the envelope and book, Spooner and Mikkelson headed west of Ottawa towards Carp, Ontario, where the Canadian Cold War Museum (known affectionately as the Diefenbunker) would provide the next challenge. Spooner would take part, a move that would haunt the team afterwards.

While one team had already arrived at the Diefenbunker, Spooner had the opportunity to overtake them. Searching for three of five different military themed toys in a challenge called “Military Search”, Spooner overlooked two of the locations. There were toys in an incubator at the medical room and in a locker where sleeping quarters were located.

By the time Spooner finished the challenge, the first place team were on their way back to Ottawa as there was a Roadblock at the Museum of Civilization. As Spooner had engaged in the search at the Diefenbunker, Mikkelson was now obligated to participate in the Roadblock at the Museum.

Unfortunately, it was a physically demanding challenge that would place considerable strain on Mikkelson. Placed into a harness, Mikkelson faced a 60 foot obstacle, as she had to ascend to the top of the atrium. Once at the top, Mikkelson had to grab an envelope and head towards a nearby balcony.

Taking into account that Mikkelson’s hand was severely swollen with pain after the kayaking challenge, she could not hide the expression of pain on her visage as she ascended to the atrium. Natalie cheered a very brave Mikkelson on, as she refused to give up. Spooner would remark that seeing Mikkelson’s struggle on the ropes reminded her of how close they have grown over the race. Seeing her suffer through pain just to make it to the end and have a chance to win the race truly impressed her.

As the excitement continued to build as the race was in its final legs, Spooner and Mikkelson reached the National Art Gallery of Canada on historic Sussex Drive. A series of paintings would challenge the memories of all competitors as they needed to arrange them in chronological order, based on the places they visited. At one point, all three remaining teams were in the room, sorting frantically.

Sadly, another team would finish the sorting first, as Spooner and Mikkelson fell back to second place. Undeterred, they continued valiantly, refusing to give up. Just a few minutes later, they would successfully complete the sorting as they now had to go down Sussex Drive towards Rideau Hall, the residence of Canada’s Governor General (as a side note, both met the Honorable Gov Gen in 2013).

By the time they arrived to Rideau Hall, the first team was already on their way towards the grounds, arriving at the Pit Stop first, as eliminated competitors were cheering them on. Arriving at the Pit Stop seconds, holding hands with heads held high, Spooner and Mikkelson tried hard to hold back tears.

Spooner would express it was upsetting not to win but stated that no one could away take the experiences from them. Mikkelson expressed pride at how many legs they won and how strong they were throughout competition, also stating how proud she was to represent Canada.

Of note, host Jon Montgomery recognized the accomplishments of Spooner and Mikkelson throughout the season, telling them that they “crushed” the second season. Of note, the race would entail more than 44,000 kilometres, 814 air fares and 2135 hotel rooms while a remarkable new number of fans admired the greatness that is Spooner and Mikkelson.

Emotions rise to the surface for Mikkelson and Spooner in tenth leg of Amazing Race Canada

After a disappointing third place finish in Montreal, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson were hoping that the tenth leg of Amazing Race Canada would provide them with their seventh victory. Heading to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the birthplace of Canadian Confederation, there was strong feelings of patriotism.

Such feelings were quickly accompanied by fatigue as the first challenge in the tenth leg of the race would prove to be exhausting. The historic Red Shores Racetrack and Casino would set the backdrop for a unique version of harness racing as one team member would grace blinders, pulling their partner for two tiring laps. Spooner and Mikkelson held the early lead but stopped in order to switch positions. It would allow another team to overtake them and finish first past the finish line.

Proceeding to Confederation House, where a decision was reached to unite Britain’s North American colonies in 1864, leading to the formation of Canada, the historic landmark was the site of the first road block. Titled “Who’s Your Daddy?”, Mikkelson would take the challenge.

Teams had to consult individuals outside the building, dressed in 1860s outfits to obtain the names and defining features (such as facial hair or paraphernalia) of the fathers of Confederation. Once all the names were memorized, contestants went inside to view a historic reenactment in the Confederation Chamber.

Having to identify the individuals representing each delegate represented in Mikkelson engaging in a difficult struggle. While all teams struggled in this road block, it would allow other teams to not only catch up to Mikkelson and Spooner, but to overtake them. Mikkelson’s Achilles Heel was the identification of Charles Tupper.

Unfortunately, she kept calling him Tapper. After one of the costumed individuals outside pointed out her error, she would successfully complete the road block. Upon completion, Spooner and Mikkelson found themselves in last place for the first time in the competition.

Headed towards the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery in New London, Spooner and Mikkelson employed a never say die attitude. As some other competitors were lost along the way, the hockey heroines advanced into third place. Outside the historic house, they found the clue for the Detour: Mussels or Mass. The Mass option involved calculating the total weight of 10 million potatoes. On the other hand, the Mussels choice resulted in stripping 1,800 pounds of mussels off their stalks.

Like the rest of the competitors, Spooner and Mikkelson opted for Mussels. Despite their last place status, they quickly got back into the thick of the race. Outpacing the other competitors, their quickness left the others in awe. Their ability to bounce back was testament to their peak physical condition.

While the brother and sister combination of Sukhi and Jinder finished first, Spooner and Mikkelson were quickly on their trail. Both teams race towards the Pit Stop, which was located at the Farmers’ Bank of Rustico. Along the way, tensions became evident as the hockey heroines were not happy with the behavior of the siblings. Stopping at a gas station for directions, they saw Spooner and Mikkelson’s car approaching. Pointing to the right (in an overstated way), they attempted to confuse them. Not deterred, Spooner and Mikkelson turned left, heading in the right direction.

Both teams would arrive at the Bank of Rustico at the same time as Sukhi and Jinder beat the hockey heroines by mere seconds to win their second consecutive leg in the race. At the Pit Stop, Mikkelson could not hold in her emotions any longer. It was evident that Mikkelson had a look of anger and disappointment on her face, which host Jon Montgomery asked her about.

Venting her frustration, Mikkelson said that the siblings’ trying to point them in the wrong direction was just cheap. Talking about winning the right way, Mikkelson had every right to be upset. The siblings would rebuff by gloating as to how the hockey heroines were mad that they were in second. While it may be no consolation for Spooner and Mikkelson, the siblings would have likely acted that way towards any of the other teams trailing them.

Obviously, winning two consecutive legs has led to feelings of grandeur among the siblings, only intensifying the rivalry. From the very beginning of the race, Spooner and Mikkelson have been targets of jealousy due to their sporting exploits. Having always shown grace and class, even in losing, the hockey heroines will only use this as motivation to continue and be the exemplary competitors that have made them the team to beat and admire.

Fair play in Paris provides Spooner and Mikkelson with sixth win in Amazing Race Canada

After an emotional journey in Normandy, the eighth leg of the Amazing Race Canada continued in France. Headed towards Paris, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson were the first to leave towards the train station. With six teams remaining, Spooner and Mikkelson were among the first three teams that arrived in Paris, looking for the first clue of this leg in an episode titled, “I said yes!”.

Hockey heroes Spooner and Mikkelson at the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris, reading the details of the Detour. (Image obtained from: Spooner and Mikkelson serving patrons at the "Plat du Jour". (Image obtained from: http://www.ctv.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada.aspx)

Hockey heroes Spooner and Mikkelson at the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris, reading the details of the Detour. (Image obtained from: Spooner and Mikkelson serving patrons at the “Plat du Jour”. (Image obtained from: http://www.ctv.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada.aspx)

Traveling towards the world-famous Arc de Triomphe, the first clue awaited the competitors at the Place du Canada, which featured busts of Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain, famous French explorers who helped discover Canada. Said clue offered competitors the option to compete in “Haute Couture”, visiting a fashion school and replicating a dress with a collection of pre-cut fabrics, or “Plat du Jour”, a food service option.

Spooner and Mikkelson would opt for Plat du Jour. Traveling through the city’s streets, they had to find traditional cafés with outdoor signs featuring a small flag displayed. The flag would allow the competitors to find one of three traditional French food items that the teams had to find. Upon retrieval of all three items, it had to be served to a group of hungry individuals, who would provide teams with their next clue.

Spooner and Mikkelson serving patrons at the "Plat du Jour". (Image obtained from: http://www.ctv.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada.aspx)

Spooner and Mikkelson serving patrons at the “Plat du Jour”. (Image obtained from: http://www.ctv.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada.aspx)

While other teams were struggling, Spooner and Mikkelson were highly organized, moving swiftly through the streets finding the necessary items and quickly jumping into first place. Perhaps more impressive was the next leg of the race and the approach that Spooner and Mikkelson utilized.

The infamous U-Turn became a part of the race for the first time. It allows a team who gets there first to pick another team who must complete both parts of a detour before continuing on. Spooner and Mikkelson refused to U-Turn any of the contestants, stating that they wanted a fair race.

Arriving at the next stage before the rest, Spooner and Mikkelson encountered a challenge that paid homage to the artistic legacy of Paris. Teams had to recreate a painting using approximately 1400 Mentos candies of different colors. The candies would be placed on a board as patience would prove to be the most useful tool in completing the precise task.

Expressing her love of candy and claiming to have the world’s biggest sweet tooth, Spooner gladly undertook the challenge. Her hand-eye co-ordination was evident as she employed the analytical skills that enable her to read defenses on the ice to finish the task in less than two hours.

As a side note, during the time that Spooner was recreating the artwork with Mentos candies, other teams had caught up to them. Naturally, the other teams believed that they had a chance to overtake the hockey heroes. Once again, Spooner made it look easy, as the other teams were still deciphering how to recreate the piece while she and Mikkelson grabbed their backpacks and proceeded to the pit stop.

With their sixth win in eight tries, Spooner and Mikkelson have been nothing short of dominant. The hockey heroes would win an Air Canada premium service flight to any destination in Europe, along with another $3,000 on their Scotia Bank Gold Cards. With jubilant smiles that could not be erased, the feeling of pride and accomplishment was clearly evident. The true victory on this leg for them was the respect they earned from fans and viewers alike, setting a positive example with fair play and good sportsmanship.

Winnipeg humbles hockey heroes in sixth leg of Amazing Race Canada

After their winning streak was snapped during the fifth leg of Amazing Race Canada, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson were looking to rebound. With the sixth leg taking the remaining teams to the historic city of Winnipeg, the challenges would take on more of an urban flavor. Compared to the fifth leg, the wilderness of the Yukon tested the physical limits of all the competitors.

Beginning at the Royal Canadian Mint on Lagimodiere Blvd, hand and eye coordination would be essential. As the commercial crown corporation has produced circulation coins for countries the world over, all competitors had to grab a box consisting of foreign circulation coins. By examining the coins, attention to detail paid to the name of the country on the coin’s obverse, the next step was to find the corresponding flag. Of note, the RCM displays all the flags of its clients.

Once again, Spooner and Mikkelson set the tone, finishing first. In attempting to put more distance between themselves and their competitors, a cab ride would test their patience. Stopping at a railway crossing, a train that seemed to be carrying an infinite number of railway cars only helped their competition buy some valuable time.

Eventually reaching their next clue, there was an option to engage in an event known as the Fast Forward. Having been introduced for the first time during the second season of Amazing Race Canada, successful completion allows the team to skip the remaining challenges and proceed immediately to the pit stop. Should the Fast Forward yield a negative result, the participating team would need to return to the very first challenge in that leg of the race. Of note, one team would engage in the challenge, having to find seven famous billboards in the city’s downtown core and then filling in the blanks on a paper.

Spooner still maintaining her sense of humor as she pulls a jersey over the head of a competitor (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/TheAmazingRaceCanada?fref=photo)

Spooner still maintaining her sense of humor as she pulls a jersey over the head of a competitor (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/TheAmazingRaceCanada?fref=photo)

Instead, Spooner and Mikkelson opted for the roadblock. Having to choose between the option of Skate It (gracing the ice at MTS Centre, home of the Winnipeg Jets) or Stuff It (preparing perogies, a popular staple food in the Prairie Provinces), it was inevitable that the hockey heroes would opt for the former. Donning Jets jerseys, the two were on the ice at MTS Centre, aiming to successfully shoot the puck through five targets after navigating a series of pylons.

After successfully converting on four targets, a dire series of misses would provide other teams with the chance to catch up. While the remaining competition assumed that Spooner and Mikkelson would have cruised through the roadblock with ease, it came as great surprise to see them still on the ice. Of note, two teams would not only catch up to the hockey heroes, but surpass them. One team converted the five targets in nine attempts, while French Canadian twins Pierre and Michel (whom were the recipients of an Express Pass from Spooner and Mikkelson in the fifth leg) achieved success in 11 attempts.

Taking into account that Mikkelson suffered an injury to her wrist at the Sochi Winter Games, the effects of the injury and the slow recovery are still taking its toll. Mikkelson would hit the fifth and final target after 57 attempts. Viewers did not see Mikkelson take all 57 attempts, therefore, it would be easy for a Reality TV cynic to dismiss that a gold medalist in women’s hockey would endure so much frustration.

Mikkelson attempting to hit all five targets (Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/AmazingRaceCDA/status/499365276853743618/photo/1)

Mikkelson attempting to hit all five targets (Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/AmazingRaceCDA/status/499365276853743618/photo/1)

Even if the 57 attempts are fact, Mikkelson showed great courage, battling through a painful wrist, while maintaining her composure, a strong sign of dignity and sportsmanship. Considering the fatigue and emotional strain from a grueling hockey camp and exhibition schedule in preparation for Sochi, Mikkelson can be forgiven if she showed signs of a little rust.

Sadly, the 57 attempts became the subject of scorn and ridicule on social media. Jokes such as “make sure the American do not know about this” became the norm the following day. The hash tag #FiveHoleFail also became popular. One well-known newspaper chain in Canada could not help but write about it, almost indulging in a sadistic chronicling of such failure. Whether it is just the typical knee-jerk reaction to tearing down heroes, even Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan had their off-days.

Reaching the famous watering hole Whiskey Dix on foot from MTS Centre, the final challenge in the sixth leg would place Spooner and Mikkelson out of contention. Pierre and Michel would use their Express Pass to skip the challenge, making their way to the Pit Stop first, located at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

Trying to stave off elimination, Spooner had to perform a rock song in front of a group of eager music fans at Whiskey Dix. Donning a blonde wig and leopard-skin tights, she would channel the musical aura of female punk rockers such as Deborah Harry, Patti Smith and Wendy O. Williams. Unfortunately, Spooner would struggle to remember the song’s lyrics (which plagued other competitors), being booed off the stage.

Although Spooner would memorize the lyrics and earn the needed applause from the crowd in order to move on to the pit stop. Finishing in fifth, Spooner and Mikkelson were sullen, as a strong start could not sustain them through the remainder of the leg. Upon reflection, the Fast Forward option may have been more feasible, as Spooner and Mikkelson have proven to be equally analytical as athletic. Although they managed to proceed to the seventh leg of the race (to be contested in Normandy, France), Winnipeg proved that no lead is secure and that no team (including our hockey heroes) cannot be taken for granted.

Macau provides Spooner and Mikkelson with Grand Slam on Amazing Race Canada

An unforgettable adventure provided Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson with their fourth consecutive victory on The Amazing Race Canada. Of all their victories, this was certainly the most hard-earned. In the episode titled “They’re Harshing Our Mellow”, tensions seem to have come to the surface as Canada’s hockey heroes are becoming the target of envy among their fellow competitors.

As winners of the third leg of the race, Spooner and Mikkelson had the privilege of leaving Hong Kong first (towards Macau) at 12:02 pm. Meanwhile, their closest competition left more than one later at 1:07 pm. Despite the significant time advantage, the first boat leaving for Macau was scheduled for 4:00 pm. As a side note, of the eight teams remaining, four were allowed to be on the 4:00 pm boat.

One the four teams from the first boat arrived at Macau, Spooner and Mikkelson’s athleticism and quick thinking brought them back to the top. Managing to find their way to the front of the line (they asked the residents if they could cut in as they were in a hurry) and grab the first taxi available. Heading to the A-Ma temple first (the first stop in the fourth leg of the race), Spooner and Mikkelson light fireworks in a tradition that is meant to ward evil spirits. From there, they quickly head over to the next destination, the AJ Hackett Macau Tower, a 61-story tower that presents the first road block in the fourth leg of the race.

Dressed in traditional Macinese dancing garb, Spooner and Mikkelson struggle on how best to learn the steps (Image obtained from Amazing Race Canada website)

Dressed in traditional Macinese dancing garb, Spooner and Mikkelson struggle on how best to learn the steps (Image obtained from Amazing Race Canada website)

Going to the very top of the tower, one member of each team had to engage in the world’s largest commercial bungee jump (764 feet high), as recognized by the Guinness World Records. Mikkelson assumed the reins, although an element of nervousness seemed evident on the elevator ride up. With a camera attached to her helmet, there was no place to hide. Once she jumped off the platform, her facial expression displayed a mix of adrenaline, relaxation, composure and confidence as her efforts contributing to a growing lead.

Unfortunately, the lead would be diminished as the duo proceeded to Happiness Street. Frantically searching for the retail store that sold almond cookies (which would supply the clue for the next aspect of the race), they opted to team up with Pierre and Michel Forget. Once again, this would prove to be smart strategy as working with the French Canadian twins resulted in finding the venue. As Spooner and Mikkelson have an option of allocating an express pass in the fifth leg of the race, Pierre and Michel may likely be the beneficiaries.

Presented with a Detour, the teams had the choice to Stamp It or Stomp It. The Stamp It option consisted of a labyrinth where shrines featuring Chinese emblems had to be stamped on a parchment. On the other hand, Stomp It was the chance to engage in a traditional Macinese dance while wearing traditional Portugese garb. Taking into account that the Stomp It Option seemed to be the easiest and quickest, it would be a popular option throughout the episode.

Studying the gambling tables in order to learn the game of Fan Tan (Image obtained from Amazing Race Canada website)

Studying the gambling tables in order to learn the game of Fan Tan (Image obtained from Amazing Race Canada website)

With Mikkelson disclosing that she was not a good dancer, it presented the first obstacle that they have faced since the race began. Failing twice in their attempts, Spooner pleaded that the best way to learn was to participate whiel Mikkelson countered that observing would be a preferred method.

The frustrations of the dance would allow other teams to catch up. As a side note, one team went to the video confessional to joke that dancing was the one weakness that the Olympians had. Spooner, dressed in the traditional male dancer’s garb, was taking the lead. Avoiding disaster, she would help lead Mikkelson into a successful third attempt, as the lead was back in their grasp.

A jubilant Spooner and Mikkelson celebrate their fourth consecutive victory (Obtained from Amazing Race Canada website)

A jubilant Spooner and Mikkelson celebrate their fourth consecutive victory (Obtained from Amazing Race Canada website)

Once again, frustrations reared its ugly head as they progressed to the third aspect of the leg in Macau. Observing the gambling tables of the Grand Lapa hotel, in order to learn the traditional game of Fan Tan, Spooner tried to offer Mikkelson advice. She abruptly replied that Spooner should look after her own part of the game.

Maintaining her composure, Spooner would show strong leadership again. Despite some other teams catching up to them at the casino, Spooner cracked the code of the game, retaining the lead once again. With the final part of the leg in the race featuring the navigation of an underground tunnel, it would prove to be of minimal challenge.

An exuberant Spooner and Mikkelson would emerge as winners for the fourth consecutive time, a grand slam. In addition to winning $3000 for their ScotiaBank Gold, a vacation to Tokyo, Japan on Air Canada’s 787 jet was the extra portion of the prize. As a side note, Spooner held a viewing party (her second this TV season) at Real Sports, found in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Square, where women’s hockey players such as Christine Bestland, Jenny Brine and Carolyne Prevost were in attendance as a gesture of support.

With the fifth leg of the race returning to Canada, Spooner and Mikkelson will encounter some freezing conditions in the Yukon, as dog sledding shall be a significant part of said leg. Taking into account that they will also have to decide which team to bestow an express pass upon, it may prove to be their biggest challenge yet.

Viewing party for Amazing Race Canada contestants hosted by hockey heroine Natalie Spooner

An opportunity to appear in the second season of The Amazing Race Canada continues to solidify Natalie Spooner’s standing as one of the rising stars in women’s hockey. Teaming up with second-generation player Meaghan Mikkelson (who has been featured in Sports Illustrated and Sportsnet Magazine), the two are a dazzling duo, making their Hockey Canada and CWHL teammates very proud.

With the debut of the second season resulting in Spooner and Mikkelson winning the first leg of the race, hockey fans were hoping they could maintain their winning momentum for the second leg. Adding to the anticipation was the opportunity to attend a viewing party for Team Natalie and Meaghan and watch the second episode (titled “I kissed a fish”).

Held at Real Sports, a popular locale in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Square, fans also had the chance to meet Spooner, resulting in a Tuesday evening to remember for many hockey fans.

SpoonerRace

Taking into account that several of her past and present Toronto Furies teammates were also on hand to show their support, there was a great feeling of team spirit and friendship. Among the Furies on hand were the likes of Deirdre Norman (Furies game day planner), Karolina Urban (who was part of the Furies’ 2012-13 rookie class with Spooner) and fellow Clarkson Cup champions Kori Cheverie and Lisa Mullan.

Viewers on hand for the event were treated to a remarkable comeback by these empowering women. Akin to the emotional dramatics at the gold medal game of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Spooner and Mikkelson pulled off another miraculous triumph.

As the winner of the first leg of the race, they earned the privilege of departing first on therace’s second leg. Departing at 4:18 am, the second leg took them from Victoria to Tofino, British Columbia. Upon arrival at the Long Beach Airport, the first group of racers (which included the top three finishers from the first leg of the race) utilized a Chevrolet Volt to arrive at a fish processing plant for a race Detour.

In what was possibly the most exhausting challenge yet, teams had to opt between “sharp knives or sharp eyes” as teams could sort fish in numerous containers or attempt to filet to 30 pounds of fish. Spooner and Mikkelson were among a group of frustrated competitors who were facing challenges properly sorting the fish. It would result in the second group of racers (the fourth to sixth place finishers in the race’s first leg) to catch up.

Facing fourth place, Spooner and Mikkelson opted for cutting up the fish instead. This would prove to be a very effective strategy. Advancing to the next part of the race at North Chesterman Beach, smart strategy would once again define the comeback.

One competitor from each team had to endure the waves of the Pacific and stand on a surfboard for three seconds. Despite her best efforts, Spooner was mercilessly knocked over by the waves. Opting to replace her, Mikkelson stepped in and pulled it off on the first try.

Suddenly, the rest of the competitors could not gloat that they were ahead of the Olympians. As the final part of the race involved creating a Tofino beach chair out of fishing nets and driftwood, it would prove to be a stumbling block for many teams.

Within a matter of seconds, Spooner constructed the chair and the tester was able to sit in the chair without it breaking. It resulted in many friends commenting on social media that Spooner must have been a Girl Scout.

Running towards the finish, Mikkelson would leapfrog over Spooner to land on the Pit Spot that signified they won their second consecutive leg on the race. The result was a group of very relieved yet excited fans at the viewing party. For their victory in the second leg, each earned another $2000 on their Scotiabank Gold Card and a vacation to Hong Kong. Considering that the third leg of the race sees all competitors competing in Hong Kong, it will certainly help them prepare for when they take their vacation.

As a side note, the Furies commented on social media how they were in fourth place heading into the Clarkson Cup playoffs. Despite the low seeding, they would pull off a dramatic Cup victory, showing the coincidence between both fourth place standings.

Gracefully thanking everyone on social media for attending the viewing party, a jubilant Spooner announced that the next viewing party shall take place on July 29. It is certainly mandatory viewing for both hockey fans and Amazing Race fans.

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.

Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty in Sport Issue captures the essence with several captivating athletes

With photo shoots ranging throughout Canada and a rigorous five day shoot in Las Vegas, Sportsnet Magazine released its second annual Beauty in Sport issue. Although some critics could dismiss the publication as competition for the ESPN Body Issue, the reality is that both give the opportunity to spotlight female athletes who toil in anonymity for little recognition.

As Sportsnet is a Canadian periodical published by Rogers, the athletes featured between the covers are all Canadian. With 28 athletes featured, 19 are female. While even the most dedicated sports fan would have difficulty identifying the names of the female athletes (and the sport they compete in), their beauty and sex appeal is only part of the package.

The one common factor among all athletes is injuries, and bumps and bruises were evident with some of the athletes. X-Games world champion Kelsey Serwa arrived with a swollen knee due to surgery. Canadian soccer sweethearts Kaylyn Klye and Emily Zurrer both had scrapes up to their thighs.

In being an athlete, the commitment involved takes great desire, and the discipline and dedication required is a unique quality. Their hard work and character displays a very strong, rugged yet admirable inner beauty that makes them role models for all athletes, male or female.

While publisher Steve Maich acknowledged that it was different working with athletes because they were not models, he was also quick to acknowledge that all the athletes were likeable people. Although many of the female athletes are not household names, there was a few that certainly left their mark in the world of sport.

Competing in the cross-country mountain biking competition at London 2012, Brooklin, Ontario’s Emily Batty was the cover girl for the issue. The blonde beauty did not medal at London, but she certainly captured the hearts and minds of many sports fans with her magnetic smile on the cover.

Three females were gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games; Kallie Humphries, Tessa Virtue and Meaghan Mikkelson. While all three come from very different sporting backgrounds – bobsleigh, ice dancing and ice hockey – all three are authentic Canadian heroes.

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Another trio of heroes highlighted the females featured in the Beauty of Sport. A tantalizing trio of members from Canada’s soccer team that gained bronze at the 2012 London Summer Games was photographed in Las Vegas. Featuring Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer, all three donned their swimsuits while a dolphin would leap in the background behind them.

Rugby teammates Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters also exchanged their shorts and jerseys for swimsuits. Mervin, 31 and Waters, 30 are also members of the British Columbia provincial rugby team. The dynamic duo was photographed together at the MGM Grand and the Neon Museum.

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Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Of note, Mervin is accustomed to the camera. Having played with the national team since 2004, she was also part of a nude calendar in 2012 that featured members of Canada’s women’s rugby team.

While she leaves enough for the imagination, it is important to emphasize that Swervin Mervin (as she is affectionately known) is more than just beautiful. There is an even greater beauty beneath the surface. Having transitioned from 15s to 7s, she spends a remarkable five hours a day in training. She is an empowering woman whose great sense of teamwork, assistance with summer camps and coaching at the University of Victoria comprise makes her a role model for young women looking to get into sport.

Of all the athletes that ventured down to Las Vegas, the most unique may have been Summer Mortimer.
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After a trampoline accident caused significant damage to the bones in her feet, she displayed great courage by learning to swim again. Having won four medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, she was one of Canada’s sweethearts at the event. Along with five world records in para-swimming, she was also named an Athlete Ambassador for the 2015 Toronto Parapan Games. Appropriately, she grew up near Toronto in Burlington. At 20 years old, not only does she conduct herself with a quiet dignity and grace that makes her an admirable athlete, but she was one of the youngest athletes featured in the publication.

While she is the first paralympic athlete to appear in the Beauty of Sport, it is worth noting that the ESPN Body Issue has also featured physically challenged athletes. As Swimming World Magazine stated in a review of Mortimer appearing in the issue, athletes are not only a vision of health, but these kinds of photo shoots promote a healthy lifestyle and set a positive example.

Six other athletes were photographed at Las Vegas. Among the group, it included volleyball player Claire Hanna, a three-time CIS national champion with the UBC Thunderbirds. Forty year-old curler Heather Smith-Dacey and Kelsey Serwa, who competed in the Ski Cross at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was photographed at Red Rock Canyon.

World Cup skeleton champion Melissa Hollingsworth, a bronze medalist from the Torino Winter Games was photographed at the MGM Grand. Joining her at the venue was 2012 FIS World Cup gold medal skier Erin Mielzynski.

Four other athletes from this remarkable group of women were photographed in Toronto. A pair of track and field sensations, Brianne Theisen and Phylicia George was photographed at Monarch Park. George finished in the 100 meter hurdles at London 2012, while Theisen competed in the Heptathlon.
Sarah Wells, a competitor in the 400-meter hurdles at London 2012 modeled Nike (like George) for her photo shoot. Taylor Pischke, a beach volleyball player with six Canadian national titles was photographed wearing Miss Jackson swimwear at Ashbridges Bay.

Credit goes to Maich who acknowledged that compared to other countries, Canada needed to do a better job at elevating their athletes to star status. While fans may already be anticipating the 2014 edition, there is no question that the athletes featured are helping to shed a positive light on Canadian sport.

Photos of Summer Mortimer, Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters and Meaghan Mikkelson by Matt Barnes