Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Girls Being Drafted

This is not going to be an article about women in the military, although I would like to point out that HBIC is a big supporter of equality. That being said, the very first draft was held on Thursday evening at the Hockey Hall of Fame for the newly-founded Canadian Women's Hockey League. While only three of the five teams took part in the draft, it was seen as a success for the fledgling league as they look to break new ground in women's professional hockey.

The idea behind the draft was to create better parity in the league. Normally, teams fill out their rosters with the best players they can find, and player movement within the league is minimal at best. In order to shake the teams up and create some parity for the newer expansion teams in Toronto and Boston, the CWHL decided to employ a draft to move players around. The only catch was that each team could protect five players from the draft.

"In other professional leagues, people get place on different teams and people get traded and we in women's hockey have never really experienced that," goaltender Sami Jo Small explained to The Canadian Press. "It's been your choice as to where you want to go.

"Now you go where you are drafted and you have to make it work there and you really have to work hard to make it work."

With that knowledge, the woman pictured above, Tessa Bonhomme, was selected by Toronto as the very first CWHL draft pick. The former Ohio State Buckeye captain will suit up on the blueline for the as-yet-unnamed Toronto squad alongside current and former Canadian National Team members such as Sami Jo Small and Jennifer Botterill. Both of those players were on Toronto's five-player protected list.

Bonhomme is a self-described "offensive defenceman", and that should prove to be valuable in the new league when trying to attract fans to games. The 24 year-old's hockey skill has provided her opportunities with Team Canada, so you know she has the skill to back-up the lofty draft position.

The second overall pick went to Burlington, and they chose forward Ashley Riggs. Riggs was a member of the Niagara University Purple Eagles, and was a dynamic scorer for the school. Riggs holds the single-season school records at Niagara for points (51), goals (29), shorthanded goals (6), plus-minus (+29), and hat tricks (4). She's third all-time in scoring for Niagara, so Burlington is getting a very accomplished scorer in Ashley Riggs. Burlington protected four-time Olympic defenceman Becky Kellar to strengthen their squad.

The third overall pick went to Toronto again, and they opted to choose Brittney Smith. I have no information on Miss Smith, but I'm going to go ahead and assume she's a fantastic hockey player. That seems safe.

There is absolutely no news on the results of the draft results anywhere on the Internet, so I can't tell you who Brampton chose with their first selection. I can tell you that Brampton protected Olympians Cherie Piper, Jayna Hefford and Gillian Apps on their roster, so they'll start with an excellent foundation of experienced players.

Montreal and Boston did not participate in the draft due to costs of having players travel and potentially move to a new city to play hockey. The league felt that they were not in a position to tell the women where to play based on the fact that players in the CWHL are not paid a salary to play. Travel costs and ice-time during the season are covered by the league and teams, but the players receive no pay to play. To compensate Montreal and Boston, those two teams are able to recruit and sign players from their respective regions.

"We're not paying enough money to make a woman move from [Toronto] to Boston," CWHL executive director Brenda Andress said from Toronto. "It's not feasible or logical at this point."

Essentially, it's like the NHL circa-1920 for the CWHL where players from various regions are recruited and play for their local teams. To ensure that the players from the Greater Toronto Area are spread out evenly, the draft was devised to create parity amongst the southern Ontario teams.

The CWHL is smaller by one team this year. Last season, the league featured the Mississauga Chiefs, Brampton Canadette-Thunder, Burlington Barracudas, Vaughn Flames, Montreal Stars and Ottawa Senators. While Montreal, Burlington, and Brampton were retained as teams for the 2010-11 season, there were a few losses.

Ottawa was having problems drawing enough elite players to compete with Montreal and the Toronto-based teams in the CWHL, so they withdrew from the league. The league made an executive decision to shut down the Vaughn team in order to prevent a "watering-down" of talent amongst the GTA teams.

In their places are a team based in Toronto and the first non-Canadian team in Boston. The Boston team has already committed to practicing at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, and to play their home games in the greater Boston area.

Boston has already announced that American Olympians Kacey Bellamy (UNH), Caitlin Cahow (Harvard), Angela Ruggiero (Harvard), Erika Lawler, Karen Thatcher (Providence College) and Molly Engstrom will be a part of their team. Tryouts have been extended to defenceman Cherie Hendrickson, former UNH standouts Micaela Long and Sam Faber, and former Boston University goalie Melissa Haber. Hendrickson suited up for Brampton last season, so her experience will be counted on for this expansion season.

Canadian Olympians Caroline Ouellette, Kim St. Pierre and Sarah Vaillancourt have announced that they will play for Montreal next season.

For more information on which players were protected by each team, please click this link that will take you to the CWHL website.

Pretty cool idea in the CWHL, and I'm happy to see that the league is starting to gain ground. The "fantasy draft" is a very novel idea in the world of hockey, and it may prove to be the best way for this league to survive. Well done, ladies, and good luck in the upcoming season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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