Sarah Nurse sensational acquisition for Toronto Furies

In a year that sees Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the history of the NHL, gain induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining current CWHL commissioner Jayna Hefford as part of the 2018 Class, the arrival of Sarah Nurse to the Toronto Furies adds a feeling of serendipity. Selected second overall by the Furies in this year’s CWHL Draft, Nurse joins former CWHL All-Star Blake Bolden and Kunlun Red Star forward Jessica Wong as the only visible minorities claimed in the first round of CWHL Draft history.

Belonging to one of Canada’s premier sporting families, which also features cousins Darnell, a blueliner with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, along with Kia, a gold medalist from the 2015 Pan American Games, who recently enjoyed her rookie season with the WNBA’s New York Liberty, Sarah proudly stands shoulder-to-shoulder alongside them in terms of achievement.

In 2018, Sarah and her younger brother, Isaac, both enjoyed the opportunity to make key contributions to their family’s growing athletic legacy. Skating for the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Hamilton Bulldogs, Isaac contributed towards the club capturing the Robertson Cup, the city’s first OHL championship in over 30 years. With the triumph, Isaac and the Bulldogs qualified for the 2018 Memorial Cup tournament.

For Sarah, the prestige of the Draft was part of an eventful year that was highlighted through the attainment of a lifelong dream in her hockey odyssey. Part of Canada’s contingent that participated in women’s ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Games, Nurse became the first black Canadian to participate for Canada’s team at the Games. Such a milestone also brought with it a shared sense of history. Worth noting, teammate Brigitte Lacquette became the first Canadian of Aboriginal heritage to participate in women’s ice hockey at the Games.

Coincidentally, the Canadian roster also featured Renata Fast and Natalie Spooner, two of the Furies’ current superstars. Of note, Nurse’s Olympic journey also featured a gathering of familiar faces, adding luster to such a monumental milestone. In addition, goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens plus forwards Emily Clark and Blayre Turnbull had already called Nurse a teammate once before, having all worn the jersey of the revered University of Wisconsin Badgers.

Graduating from Wisconsin in 2017 with Second Team All-America recognition, it was part of a season that saw Nurse record 53 points, becoming the 22nd player to reach the program’s Century Club in career points. As a side note, Clark and Nurse were teammates on Canada’s U22/Developmental Team, capturing a silver medal at the 2015 Four Nations Cup.

Making her Games debut on February 11, 2018, a 5-0 win against the Olympic Athletes from Russia, Nurse recorded her first Olympic goal four days later. Recording the game-winning tally in a 2-1 preliminary round victory against the eternal rival United States, said goal was scored against Maddie Rooney while the assist was credited to Jocelyne Larocque, the captain of the Markham Thunder. Adding to the sense of coincidence was the fact that both Rooney and Larocque have suited up for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, one of Wisconsin’s biggest rivals.

Taking into account that February is Black History Month, Nurse’s presence at the Games embodied the essence of inspiration and empowerment, building on O’Ree’s remarkable legacy. By tournament’s end, Nurse reached a podium finish (silver) in her Games debut, reaching a revered milestone. Having also played at all three levels of Hockey Canada’s national women’s team program, also the first black player in program history to attain this summit, Nurse has taken on the mantle of role model, becoming one of the game’s most stirring and popular competitors.

For a Furies roster looking to return to the postseason for the first time since 2016, Nurse’s arrival may serve as the catalyst towards achieving such goals, turning the page on several frustrating seasons. Certainly in the early conversation among the favourites for Rookie of the Year honours, she also holds the potential to become a building block for the franchise, a mainstay for many seasons to come.

Undeniably, Nurse is not the only highly regarded player in the Furies’ future plans. Holding three of the top eight picks in the draft, the Furies also acquired two-time Frozen Four championship goaltender Shea Tiley (sixth overall) plus scoring sensation Brittany Howard (eighth overall), the all-time leading scorer for the Robert Morris University Colonials. Nurse already holds an element of familiarity with Tiley, as their collegiate teams, Wisconsin and Clarkson, opposed each other in the 2017 NCAA Frozen Four championship game.

Despite the fact that these three members of the Furies draft class have not yet participated in a regular season game together, there has already been a familiarity among them, poised to set a positive tone in the season to come. With Hockey Canada holding its annual National Women’s Team Fall Festival, held this year in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Nurse was part of a significant Furies presence.

In addition to the group of top Furies picks, Nurse, Tiley and Howard, the attendance of Fast and Spooner was just as important. Considering that all have donned the Maple Leaf during international play, sharing a prestigious pedigree, the Festival took on a key dual purpose, helping develop rapport and chemistry amongst these future Furies teammates. Definitely, Nurse and Howard are ready to become key pieces in a rejuvenated Furies offensive attack, highly capable of complementing team captain Natalie Spooner’s scoring flair, subsequently allowing for a multitude of additional scoring opportunities, providing an exciting new element.

Although one of the biggest adjustments for Nurse in her rookie season of pro hockey will likely involve calling teammates from Wisconsin and/or Team Canada newly minted opponents, there is no question as to her blossoming status as one of the next household names in women’s ice hockey. Ready to build on the momentum of the Winter Games, while looking to achieve new milestones in the professional ranks, Nurse is part of a new generation of women’s hockey stars, heralding an exciting new era filled with promising potential and growing confidence.

Kori Cheverie a portrait of consistency for Toronto Furies

Epitomizing grace and class, Kori Cheverie is among one of the most valued members of the Toronto Furies. Bringing a solid presence and scoring consistency, her contributions this season were among the highlights for a club that endured its share of struggles.

A charter member of the Furies, Cheverie reached double-digit in points four seasons, highlighted by a career-high 24 points during their inaugural season. Her benchmark of 14 goals was scored in the following season. Having appeared in every playoff game in franchise history, Cheverie is one of the living linkages to the Furies early glory years.

With sporting interests that also extend to beach volleyball, soccer and ball hockey, Cheverie is a well-rounded athlete who has quietly carved an admirable sporting legacy. Cheverie also makes an impact as a skating specialist at Ryerson University, helping to profoundly shape their Skate Training and Hockey Development Program. Working with many players from Lisa Haley’s Ryerson Rams women’s ice hockey squad, her strong knowledge of the game and friendly demeanor have inspired some players from the Rams to pursue their ambitions of professional hockey by registering for the CWHL Draft.

During the 2015-16 Furies season, Cheverie tied alternate captain and rising star Alyssa Baldin for second on team in scoring with 18 points. Of note, she also ranked second in goals and tied with rookie sensation Emily Fulton third in assists. Cheverie would also tie Carolyne Prevost (who also dabbles in CrossFit) in power play goals with three, the highest in one season for her since the 2011-12 campaign.

Among a rare group of Maritimers to have won the Clarkson Cup, hoisting the coveted prize in 2014, Cheverie is among the franchise’s leader in games played (152) and is also the all-time leading scorer, with an incredible 82 points (although Natalie Spooner is close behind with 71 points). As the following season will likely see Cheverie eclipse the 100-point mark, it shall be a fitting milestone in such a distinguished career.

Before coming to the Toronto Furies in their inaugural campaign, Cheverie had assembled an impressive body of work in her home province of Nova Scotia. Raised in New Glasgow, she would suit up for the provincial team in three Esso Women’s Nationals (2005, 2007, and 2008). In addition, she would make her mark with the St. Mary’s Huskies. The first (and only) player in the history of the Atlantic University Sports (AUS) Conference to win three consecutive Marion Hilliard Awards, she would also make an impression in the classroom, where she was an Academic All-Canadian.

Of note, Cheverie is also assembling an impressive body of work on the ball hockey court. With several other women that have graced CWHL ice, Cheverie was part of a roster that competed at the Hockey Night in Canada Play On! Street Hockey Tournament. In addition, she was joined by fellow CWHL star Liz Knox (a goaltender for the Brampton Thunder) and Harvard hockey legend Nicole Corriero with Team Italia at the 2015 ISBHF Women’s Worlds. Although Italia did not enjoy a podium finish, Cheverie was one of the team’s leading scorers, an extension of her international hockey career.

While Furies players such as Natalie Spooner are current members of the Canadian national women’s ice hockey team, a unique fact is that Cheverie also enjoyed that privilege. Among a group of CIS All-Stars that represented Canada in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade, Cheverie would contribute towards a gold medal performance.

Among the season highlights for the Furies in 2015-16, Cheverie played a prominent role, experiencing a pair of career milestones herself. From the outset, Cheverie became the first player in franchise history to reach 80 career points with the club. In addition, she would score the first two game winning goals of her career. Subsequently, she would pace all Furies in this category.

Coincidentally, both game-winning goals occurred in back-to-back games against the Boston Blades. The first game-winner was scored in a February 6 contest which saw the Furies prevail by a 5-0 tally. Of note, Cheverie had logged the game’s first goal. Earning the assists on this landmark goal for Cheverie were the likes of Spooner and Baldin.

The February 7 match involved more flair. In a 5-2 outcome that saw the blue and white pepper Amanda Cariddi with 54 shots, Cheverie scored at the 9:55 mark of the second period as the assists were credited to Spooner and Michelle Bonello.

Complementing such jubilation was the fact that Cheverie would experience the thrill of playing in a regular season game broadcast on national television in partnership with the You Can Play foundation.

Although she would wait until the fifth game of the season to log her first point, she would log at least one point in 12 of the last 20 games of the season. During this stretch, she would assemble a pair of scoring streaks. The first took place from December 5 to December 20, as she logged six points on the strength of four assists in four straight games, which resulted in the Furies enjoying a 3-1-0 mark, including a win against the eventual Clarkson Cup champion Calgary Inferno. In addition, she would close out her sixth Furies season with a three-game streak, compiling five points as the Furies enjoyed a 2-1-0 mark, the one loss taking place in a shootout against archrival Brampton.

Jordanna Peroff the perfect acquisition for the Montreal Stars

As the Montreal Stars look to capture their first Clarkson Cup since 2012, a former star player with the McGill Martlets may be the final piece of the puzzle. With 12 players from the 2014-15 Stars roster not returning, Peroff brings two very valuable elements to the club.

In addition to having already won a Clarkson Cup championship (with the Toronto Furies in 2014), Peroff enjoyed a stellar university career with Montreal’s McGill Martlets. In five sensational seasons with the Martlets, Peroff participated in five Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship tournaments.

Although Peroff did not find her scoring stride with the Furies (traditionally, they have always been an offensively starved team, her positive attitude did not wane. Known as a social butterfly, Peroff tends to be a popular player and teammate wherever she plays.

Raised north of Toronto in Keswick, Ontario, a municipality in York Region, Peroff was part of several key events in Furies franchise history. Of note, she played with the club at Air Canada Centre in November 2013, which was the first CWHL regular season game played in an NHL arena.

In addition, she would help the club capture its first-ever Clarkson Cup, an emotional 1-0 overtime win against the Boston Blades. Adding to Peroff’s jubilation was the fact that the victory came in Markham, Ontario, also part of York Region, making the win feel like it was literally in her own back yard.

Making her CWHL debut on October 20, 2012, it resulted in a winning start as the Furies prevailed by a 4-3 tally against Brampton. Appearing in 20 games, she only logged two penalty minutes, showing strong discipline.

In the opening match of her second season (2013-14), a November 9 contest against the Calgary Inferno, Peroff logged her first career goal. Of note, it was a memorable goal providing her with a special milestone. Peroff would log the game-winning tally as the Furies prevailed by a 3-2 count against the visiting Inferno.

By season’s end, she would log assists in a pair of losses to Montreal (February 15) and Brampton (March 9). Ironically, the loss against Brampton represented the only game all season in which Peroff had a positive plus/minus rating (+2).

With only six penalty minutes in more than 40 career games played at the CWHL level, her remarkable discipline reflects a great style of play that should enable her the chance to make an impact with the Stars.
With the blue and white, Peroff’s role occupied more of a forechecking capacity, proving that preventing goals comprises a key role. Paying attention to such details is just as important as a teammate that may have scored a goal on the opposite end of the ice.

PeroffCup

Competing with the Stars, it is highly likely that Peroff shall establish new bench marks for most goals and points in one season during her CWHL career. Reunited with the likes of Martlet teammates such as Ann-Sophie Bettez (a BLG Award winner), former captain Cathy Chartrand, 2015 second round pick Katia Clement-Heydra and All-World goaltender Charline Labonte, there are strong feelings of familiarity and pride on this year’s edition of the Stars.

In Montreal hockey circles, it had only been one year earlier (2011), when Peroff solidified her legacy. Leading the Martlets to a victory over the highly talented St. Francis Xavier X-Women in the 2011 CIS national title game, Peroff assembled a solid two-point performance that set the tone for the remainder of the game. For her efforts, she was recognized as tournament MVP, a remarkable milestone in her fabled career.

Graduating with 139 career points with the Martlets, Peroff was also an alternate captain for three seasons. Her leadership followed later in her career. Having also dressed the shirt of Macedonian Suns in the Canadian Multicultural Hockey League, she acquired the 2013 MVP award.

Although Peroff was not part of CWHL play during the 2014-15, she was equally prominent. Competing with the Italian club, the Bolzano Eagles, she participated in Group G of the Euorpean Women’s Champions Cup. Playing alongside Chelsea Furlani during the season, Peroff logged a pair of assists in a 7-3 final on December 6 against the Espoo Blues.

PeroffBolzano

During the 2014-15 EWHL season, Peroff was one of seven Canadians competing in the league. She was joined by the likes of Alex Gowie (KHM Budapest), blueliner Regan Boulton (EHV Sabres Vienna) and Abygail Laking (DEC Salzburg Eagles). Of note, the Neuberg Highlanders featured the most Canadians of any European roster. Consisting of three players, including scoring champion Devon Skeats, forwards Shelby Ballendine and Paula Lagamba completed the Canadian trio.

With a very strong roster this season, Peroff may likely be a third line player with the Stars, but her talents give her the potential to be remarkably effective, giving the Stars solid depth. Possessing an impressive skill set, she also has the ability to occasionally shift to a second or first line, showing versatility. Possessing championship experience, Peroff not only knows what it takes to win a Clarkson Cup, her positive attitude and team first approach make her an ideal teammate.

Emily Fulton extends hockey career with Toronto Furies

Selected second overall by the Toronto Furies in the 2015 CWHL Draft, Emily Fulton brings the promise of strong offensive skill to a club that ranked near the bottom in league scoring last season. Having grown up south of Toronto, in Stratford, Ontario, the chance to don the Furies blue and white sweater represents a special homecoming for her.

Following her senior season with the Cornell Big Red, Fulton emerged as Cornell’s second leading scorer, accumulating an impressive 48 points, on the strength of 27 assists. Having earned All-Ivy and All-ECAC honors in her proud collegiate career, she brings the confidence and team-first approach that should enable her to duplicate such success at the CWHL level.

Fulton’s first brush with hockey greatness came in a historic gold medal effort with Team Canada at the 2010 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds. Contributing to Canada’s first-ever gold in tournament history; she was joined on the team by fellow 2015 CWHL Draft Picks Jillian Saulnier, an eventual teammate at Cornell, along with Jenna McParland, who was claimed by Brampton.

Of note, such a legendary team also included players that would eventually be selected in the 2014 CWHL Draft. Said players included Brampton Thunder picks such as Jamie Lee Rattray and Erica Howe, along with Calgary Inferno selection Jessica Campbell, who would go on to become the first rookie to serve as a captain in CWHL All-Star Game play. In addition, all the roster players from that 2010 team were featured on hockey cards in Upper Deck’s World of Sport card set, representing a proud career milestone.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the top four selections in the 2015 edition of the CWHL Draft consisted of alumnae from Hockey Canada’s Under-18 program. Fulton was joined by the likes of first overall pick Sarah Edney, Marie-Philip Poulin, who went third to Montreal, and Calgary’s pick, Brianne Jenner (who played with Poulin at the Sochi Winter Games), going fourth overall, all part of a very historical draft class.

Like Fulton, Jenner also carved a remarkable hockey legacy at Cornell, marking the first time in CWHL Draft history that two Cornell players were nabbed in the first round. As a side note, Saulnier went in the third round, resulting in the second straight season that the CWHL Draft Class featured three Cornell players among the Top 25 picks.

Last year, Calgary nabbed Hayleigh Cudmore with the eighth overall pick, while Jessica Campbell emerged as one of the steals of the draft, going to Calgary at 19th overall. Fellow Cornell alum Alyssa Gagliardi went 20th overall to Boston, culminating her rookie season with a Clarkson Cup championship.

Heading into this season, the biggest adjustment for Fulton may be competing against so many Cornell teammates that she experienced on-ice glories with. Whether it is Laura Fortino, Brampton’s first overall pick in 2014, Lauriane Rougeau with the Montreal Stars, or the large number that now call Calgary home, emotions will certainly be high in her inaugural games against each squad.

Should the Furies hope to emerge victorious in such games, an important element is the need to improve on their offensive output from last season. As the Furies will be looking for their second Clarkson Cup in franchise history, Fulton’s play-making abilities may prove to be crucial in such an effort. Last season, the Furies only managed 51 goals, ranking fourth in league play, while trailing third-ranked Montreal by 16 goals.

With several strong scoring talents on the Furies, it shall be imperative for Fulton to establish strong on-ice chemistry. Possessing the ability to help the squad improve on their past season scoring totals, she is not only a Rookie of the Year candidate, but she has the potential to provide the Furies with the opportunity to remain in the playoff picture.

Pair of women’s hockey heroes join Clarkson’s coaching staff

As the Clarkson Golden Knights open the 2014-15 NCAA women’s ice hockey season in defense of their national title, two highly accomplished individuals shall be part of the new-look coaching staff. Meghan Duggan, a three-time Frozen Four winner and two-time Winter Games silver-medalist shall be joined by Britni Smith, who scored the game winning tally in the 2014 Clarkson Cup finals.

The two will have big shoes to fill, replacing long-time coaching staff members Shannon Desrosiers and Matt Kelly, who left the program in the aftermath of the 2013-14 campaign. Since the program became part of NCAA Division I hockey in 2003, Shannon Desrosiers was part of the coaching staff and certainly part of the team’s heartbeat.

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Her option to leave the team was to spend more time with her family. Of note, Kelly joined the program in 2008 and is becoming the head scout for the US National Women’s Team.

Duggan’s experience and dedication makes her a remarkable mentor for the players at Clarkson. Having served as the US captain at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, she made national news when she opened up about her problems with concussions, making her inactive for one year.

Of note, Duggan’s hockey resume is sterling, with four gold medals at the IIHF Women’s World Championships and a Patty Kazmaier Award at the NCAA level, where she graduated with 238 career points. Serving on head coach Matt Desrosier’s coaching staff will allow her to continue to compete for the US National Team, along with her role as one of the superstars on the Boston Blades.

Taking into account her reputation as an ambassador for the game, Duggan is poised to be a positive influence on the players on the roster. Her experience playing for some highly talented and successful coaches should translate well at Clarkson. At the University of Wisconsin, Duggan played for Mark Johnson, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. With the Boston Blades, where she helped the club win its first championship, she played for Digit Murphy, one of the most winning coaches in the history of NCAA women’s hockey, reaching over 300 victories with the Brown Bears.

Blueliner Erin Ambrose is certainly on Hockey Canada’s radar as a player that may contend for a spot on the Canadian roster at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. With two seasons of eligibility remaining, there is no question that Duggan has the potential to be a mentor for her.

An added bonus for Clarkson is the fact that someone of Duggan’s reputation on the coaching staff shall certainly help in the recruiting of future stars. With the nearby region of Eastern Ontario having produced many stars for Clarkson, the chance for such players in that area to play for a coach with Winter Games experience will be a strong selling point.

Having played for archrival St. Lawrence University, the site of Smith behind Clarkson’s bench will bring with it high emotion when the two play each other for the first time this season. Of note, she does bring some coaching experience to the position. During the 2013-14 season, she juggled time playing for the Toronto Furies while serving on Vicky Sunohara’s coaching staff with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, who enjoyed a 21-9 campaign. Fellow Clarkson alum Brooke Beazer played alongside Smith for the Furies, as the club won their first-ever Clarkson Cup title.

Once again, Ambrose may be a beneficiary of Smith’s arrival. Not only has Smith also served in various coaching capacities with Hockey Canada’s female programs, she has also played with Team Canada’s U22 program (like Ambrose). Her experiences playing defense, along with her tenure in the CWHL may prove vital as Ambrose looks to take the next step in her career. Eligible for the 2016 CWHL Draft, Ambrose may be destined to go as a first-overall pick.

Raised in Port Perry, Ontario, east of Toronto, Smith would compete in 146 contests for the St. Lawrence Skating Saints. Having graduated in 2010, she recoreded the third highest points by a blueliner in NCAA play during her senior season. In addition, she was a top-10 finalist for the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.

This was complemented by Second Team All-ECAC Hockey honors as a junior and senior. A former winner of the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year award, Smith also scored the first CWHL goal in an NHL arena (Toronto’s Air Canada Centre).

With Clarkson starting a new chapter in its storied history, it is encouraging to see former female hockey stars expand their careers with coaching roles. Gina Kingsbury, who opposed Duggan at the 2010 Winter Games, was hired as a coach with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, another proud NCAA program. While the transitions of Duggan and Smith to coaching at the NCAA level should be relatively smooth, they could not have asked to be involved with a better program.

Michelle Bonello’s comeback one of the great stories of 2013-14 CWHL campaign

As a member of the Toronto Furies during their inaugural season, Michelle Bonello was a key member of their blue line corps. Advancing to the championship game of the 2011 Clarkson Cup, it would be another three years before Bonello had the opportunity to compete for the title again.

Unlike 2011, the 2014 effort culminated in a championship victory for Bonello and her teammates, giving the city of Toronto its first major hockey championship since the 1975 Memorial Cup. Perhaps even more special was that Bonello enjoyed a heroic comeback with the blue and white.

Of note, Bonello was not part of the blue and white during the 2012-13 campaign. This was compounded by a very difficult 2011-12 campaign that saw the Furies finish with a losing record, while Bonello only recorded three points.

Despite not gracing CWHL ice for one season, Bonello managed to stay active. A former College Hockey America All-Star with the Mercyhurst Lakers (where she played alongside the likes of Meghan Agosta), Bonello emerged as a key member of the Canadian Inline women’s hockey team.

For the 2012 edition of the World Inline Hockey Championships, Bonello was named an alternate captain in a gold medal effort. Of note, several of her teammates had also competed in the CWHL. Such CWHL luminaries included the likes of LaToya Clarke, Amanda Parkins and former Furies teammate Kendra Fisher.

One year later, another CWHL alumnus, Samantha Shirley would join the Canadian squad. Unlike 2012, Bonello and her Canadian teammates would finish with the silver medal at the 2013 Worlds. The chance to compete with Shirley was made special by the fact that the two are teammates in the Mississauga Roller Hockey Association. CWHL players such as Joanne Eustace, Laura Hosier and Meagan Aarts (who also plays with Bonello on the Furies) were also part of the MRHA.

Such experience at the international level would prove to be beneficial for Bonello. With the Furies facing the loss of several key players due to Canadian centralization for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, there was a significant gap. Bonello’s return to the Furies fulfilled a need for more leadership. As the blueline corps already featured the likes of Martine Garland, Lexie Hoffmeyer, Shannon Moulson and Britni Smith, Bonello’s acumen and experience were the perfect fit.

Fortunately for the Furies, Bonello also re-emerged with a sparkling offensive attack. Finishing the season as the fifth leading scorer for the Furies, Bonello would manage to lead all defenders in scoring. Complementing such strong numbers was the fact that Bonello registered six power play assists, leading all defenders on the Furies.

In games where Bonello contributed at least one point, the Furies enjoyed a 7-3-0 mark. Statistically, her best performances this season were two-point efforts on December 1 (a 7-1 road win over Calgary) and February 1 (a 5-2 triumph against Boston). Although she did not earn any points in the Clarkson Cup postseason, her experience was crucial for a team stocked with rookies and fresh faces.

Ironically, she would follow up her Clarkson Cup triumph with another overtime hockey championship. Playing for the Royals in the MRHA’s Gold Division, she was part of the squad’s overtime victory, not only bringing a dramatic finish to the 2013-14 season, but another accolade in her distinguished inline career.

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.

Fantastic foursome of Furies stars look to help Canada win gold at Sochi 2014

As Canada looks to win their fourth consecutive gold medal in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games, a remarkable group of wondrous women from the Toronto Furies will attempt to make that goal a reality. Tessa Bonhomme, Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Wakefield are a titanic trio currently part of Canada’s centralization roster.

Along with Rebecca Johnston, a legendary player from the Cornell Big Red and a member of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games squad that captured gold, Spooner and Wakefield were selected in the historic 2012 CWHL Draft. All three had remarkable rookie seasons, helping to redefine the blue and white’s offensive attack. Spooner would break the franchise record for most goals scored in one season, while Johnston scored the game winning goal in the Clarkson Cup playoffs against Brampton.

Prior to their summer departure, Furies teammates gave them a sendoff. With emotions running high at the gathering, the Furies have to adjust to the upcoming season without four key players. While the Furies have drafted the likes of Katie Wilson, Sasha Nanji, Alyssa Baldin and Kristy Garrow, these four fantastic women have left an impression on their teammates and their fans.

In their teens, the two both played ball hockey together for the Oshawa Stampede. Besides their time together as rookies with the Furies, the two also had the opportunity to play at the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Ottawa. It was their first time on home soil as members of the senior team. It would only be fitting if the two could make their Winter Games debut together.

(Left to right): Wakefield, Spooner and Bonhomme receive a Sochi-themed cake as a sendoff from their Furies teammates (Obtained from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TorontoCWHL)

(Left to right): Wakefield, Spooner and Bonhomme receive a Sochi-themed cake as a sendoff from their Furies teammates (Obtained from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TorontoCWHL)


Bonhomme, Spooner and Wakefield have established themselves as the three most popular players on the Furies roster. Having all carved significant legends in women’s hockey, . Spooner is the first woman in hockey history to have played on the Canadian Under-18, Under-22/Development Team and senior national teams.

Wakefield is the all-time leading scorer in Hockey East history and has also held the rare honor of competing with the U18, U22 and Senior Teams. In her first season with the Boston Univeristy Terriers, she had the opportunity to compete with Vancouver 2010 gold medalists Marie-Philip Poulin and Catherine Ward.

Bonhomme, the first-ever draft pick in the history of the CWHL was an All-American with Ohio State University and was a champion in the CBC-Television smash hit Battle of the Blades. Of note, she is a reporter for Leafs-TV while holding endorsements with the likes of McDonalds. In October 2012, she was also on the cover of The Hockey News.

Should Spooner and Wakefield both be named to Canada’s contingent looking to win gold at Sochi, it would signify a new chapter in their long friendship. While Spooner has also played with Laura McIntosh at three different levels of hockey, she has known Wakefield since childhood.

Teammates and more importantly, friends since childhood. Spooner and Wakefield will make their Winter Games debut together. (Image obtained from Twitter https://twitter.com/natspooner5/status/297878850912796672/photo/1)

Teammates and more importantly, friends since childhood. Spooner and Wakefield will make their Winter Games debut together. (Image obtained from Twitter https://twitter.com/natspooner5/status/297878850912796672/photo/1)

On September 8 and 10, 2013, Bonhomme, Johnston, Spooner and Wakefield were part of Team Canada’s exhibition series versus the Russian national women’s team. With Russia having won the bronze medal at the 2013 Worlds, momentum is strong heading into Sochi. The exhibition was also an opportunity for team building while becoming more familiar with the area.

Shayba Arena hosted the series and Spooner made the difference in the 6-1 victory on September 8. Two days later, Canada prevailed by an 8-1 tally as Johnston, Spooner and Wakefield played together on one line. Spooner logged an assist while Johnston recorded two assists to go along with Wakefield’s solid two goal performance.

While the Centralization Camp can be a long and grueling process, the possible reward of a gold medal at the end transforms this laborious journey into a labour of love. While a gold medal in February 2014 shall be a hard-earned one, there is no question that the friendships forged among these Furies shall make it an experience worth treasuring for a lifetime.

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.