Monday, 11 June 2018

Moving Upstairs

It was just last year on The Hockey Show where I joked with Sami Jo Small, goaltender for the Toronto Furies, about becoming the general manager of a Winnipeg-based professional women's hockey team. She enthusiastically played along, stating she would move back to her hometown to fill that role. Fast forward to June 11, 2018, and she didn't quite move home to Winnipeg, but she has accepted to fill the general manager vacancy for her adopted city's professional women's team as Sami Jo Small was named as the general manager of the Toronto Furies today! For a woman as accomplished and successful as she has been in hockey, this move to the front office seems only natural to me, and I think Sami is going to be an outstanding GM for the Furies!

There literally is nothing on the ice that Sami Jo Small hasn't done. She played with the Stanford Cardinal men's team, earning PAC-8 MVP honours, while attending college on track and field scholarship to throw the discus and javelin where she earned a mechanical engineering degree. She has attended three Olympic Games, winning gold in Nagano, Salt Lake City, and Turin. She is a five-time IIHF Women's World Championships gold medalist. She has twice earned the Directorate Award as Best Goalie at the World Championships in 1999 and 2000. She was a member of the 2014 Clarkson Cup champion Toronto Furies. She was the first professional women's hockey goaltender to accumulate 60 career wins, done against the Boston Blades on February 9, 2014, and currently holds the Canadian professional women's league's record for career starts and wins.

Honestly, her list of accomplishments above speaks for itself.

What makes this announcement hard to digest is that all of my favorite goalies seem to be hanging up the skates this season. Calgary's Delayne Brian made the announcement a few weeks ago that she was retiring. Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling was the next to announce that she was moving on from hockey. And now Sami Jo Small will most likely trade in the skates for a briefcase as she transitions to a life off the ice.

It's not easy being a fan of these sensational goalies right now.

I do see this move as a major positive for the Furies. After Nicole Letreille didn't have her contract renewed by the Furies for reasons unknown at this time, Small was the face of the Furies since 2011 after being claimed by the Furies when the Mississauga Chiefs were contracted at the end of the 2010 season. Small is also involved with her league's Player's Association, and has been a member of the lague's Board of Directors since the founding of the league. She knows the ins and outs of the league and its affairs, and that makes her an ideal candidate to be in some sort of management capacity.

Perhaps more than anything, Small knows the current players all too well, and has a generally amazing personality and drive that should make playing for her rather easy for players looking to break into the league via the draft or through free agency. She constantly wears the world's biggest smile, she might be the most positive and cheerful person I know, and she generally wants the best for every individual she encounters. While she'll have a salary cap in with which to build the Furies, don't be surprised if there are more than a few players asking if they can play for Sami.

There's no question that Sami Jo Small has some work to do in getting the Furies back on track. She has an outstanding goaltender with whom she worked alongside last season in Amanda Makela; solid defenders in Michelle Saunders, Sydney Kidd, Shannon Moulson, and Katie Gaskin; and, hard-working, skilled forwards in Carolyne Prevost, Jenna Dingeldein, Hayley Williams, and Emily Fulton. If they can add Canadian Olympians Natalie Spooner and Renata Fast back into the lineup and find a few solid picks plus a free agent or two, this Furies team could be vying for the Clarkson Cup, let alone just a playoff spot.

Sami Jo Small will be a large part of the talent attracted to Toronto this summer. She'll have her work cut out for her, but she's never been afraid to accept a challenge. Perhaps she can follow Inferno GM Kristen Hagg as another Clarkson Cup-winning player who successfully transferred to the front office? Or, more importantly, perhaps Small can become the first person to win the Clarkson Cup as both a player and a general manager?

Now that's a challenge that I can see Sami Jo Small accepting! Congratulations on the appointment, Sami, and I'm confident this will be the best move the Toronto Furies ever made!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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