Wednesday, 24 January 2018

House Of Furies

My trip to Toronto wouldn't be complete if I went to one pro women's hockey practice and not the other team's practice. I had been in contact with the always-amazing Sami Jo Small before heading to the GTA, and she graciously invited me to the Toronto Furies' practice this evening! After spending time at the Thunder practice one night earlier and seeing how much hard work was on display there, I had a feeling that I was in for another treat on this evening as I would witness the likes of Small, Amanda Makela, Hayley Williams, Cassidy Delainey, and Carolyne Prevost run through a full practice at the Mastercard Centre!

With the Calgary Inferno on the schedule this weekend, the Furies needed a solid practice in preparation for one of the best women's teams on the planet. The other reason I would have stressed that this practice was important? The Furies will be on national television in Canada against the Inferno when Sportsnet broadcasts the game this Sunday afternoon at 1pm ET. The Furies will also be hosting their annual You Can Play Game, so there's a lot to be prepared for this weekend!

I really thought the pace of the Furies practice was a good tempo. In fact, Teri and I spent most of the first portion of practice talking about goaltending techniques in watching both Small and Makela participate in a goaltending drill. I'm of the old-school techniques where the glove and blocker are held higher off the pads while in the butterfly to be able to make saves up high, and Teri was telling me that Sami is of the same thinking despite current goaltending standards suggesting the glove and blocker be held lower. In watching the drill, you could see Sami trying to use the new techniques in her game despite learning differently while Amanda Makela was much more comfortable having learned those techniques. It was a great conversation, and I definitely learned a few things in watching the netminders play.

The second-half of the practice saw the players work on possession and scoring, and I have to admit that the players looked like they were having a really good time in the drill. Carolyne Prevost looked strong, Jessica Platt played really well, and I liked the effort from Michelle Saunders. Overall, it seemed like it was a very good practice turned in by the players.

After practice, Teri and I met up with Sami Jo Small, and we had a great chat about everything. She's such a great person and is always so positive when it comes to the sport, and it was great to chat with her. Honestly, I don't think Sami gets enough credit in how much she enjoys interacting with fans. She also gave us an update on Billy Bridges' training as he prepares for the 2018 Winter Olympics, we got an update on the always-cute Kensi, and we found out that Sami and Billy's house is more like a hostel with some of the Paralympians staying there and Megan Bozek currently camped out in their basement!

And then we got to meet Charlie, Amanda Makela's dog! Charlie is a gorgeous dog and so well-mannered, and it's pretty evident that Amanda is doing amazing work in training Charlie to be a fantastic ambassador. I'm pretty certain that this goaltending thing is going well for Amanda, but if she ever wanted to retire and become a dog trainer, Charlie is evidence that Miss Makela is exceptional at that work. Amanda and Charlie are a heckuva pair, and I was grateful and felt privileged to have met them both! If she's starting this weekend on Sportsnet's broadcast, I'll be watching as I want nothing but success for Amanda. She's a new favorite player!

I feel like I owe Sami Jo Small a pile of thanks, so I want to say thanks here and now as well as pledging that The Hockey Show will return to her hockey school this summer for another live show and some additional interviews with all the talent she brings out to the school. If you have a chance to meet Sami - who I consider a legend in not only the women's hockey world, but in all of hockey - she will give you all the time in the world and sign everything kids put in front of her. She's just that awesome, and I feel honoured and humbled to call her a friend. She is everything hockey players should strive to be when they make it to the big leagues.

Catch the Toronto Furies on Sunday at 1pm ET against the Calgary Inferno on Sportsnet during the Furies' You Can Play Game. It's going to be a great game with an important message, and one that should never be forgotten. If you can play, you can play. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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