Stuntwoman Jacqueline Legere captures Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Heather Smith more than just a military officer but all-around remarkable athlete

As Remembrance Day nears, it is a time to remember our fallen heroes that have protected us and our land over the generations. Despite the reality of the bravery and valor required to serve in the Armed Forces, a love of sport presents with it an opportunity to incorporate a sense of play while encouraging team-building and morale.

With the Canadian Armed Forces boasting a sports program that features more than 20,000 participants, it may be one of the largest organized programs among the militaries of the world. Each sport has its own patron, traditionally a General, who is encouraged to help promote their respective sport. They not only acknowledge the importance of fitness, but have authority to resolve issues, solicit needed changes and attend national tournaments.

Captain Heather Smith of the Royal Canadian Air Force (Maritime Proving and Evaluation Unit) is one of many remarkable women helping to shatter barriers about the increased role of women in the military while serving as a role model for young girls. Like her gallant colleagues, she is one of many military athletes with a flair for sport that have taken part in National Sports Championships available for members of all branches of the CAF.

Honored in October 2013 as the Canadian Female Athlete of the Year in CAF, it is an honor that recognizes her remarkable breadth of athletic talent. Competing in four sports while serving her country, Smith is the embodiment of what women can truly accomplish in life.

Competing with the 14 Wing Greenwood team, she has carved a remarkable legacy as a hockey player. The 2011 CF National Women’s Hockey Championship at Canadian Forces Base Borden (in the Simcoe Region of Ontario) saw Smith earn the Royal Canadian Legion Sportsmanship Award while her teammate Josee Cholette was named to the All-Star Team. One year later, Smith was named as the Most Valuable Player of the Championship Game at the CAF National Women’s Hockey Championships.

Recognized as the Royal Canadian Legion Most Sportsmanlike Player at the 2012 CF National Women’s Hockey finals. Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.184245318295030.60269.147772651942297&type=3

Recognized as the Royal Canadian Legion Most Sportsmanlike Player at the 2012 CF National Women’s Hockey finals. Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.184245318295030.60269.147772651942297&type=3

In addition, she would also compete with 14 Wing Greenwood at the legendary 4-on-4 World Pond Hockey Championships in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. Playing alongside Captain Dawn MacAuley, Corporal Lindsay Williams and civilian Pamela Pachal, they would claim the 2012 World Championship.

Decked out in stunning powder blue Royal Canadian Air Force jerseys and camouflage snow pants, it was also an opportunity to connect with fans of the game. By visiting students at Donald Fraser Elementary School and meeting former members of the RCAF, Smith and her teammates earned a new legion of fans.

At the 2013 Pond Hockey championship in Plaster Rock. (Left to right): Pam Pachal, Dawn Mccauley, Serena Palmer, Heather Smith and Karen Lalonde. The team would grab the silver medal. (Image obtained from: www.auroranewspaper.com/pdf/2013/3407news.pdf)

At the 2013 Pond Hockey championship in Plaster Rock. (Left to right): Pam Pachal, Dawn Mccauley, Serena Palmer, Heather Smith and Karen Lalonde. The team would grab the silver medal. (Image obtained from: http://www.auroranewspaper.com/pdf/2013/3407news.pdf)

Returning to Plaster Rock in 2013, the 14 Wing Greenwood squad was part of a 12-team ladies division competing for the crown of world champion. Gracing the frozen surface of Roulston Lake, the squad qualified for the gold medal game but suffered a visceral overtime loss by a 10-9 tally against a squad from Washburn, Maine.

Her prominence on the ice was not limited to just hockey. Like many other female hockey players, from Canadian Interuniversity Sport, Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the NCAA, Smith was also part of the Red Bull Crashed Ice races. Competing in the 2012 Halifax race, she would capture first place in the women’s event. By virtue of finish among the top two racers in her region, she would move on to the national Red Bull competition at Niagara Falls in December 2012.

As part of 14 Wing Greenwood athletics, her love of sport also brought her into summer events. At the 2012 Slo-Pitch Championships at CFB Borden, she would help the team advance to the CAF Women’s national championship game. Her athletic skills were on display as she garnered Championship Game MVP honors. In 2013, she was named to the Tournament All-Star Team as she proudly served as her team’s captain.

Being honored as the MVP of the Championship Game at the 2012 CF National Women’s Hockey Tournament. The patron of Women’s Hockey, Major-General S.P. Noonan presents Smith with her award. Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.340782779307949.94740.147772651942297&type=3

Being honored as the MVP of the Championship Game at the 2012 CF National Women’s Hockey Tournament. The patron of Women’s Hockey, Major-General S.P. Noonan presents Smith with her award. Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.340782779307949.94740.147772651942297&type=3

Of note, she would even test her mettle by competing in triathlon competitions. At the CAF Atlantic Regional Triathlon Championships, she would post the fastest time of all female competitors from Atlantic Canada.

Although there is no Wheaties box for Smith or a multi-million dollar contract, she is part of a new generation of women changing our cultural norms through the use of sport. While she balances athletics with the demanding (and sometimes thankless) job of protecting our borders, it is important to remember that Smith is one of many Canadians we have to thank for giving us the opportunity to enjoy the life we have today. Although we can never repay our military heroes, we can recognize them. To see Smith and other members of the military take great pride in their sporting efforts reflects an All-Canadian spirit that makes it vital to remember why our fallen soldiers sacrificed their lives.

Red Bull Crashed Ice World Champion Fannie Desforges selected by Montreal Stars

After making international sports headlines as the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice women’s champion, Fannie Desforges is extending her athletic career with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Being selected by the three-time Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars in the seventh round of the 2013 CWHL Draft, it is an extension of what has emerged as a remarkable sporting year for Desforges.

Celebrating the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship (Photo credit: Reuters)

Celebrating the 2012 Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship (Photo credit: Reuters)

During the 2012-13 Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s hockey season, Desforges served as the captain of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees varsity team. Although it was her final season of eligibility at the CIS level, she had the opportunity to end her career in storied fashion.

Battling with a member of the Montreal Carabins for the puck (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whittakerrichard/6868002973/)

Battling with a member of the Montreal Carabins for the puck (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker, Obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whittakerrichard/6868002973/)

Desforges and her teammates would compete against the Czech Republic national women’s team in an exhibition match in Rockland, Ontario. With the city of Ottawa hosting the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, it marked the first time that the Czech team was participating at the highest level of IIHF play.

Although the Czech Republic fought back from a two-goal deficit to prevail in the exhibition contest, it would be the final game for Desforges in a Gee-Gees uniform. Being featured in the advertisement for the game only enriched the experience for her.

Just a few weeks before that game, Desforges defended her title at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice championships. In the championship race, she would find herself competing against Gee Gees teammate (and Crashed Ice racer) Alicia Blomberg. Although Desforges would finish in third place, it was a bittersweet moment as one of her friends (and current Montreal Stars player) Dominique Thibault grabbed the world title.

Of note, the Montreal Stars have featured some of the most unique women in hockey. From reality TV stars (Jenny Lavigne and Thibault), softball players (Noemie Marin) and martial arts black belts (Carolyne Prevost), the Stars roster holds nothing short of intrigue. It is only fitting that the Stars would now boast two Red Bull Crashed Ice world champions on their roster.

Also joining Desforges among the 2013 CWHL Draft class is rival Jessica O’Grady. Having played for the crosstown Carleton Ravens, O’Grady was selected by the Alberta Hockey Club. The two were part of one of the most dramatic games in the school’s rivalry. A visceral contest between the Gee Gees and Ravens on January 20, 2013 would go to a shootout. While Desforges was one of the shooters for the Gee Gees, it was O’Grady who stole the show. She would emulate Jonathan Toews and score three shootout goals to seal the win for the Ravens.

Ironically, O’Grady and Desforges would be teammates in the summer of 2013. Joined by fellow Gee Gees Alicia Blomberg and alumnae Danika Smith and Erika Pouliot, this remarkable group of women would represent Canada at the World Ball Hockey Championships. Held in St. John’s, Newfoundland, there was tremendous expectation on the Canadian contingent.

Having lost the gold medal match at the 2011 Ball Hockey Worlds to host country Slovakia, golden redemption was on all of the Canadian player’s minds. A confident Desforges would lead Canada to a golden finish as she finished the tournament as leading scorer, complemented by being named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. In December 2012, the National Ball Hockey Association also recognized Desforges as one of the Top 30 Greatest Players in Canadian Women’s Ball Hockey history.

One of Canada’s most underrated female athletes, Desforges is a multi-talented performer with a team first approach. As the proud owner of a Red Bull Crashed Ice world championship and Ball Hockey gold, a Clarkson Cup would complete a well-deserved triple crown.

Hockey lifestyle magazine misses mark with Red Bull Crashed Ice coverage

For fans of the hockey periodical The 4th Period, the issue which features Henrik Lundqvist on the cover truly missed its mark. While the periodical is an amalgam of GQ and The Hockey News, the standard coverage of women in hockey features ice girls from various NHL teams.

In its Summer 2013 issue, the periodical had a golden opportunity to recognize the contributions of women in hockey. Starting on page 84, an article on Red Bull Crashed Ice and its growing popularity was featured.

Unfortunately, the only athletes mentioned in the piece were male athletes. How could they not have covered the fact that the last two female Red Bull Crashed Ice world champions were both women’s hockey players?

While Red Bull Crashed Ice certainly brings with it a potential for hockey fans to follow it, the event has also opened doors for the women of hockey. Women’s hockey players from all levels of play including CIS, CWHL and NCAA have been involved in the event.

Since its inception, Red Bull Crashed Ice has given many current and former women’s hockey players the chance to enjoy their game on a different level. Former NCAA stars Rush Zimmerman and Amanda Trunzo found new life in their athletic endeavors while soaring down the remarkable peaks of the women’s event in Quebec City.

Several Ottawa Gee Gees women’s hockey players, including Alicia Blomberg, Fannie Desforges and Kayla Hottot were competitors. For Desforges, the captain of the Ottawa Gee Gees in 2012-13, she became a global celebrity after capturing the 2012 Red Bull Women’s World Championship. Of note, she was the first woman to capture the title.

In 2013, Dominique Thibault of the CWHL grabbed the world title, while Desforges finished in third. Of note, Thibault also competed in the 2012 edition. Perhaps more impressive, the event was held just a few days before Thibault and her club team, the Montreal Stars, would compete in the Clarkson Cup playoffs.

As a sign of respect, the periodical should have least mentioned the names of Desforges and Thibault. The failure to mention the female competitors in Red Bull Crashed Ice would be like a major newspaper covering a tennis event, but only mentioning the men’s competition and not the women’s.

Their accomplishments in Red Bull Crashed Ice are just as relevant while helping to reinforce how women’s hockey players are multi-talented, unique individuals. To go that extra mile is the type of push that may just help women’s hockey build its much needed momentum.