Sunday, 13 February 2011

Quietly Carving Out A Niche

I was at school the other day, and someone asked me if I had ever heard of the Canadian Women's Hockey League. I have, in fact, heard of the league as I had done a story on the draft that took place to get the inaugural five teams up and running. It was then that I realized that I have seriously neglected the highest professional hockey league that women can compete in against other women. Because of this oversight, today is all about the Canadian Women's Hockey League, how each team is doing, what they are wearing, and where you can catch a game or two if you're interested.

I want to preface this article with this statement: if you spend the time telling me that no one cares about women's hockey through comments or email, your comments will not only be denied entry on to this article, but I'll categorically go back and delete any and all comments you have ever made. And any future comments will be denied entry as well. I'm tired of hearing "hockey fans" crap all over women's hockey like it means nothing. If that's the case, your kid's Timbits hockey or any minor hockey in general is just as meaningless. As a true hockey fan, this won't fly with me. Capisce?

First off, there are a lot of recognizable names playing on the five teams in the CWHL. The five teams are based out of Brampton, Burlington, Toronto, Montreal, and the lone American-based team in Boston. These teams were assembled through a draft that happened in early August of 2010, and the teams have been battling since the season started.

If you're a fan of Burlington Barracudas, you want to keep your eyes on Danijela Rundqvist, Becky Kellar, Ashley Riggs, and Shannon Moulson. Burlington has had a rough start in the inaugural CWHL season. They currently sit fifth out of five teams with a 4-17-1 record, including being 1-11-1 away from the friendly confines of the Appleby Ice Centre.

If you cheer for the Brampton Canadettes-Thunder, Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps, Cherie Piper, and Lori Dupuis are probably household names. Brampton has been on a major tear recently having won eleven straight games, and this streak has propelled them into second-place in the CWHL with a 17-6-0 record! Brampton is pretty consistent when it comes to their play as they are 9-3-0 at the Cassie Campbell Comnmunity Centre and 8-3-0 away from home. Hefford is the CWHL's all-time leading scorer in the previous incarnation of the CWHL, so there's some history there too!

The Toronto Aeros are sitting in fourth-place in the five team CWHL, but trail third-place by only two points at the time of writing. Their 8-12-3 record sees them playing well at home where they are 5-3-0, but Toronto needs to be better on the road with their brutal 3-9-3 record. Jennifer Botterill leads the team in scoring, and she's joined by familiar faces Tessa Bonhomme and Sami Jo Small. The Toronto club is stocked with former NCAA players, so this young squad is coming along nicely as they mature through this season.

The Montreal Stars are the class of the league at this point, leading in wins and points in posting a record of 18-2-2. Caroline Ouellette is dominating the league with 58 points in just 22 games. Joining her on the Montreal squad are Emmanuelle Blais, Julie Chu, Sarah Vaillancourt, and Kim St-Pierre. Montreal is 11-2-1 on home ice at Aréna Étienne-Desarteau, but has yet to lose in regulation on the road with a 7-0-1 record.

The lone American-based team is the Boston Blades, and they currently sit in third-place in the CWHL. Boston is 10-13-1 through 24 games thus far, but are significantly better on American soil. The Blades have a 7-6-1 record at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore Center Arena, but have struggled to a 3-7-0 record while traveling through Canada. Led by Angela Ruggiero, Caitlyn Cahow, Erika Lawler, and Kacey Bellamy, the American-based team recently put an end to Montreal's undefeated season thanks in large part to a 74-save effort by by goaltender Mandy Cronin!

Just so you're aware, the Blades will play 16 of their 26 games at “home” – six apiece at Harvard and UNH, and single games at Providence College, Kennedy Memorial Rink in Hyannis and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Essentially, the "New England" Blades are making the tour through the NCAA circuit!

As you can see, some of the best women to ever lace up the skates are playing regularly in the CWHL. This will, of course, make the women's game much better as the women will regularly get to play at a high-level, and I commend the CWHL for its commitment to the teams, cities, and women who are putting their best game forward day in and day out.

In terms of recognizing the teams, there are some clear similarities between the CWHL and a few NHL teams. The first jerseys put forth were clearly designed from NHL templates. As you can see, the Aeros look like the Maple Leafs, the Stars look like the Canadiens, the Thunder are wearing the colours of the Ottawa Senators, and the Barracudas are shown in the colours of the Buffalo Sabres. All of them have the Dallas Stars' treatment on the front in this image.

Well, there were a few teams that stuck with those similarities, but one team decided to stick with their original colours and their original logo that they wore in a previous league. I have to say that there are very few images of CWHL players in comparison to other leagues. In saying that, here are how the teams look today.

Toronto is definitely blue at home and white on the road. The roster photos shown on their roster page have the players in this mock-up, but I have not seen this uniform used in any picture where the players are playing. I also have yet to see the alternate uniform proposed above, so I'm on the hunt for some of those images still.

Montreal proudly wears red at home and white on the road. Again, no sign of the alternate uniform, and I'm thinking this may be a cost-saving measure. Why create a third uniform in your first year of existence? Or when your uniforms look extremely sharp already?

Montreal should go down in the CWHL as the first team to wear a promotional jersey as well as the team wore pink jerseys on February 1 to help promote breast cancer awareness and to raise funds for the Fondation du cancer du sein du Québec to battle the disease. After the game, the Stars and their moms took to the ice for a photo! The Stars raised over $5000 for the charity on the night! Good on the Stars for helping this charity, especially since it hits close to home for a number of women playing in the game!

The Boston Blades look very familiar as they wear black with yellow at home and white on the road. Much like the Stars and Aeros, I have yet to see a third yellow jersey being worn by Boston, but I am still looking.

The Brampton Canadettes-Thunder have gone opposite to the norm, adopting the black third jersey as their home jersey while wearing white on the road. Instead of going red like the Senators do, the Canadettes-Thunder are wearing black. For a five-team league, you would think that Brampton could choose a different colour, but I'm not going to rain on their parade.

Burlington is the wild card in this five-team league as they decided to go with the template of the New York Islanders instead of the Buffalo Sabres. This may have been due to the fact that they wore orange and navy blue in their previous seasons, so this keeps their colour scheme intact. As you can see, the Barracudas wear white on the road while going navy at home. As you can see, Burlington has opted to keep their logo as they display it proudly across the front of their jerseys.

So there's your introduction to the Canadian Women's Hockey League. I'll be following these teams and players as the season progresses, and we'll have a full run-down of how well each team did at the end of the regular season along with a synopsis of how the players did in the race to win the scoring title!

I'd just like to point out that some of these amazing photographs were taken by Pasquale Stalteri and used with his permission. Please respect the copyright this amazing photographer has done, and I encourage you to check out his website or his blog where all of his amazing photography can be seen. I am truly thankful for the work Monsieur Stalteri has done with the CWHL, and for his generosity in allowing me to use some of his fantastic photography! A link to his site can be found on the menu to the right!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Cory said...

Teebz, thank you for the update. NBC did an awesome piece on the Boston Blades for Hockey Day in America and hopefully it will bring these women to the forefront. I hope it will continue to grow and maybe USA Hockey, Hockey Canada and the NHL will work together to fund and expand the league. If we provide opportunities for women and provide a new level for those young girls just starting out to shoot for hockey will continue to get better and expand.