Sami Jo Small deserves the Toronto Furies captaincy for 2013-14

While the actuality of goalie as team captain is rare, it is an honour that is deserving heading into the Toronto Furies 2013-14 season. Team founder (and CWHL co-founder) merits the opportunity to be part of league history by becoming the first goaltender selected as a team captain.

Although her greatest quality may be her humility, the truth is that there is no one more deserving in the league to be considered a team captain. One of the most hardworking and dedicated women in sport today, Small has possibly carved a greater legacy as a builder of the game than she did as a player.

Between the pipes for the Furies against the Boston Blades. Image obtained from: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/story/2012/11/13/sp-hockey-womens-hockey-leafs-furies.html

Between the pipes for the Furies against the Boston Blades. Image obtained from: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/story/2012/11/13/sp-hockey-womens-hockey-leafs-furies.html


As Furies team captain Tessa Bonhomme is bypassing the 2013-14 season for another opportunity to compete at the Winter Games, the blue and white are in need of a new leader. While players such as Megan Aarts, Martine Garland, Lexie Hoffmeyer and Amanda Shaw are all deserving candidates, Small has had such a mark on the game that the captaincy would be the ultimate mark of gratitude.

Over the past few seasons, Roberto Luongo was named captain of the Vancouver Canucks. Genevieve Lacasse, the first rookie to win a Clarkson Cup, was captain of the Providence Friars. There are some instances in which a goaltender is such an integral part of a team’s culture that it is the most logical selection.

Small has worked tirelessly in an off-ice capacity to ensure that the league has a future. The sponsorship of two NHL clubs, the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs were partly attributed through her efforts. Complemented by her charitable work and contributions at various hockey events (especially as an instructor), she was a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. Well-spoken, articulate and university educated, she is more than just a hockey player and business woman, but a role model to an entire generation of girls that wanted to play hockey and follow their dreams.

To understand Small’s dedication to the CWHL, all one needs to do is consider that at one point, the league headquarters were in the basement of her residence. This is reminiscent of former National Football League commissioner Bert Bell. When he ruled the NFL, the league was headquartered out of his Philadelphia home.

While one could argue that as Small occupies a backup capacity to Christina Kessler, it would be difficult to get off the bench and discuss certain calls with referees, there is a feasible solution. The Furies could either have an alternate captain consult with referees or simply name a second captain.

On many hockey teams, it is not always the leading scorer or the most popular player that gets bestowed with the honour of donning the C on their sweater. Sometimes it is the player that helps set the tone in the locker room or someone that the others trust and consider a friend.

There is no question that Small is a tremendous asset to the CWHL. As one of only two founders still competing today (the other is Lisa-Marie Breton, a captain with Montreal), it would be the perfect footnote to a Hall of Fame worthy career.

Two-sport star athletes a defining feature for growing CWHL

One of the unique aspects about the CWHL is the fact that many of its players come from various athletic backgrounds. While there is no question that the character and dedication that composes the make-up among the competitors of the CWHL is essential for any athlete, the budding league has definitely seen its players excel in a diverse number of sports.

CWHL co-founders Sami Jo Small and Jennifer Botterill lead the way. Small competed in track and field meets at the Pac-10 level for the famed Stanford University in California. While growing up in Winnipeg, Botterill had an opportunity to try out for the Canadian national junior basketball team in 1996. Luckily for hockey fans, she traded in her sneakers for skates.

The game of softball is no stranger to some of the women in the CWHL. Noemie Marin and Sommer West both competed in the Summer Games with the Canadian national Softball Team. West was part of the Canadian contingent that competed at Sydney 2000. Later that year, West was also a member of the Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team. Marin was the only player from Quebec that was part of Canada’s roster for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. In later years, she would set the CWHL record for most points in one game with ten.

Marin high-fiving a teammate at the Beijing Summer Games (Image by: Clive Rose/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Marin high-fiving a teammate at the Beijing Summer Games (Image by: Clive Rose/Getty Images AsiaPac)

In addition to Noemie Marin, the Montreal Stars have a handful of athletes with very impressive athletic credentials. Stars goaltender Kim St. Pierre (the winningest goalie in IIHF history) was once a promising soccer star. Her teammate, Emmanuelle Blais competes in the Cross Fit circuit, while Carolyne Prevost has a black belt in taek won do, once competing at the provincial level in Ontario.

Another Stars competitor, Dominique Thibault is the 2013 world champion in Red Bull Crashed Ice. Having competed in the inaugural Red Bull women’s championships in 2012, Thibault had the fastest time in the qualifier. Ironically, Fannie Desforges, a Montreal Stars draft pick in 2012 would go on to capture the 2012 title. Thibault’s presence is not only breaking ground in the nascent sport, but providing another avenue for women’s hockey players past and present.

Thibault (centre) and Desforges (right) at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships (Photo credit: Patrick Garant)

Thibault (centre) and Desforges (right) at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships (Photo credit: Patrick Garant)

One of the league’s most promising stars, Vicki Bendus of the Brampton Thunder was a competitive golfer at Mercyhurst College. While she also won the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Award with Mercyhurst’s hockey program, gracing the fairways and putting greens established Bendus as a year-round competitive athlete for her school.

CWHL veteran defender Amber Bowman is a world champion in her second sport of choice. Competing in the World Firefighting Combat Challenge, Bowman not only claimed three world titles in 2012, but set several new records. Breaking new ground is nothing new for Bowman. One of the first female firefighters in her region, Bowman is a role model hero that exemplifies character.

Image obtained from: http://about.me/amber_bowman

Image obtained from: http://about.me/amber_bowman

Of all the sports that the women of the CWHL have competed in, none may be as unique as 2013 CWHL Draft pick Julie Paetsch. Selected in the tenth round by the Alberta Hockey Club, the native of Lanigan, Saskatchewan is the first draft prospect in the league’s history to have competed in women’s tackle football. While playing hockey at the University of Saskatchewan, she would add tackle football to her athletic endeavors. A two-time silver medalist for Canada at the IFAF Women’s World Tackle Football Championships, she is also a three-time WWCFL champion with the Saskatoon Valkyries.

Paetsch being represented as Canada's player of the game in the gold medal game of the 2013 IFAF Women's Worlds (Image obtained from Facebook)

Paetsch being represented as Canada’s player of the game in the gold medal game of the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds (Image obtained from Facebook)

While two-sport stars tend to be more common in the realm of men’s sports (Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders defined a generation by playing pro football and baseball), it is equally important to recognize the role that women have played. Following in the footsteps of legendary Canadian female two-sport stars such as Cindy Klassen (who once played hockey for the Canadian Under-22 team) and Clara Hughes, the two-sport stars of the CWHL are carrying the torch and continuing to forge a legacy upon which the next generation of female athletes can reach for.