Category: Women (Page 1 of 8)

Two pro women’s hockey groups meet in bid to thaw relations

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The Premier Hockey Federation is taking its playoffs to Florida this weekend, but not before making a latest attempt to mend fences with members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association.

The rival women’s hockey groups met in New York on Wednesday at the request of the NHL in hopes discussions could thaw relations in getting the two sides working together to unify the sport.

The six-team PHF, North America’s only professional women’s hockey league, termed the discussions as being “constructive,” but would not say whether more meetings are scheduled. PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined comment Thursday when reached by The Associated Press.

The PWHPA’s membership includes members of the United States and Canadian national teams, and was established in May 2019 following the demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The association’s objective has been to establish a league with what it calls a sustainable economic model and preferably backed by the NHL.

While the NHL, as an entity, has urged the sides to resolve their differences, the PWHPA has individual NHL team support in listing 11 franchises as partners. Talks between the PWHPA and its NHL partners and corporate sponsors have intensified over the past month in a bid to establish a league within the next year.

The PHF, which rebranded itself from the National Women’s Hockey League last summer, is moving forward with plans to add two expansion teams, including one in Montreal, and committed to providing players health care and more than doubling its salary cap per team to $750,000 next season.

In the meantime, the PHF turns its focus on closing its seventh season with the Isobel Cup playoffs held outside of Tampa, Florida.

The Connecticut Whale and Toronto Six will have a bye into the semifinals on Saturday after the Whale clinched top spot with a 5-0 season-ending win over the Six last weekend. The playoffs open on Friday with the third-seeded and defending champion Boston Pride facing the sixth-seeded Buffalo Beauts, and fourth-seeded Metropolitan Riveters playing the fifth-seeded Minnesota Whitecaps.

“We just ran out of gas,” Six coach Mark Joslin said of Toronto finishing a point behind Connecticut. “We’re good enough and deep enough and I believe we’re driven enough to bounce back and be ready Sunday in Tampa no matter who we’re playing.”

Forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis, the PHF’s leading scorer and MVP last season, believes the Six are capable of winning the Cup in their second season.

“It would mean the world,” Grant-Mentis said. The 23-year-old led the Six in scoring again this season with 13 goals and 17 assists in 19 games.

Northbrook’s Jesse Compher ready to bring it to Beijing

Jesse Compher of the USA Women’s Hockey Team

By Dave Oberhelman – Daily Herald

The Glenbrook North graduate will get the chance to bring it on the world stage. The Northbrook native was announced as one of 23 players to make up the 2022 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team during the NHL’s Winter Classic in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day.

Opening group play Feb. 3 against Finland, the U.S. Women enter the Beijing Winter Olympic Games as the defending gold medalist, having won their second gold in 2018. The United States has medaled in every Olympics since women’s hockey was introduced to the Games in 1998.

The team will head to Los Angeles on Jan. 24 and fly to Beijing three days later.

A 5-foot-8 forward who played her college hockey at Boston University, Compher is among eight first-time Olympians named to the squad, along with Savannah Harmon of Downers Grove. Compher trains with the Clarkson University graduate when both aren’t wrapped up in national events and practices.

Despite the timing of the announcement, Compher said the players were notified of their selection in December. The final roster was whittled down from 27 players.

“It’s definitely very exciting when your dreams come true, but not only when they come true with you alone, but also when your best friends and teammates are by your side,” Compher said from Team USA’s training facility, the Super Rink at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota.

Usual suspect Kendall Coyne Schofield of Oak Lawn makes her third appearance on the Olympic Team and Megan Bozek of Buffalo Grove her second. Hilary Knight, a 2018 favorite from Idaho, is the fourth woman to make four U.S. Olympic women’s hockey teams.

“I’m honestly beyond excited for the experience and the journey over there in China, but I’m just happy to be a part of this program and a part of this team,” said Compher, sister of Colorado Avalanche forward J.T. Compher.

The United States won at the 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics by tying Canada in the third period of the gold medal game, then winning 3-2 in a shootout.

The rival squads faced each other six times in the Why Me Tour with dates in October, November and December, Canada winning four games with three of the six games going into overtime.

The last three scheduled games of the tour were COVID casualties, so the American women scrimmaged boys teams around Blaine, then practiced as a unit since Christmas.

“We looked good,” Jesse Compher said. “We’re just starting to come together, and I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey as a team yet, which is the most exciting part.”

A five-time Hockey East player of the week during her Boston University career, she was a second-team All-America selection in 2018-19 and a top-10 finalist for the 2019 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top collegiate women’s hockey player. In her final season with Boston University Compher collected 11 points on 7 goals and 4 assists in 9 games.

Compher has seen her USA sweater, but hasn’t been able to pull it on yet.

Having played in nine international competitions since she was 16, she knows what it means.

“I think that representing your country for sure never gets old. It’s a feeling that’s indescribable,” she said.

“I’m excited to be on this journey with my teammates and excited for what we will accomplish.”

French goalie claims her place among men on the ice

French goaltender Charlotte Cagigos, left, participates in a training session in Caen, France, on Tuesday last week. She is the only woman to play in a men’s professional team in France.

Source:  Taipei Times

Charlotte Cagigos is aiming high, hoping to help the French women’s ice hockey team reach the Olympics. For now that means learning a new game as the only female goaltender training with a professional French squad.

Having laced up her first skates at the age of three, the native of sunny Mediterranean city Montpellier — not exactly an ice hockey bastion — knows full well what is riding on her efforts, months away from the Beijing Winter Olympics.

“It’s good for girls to see that you need to fight hard, and that hockey isn’t just a sport for boys,” said Cagigos, a 21-year-old who plays for Drakkars de Caen in the city of Caen in Normandy.

As the staccato of blades echoes off the ice, she stands guard in front of her goal during practice, taking hits from teammates who initially held back on their shots.

“At first when you see a woman in the goal you say: ‘We won’t strike so hard, we’ll be careful,’ but it’s exactly the opposite — we want to score and we hit the same as with any goalie,” Cagigos’ teammate Emmanuel Alvarez said.

Cagigos sought a club after graduating from high school, but few have women’s teams, and those that do often fill them with players of varying skills.

So the French ice hockey federation allows women under the age of 18 to skate on men’s teams.

For female goalies, there is no age limit, as the post is considered less exposed to the contacts that can be brutal elsewhere on the ice.

Yet Cagigos is one of just a handful who have played high-level hockey with men since the 1980s.

Cagigos joined the Drakkars at 17 and now trains with its semi-pro Division 1 squad, just below the Ligue Magnus, although so far she has not yet made its game roster.

For regular season matches, which began on Saturday, she is still on the Under-20 junior side or a reserve in Division 3.

However, since playing her first — friendly — pro game in January, Cagigos has captured national attention, and she has even been profiled by Canadian television.

She is not yet fully a pro, getting paid bonuses only for matches played, but the club’s sponsors help cover the cost of the thousands of euros’ worth of gloves, pads and helmet.

Between practices, she is also studying for a master’s degree in education, aiming to become a teacher.

“She brings a competitive spirit and a solid work ethic, and, above all, she fights hard every day in front of her cage,” Drakkar coach Luc Chauvel said.

She fits in so well “there are times I forget there’s a young lady with us,” he added.

That also means he has to remember to plan on a separate locker room for Cagigos to suit up.

“That’s the only downside to playing with the boys: I miss the locker room camaraderie a little bit,” Cagigos said. “It’s a small inconvenience compared with everything that I’m now able to experience.”

Trainee doctor Katie Marsden on Winter Olympic ice hockey qualifiers

Katie Marsden made her senior GB debut in 2016

By Katie Falkingham – BBC Sports

What started with a trip to a pantomime on ice at the age of three has taken Katie Marsden all over the world. The next stop, she hopes, is Beijing.

But to go there, she and her team-mates have to achieve what she says would be a “mindblowing” first – to qualify a Great Britain women’s ice hockey team for the Winter Olympic Games.

“It would be so great because it would just show that we do have so much talent in this country,” the 22-year-old told BBC Sport. “It would be great to get that recognition and show that we can play with the best of them.

“It would put women’s hockey on the map in the UK, and hopefully get more people involved from the younger level. That’s what you need to grow a sport.”

Women’s ice hockey has been part of the Winter Olympic programme since 1998, the men’s since 1920. GB has not qualified a men’s team since 1948, 12 years after winning gold.

The GB women’s campaign to qualify for the 2022 Olympics starts on Thursday, when they take on the first round of qualification in Nottingham in a group tournament with South Korea, Slovenia and Iceland.

But it is a journey that started for Marsden so many years before this, on a trip with her grandparents.

She and her brother initially took up figure skating after that panto visit, but Marsden, already a “tomboy” at that pre-school age, quickly ruled it “too girly” and so picked up a stick instead.

Almost 10 years later, the sport took her across the Atlantic where she would remain for some years. Scouted to attend a boarding school in Canada at 13, that led to her later enrolling at Trinity College in Connecticut, United States, where she could combine her hockey with her studies in neuroscience.

Studying and playing Stateside is a move few British ice hockey players have historically made, but a “steady flow” is now heading there as scouts realise “there are British players who are up to the standard of the American talent pool”.

On leaving home so young, Marsden said: “It was very scary but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

“I was incredibly shy when I went, but then I came back and people were like, ‘oh, she’s changed, she’s gobby’.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my family. My mum said she had many sleepless nights. She hated it the first few months. It was weird when I came back during Covid because I hadn’t been home for that length of period before, so then to be locked inside together… Mum said ‘I did miss you but this is getting a bit much’.”

Now, aged 22, Marsden is back in the UK permanently, in her second year at Hull York Medical School. She hopes, in the years to come, to become a sports doctor – a dream born out of her interactions with the “whole medical team” as an athlete.

She had initially wanted to be a vet, but that idea was soon quashed when she realised she and animals “don’t get along that well”.

She gets along well with her team though. Marsden has been a critical part of the Great Britain set-up since her debut in 2016, a winner of three World Championship Division II Group A medals.

Next up for Marsden and her GB team-mates are those Olympic qualifiers, taking place from 7 to 10 October.

And they will have home advantage on their side too because the qualifiers – cancelled in 2020 – moved to Nottingham after South Korea withdrew from hosting.

Group victory would send GB into November’s final qualification round, where a ticket to Beijing 2022 would be up for grabs.

“We’re very, very excited, probably more excited now that it’s in Nottingham,” Marsden said.

“The trip to Korea would have been fantastic but being able to play in front of family and friends, and to get as many people in the rink as possible, it’s just going to add to the experience and hopefully give us that boost to beat everyone.

“We’re confident, it’s a really good buzz, we’ve got a really great team with some nice new young faces, who have brought some really good energy.

“Everyone’s just really excited to get going, because especially with Covid, it’s been quite an anticipated event with it being cancelled last year and us not being able to get on a rink, and now it’s here.”

Heon hoping to power Mexico to 2022 Beijing Olympics

By William Douglas NHL.com

Camryn Heon wants to go from Kraft Hockeyville USA to the medal stand at the 2022 Beijing Olympics for Mexico.

She is a 15-year-old defenseman from El Paso, Texas, and the youngest member of Mexico’s women’s national team vying to compete Feb. 4-20 in China’s capital.

“Since I was little, I knew that I wanted to be in the Olympics,” Camryn said, “and to know that it’s possible for me to play for a country that nobody would have thought has hockey and to represent them, it’s so incredible.”

Mexico, ranked 26th among 42 countries by the International Ice Hockey Federation, heads to Bytom, Poland, this week for an Olympic Pre-Qualification Round from Oct. 7-10. It will play in a bracket with the Netherlands, Poland and Turkey.

Camryn’s quest for the Olympics has been part of the hockey whirlwind swirling in the Heon household recently.

Her father, Corey Heon, is general manager of the El Paso Rhinos junior teams that play at the El Paso County Events Center, where the Dallas Stars defeated the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 in the Kraft Hockeyville USA 2020 preseason game Sunday.

Heon, who is Canadian, was involved with the Hockeyville USA planning when he was preparing the Rhinos North American Hockey League and North American Tier III Hockey League teams for their seasons.

His wife, Lori, who is from Manuel Benavides, Chihuahua, Mexico, shuttled Camryn back and forth across the border and stayed in Mexico for weeks at a time so her daughter could practice and play.

The family had little time to bask in the afterglow of the Hockeyville game. Corey Heon was scheduled to fly from El Paso to Poland on Monday.

“It’s a pretty good accomplishment in what she’s achieved, being a 15-year-old making that women’s national team,” Corey Heon said last week. “We’re really excited as parents and even our organization is super pumped, too. Without their support and their help, she wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

Camryn said she told her parents and grandparents at an early age she would play in the Olympics someday for the United States, Canada or Mexico, with Mexico being her top choice.

She began skating at 3 and started playing organized hockey with boys at 7 because there weren’t enough girls playing in El Paso at the time to form a team.

Once a girls’ hockey program was finally put together, Camryn joined and continued to play on the boys’ squad.

Camryn said she didn’t know about Mexico’s women’s team until 2019 when the country’s men’s national team played two exhibition games against the Rhinos in El Paso.

“I learned they had an 18-U team, so I started playing with them first when I was 13,” she said. “I had been going back and forth to Mexico for (national team) tryouts and last month, I made it.”

Joaquin de la Garma, president of the Mexico Ice Hockey Federation, said Camryn is the second-best defenseman on the team.

“Camryn is so young but she’s one of our best prospects,” he said. “She’s a great skater, she’s very fast skating. She plays good defensive hockey but sometimes she [contributes] in offensive situations. She’s a key player on the team.”

Mexico has been an IIHF member since 1985. Its ice hockey federation ramped up its effort to qualify for the Olympics nine years ago when the country’s minister of sport boosted funding for the women’s program, de la Garma said.

“For Mexico, the best future is women’s hockey,” he said. “Women’s hockey started officially in the Olympics in 1992 (the first tournament was played in 1998 in Nagano). We can say that it’s new for other countries, so it’s very competitive. For men, it’s very complicated because if you want to be in the Olympics you need to at least have some of the team in the NHL. We don’t have any players in the NHL.”

Camryn said Mexico’s women’s team is a talented group of mostly veterans, including Claudia Tellez, a 37-year-old forward who was drafted in the eighth round by Calgary of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2016 and played her way onto the reserve squad.

“The level in competition in Mexico is a lot higher than what I was used to practicing with, because I’m practicing with women,” Camryn said. “I think playing at that level has improved the way I play, the way I skate and everything.”

She hopes her game has improved enough to help Mexico shock the hockey world by earning a berth to play in Beijing.

“People don’t expect the women’s national team to be ranked (26th) in the world,” Camryn said. “I want to take my team to the Olympics, represent my country in the best way I can.”

Dissecting Sweden’s downward spiral in women’s hockey

By Meaghen Johnson – TSN

When the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship begins on Aug. 20 in Calgary, there will be a noticeable absentee.

For the first time in the history of the women’s worlds, Sweden will not be participating in the top division. The team was relegated after finishing ninth in the 2019 world championship.

It’s been a remarkable downward spiral for a country that has consistently iced one of the top-four women’s teams in the world. Sweden was the first country not named Canada or the United States to play in the final of an international women’s hockey tournament when they earned silver at the 2006 Olympics. They also earned two bronze medals at the women’s worlds in 2005 and 2007.

So, what happened to the national team that upset the Americans in the semifinals of the Turin Games? Let’s take a closer look at what led to Sweden’s relegation.

START OF DECLINE

After picking up a medal in three straight major tournaments from 2005 to 2007, including the aforementioned Olympic silver, Sweden’s downturn began at the 2008 women’s worlds. The team lost 4-3 to Switzerland in the qualifying round, eliminating them from medal contention and earning them a fifth-place finish.

After bouncing back to play in the bronze-medal match in 2009, losing 4-1 to Finland, Sweden followed that up with two more fifth-place finishes in 2011 and 2012. The Swedes regressed further in 2013, finishing last in their group in the preliminary round after failing to win a game. They would win the best-of-three series against the Czech Republic to avoid relegation, but still finished seventh, the country’s worst result since 2001.

There was more disappointment on the Olympics stage, where Sweden ended up with back-to-back fourth-place finishes in 2010 and 2014.  In the preliminary round of the Vancouver Games, the Swedes were demolished by Canada 13-1 and were outshot 52-13. They followed that up with a 9-1 loss to the Americans in the semifinal.

At the Four Nations Cup, Sweden has not won a preliminary round game since defeating Finland 2-1 in the 2009 tournament.

LEIF BOORK ERA

Sweden’s downward spiral was aggravated during the Leif Boork era, who was head coach from 2015 to 2018. Boork had little experience in the women’s game, spending one season as an assistant with the team before being named head coach. He had success as a coach in men’s hockey in the 1980s, winning a championship in the Swedish Hockey League in 1983.

At the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championship, which was held in Malmö, Sweden, the team ended up with another fifth-place finish after falling to Russia 2-1 in the quarter-finals. It was déjà vu in 2016, when Sweden once again lost to the Russians in the quarters, this time by a score of 4-1.

After the 2016 tournament, the fifth straight women’s worlds where Sweden failed to reach the semifinals, several players joined forces and asked to meet with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association (SIF) to convey their dissatisfaction with the direction of the team. SIF refused to meet with the players, asking them to submit their grievances in writing.

The players sent a letter petitioning for Boork’s removal, citing issues with training, tactics, and player treatment, including rules about how players should dress.

In the documentary film Underdogs, the specific contents of the letter were revealed, and the players wrote, in part, “There is a lack of an ounce of human value to be at national team camp.” But according to Swedish newspaper Sportbladet, SIF did not offer any substantial feedback.

In the summer of 2016, veteran defenceman Emma Eliasson, who was rumoured to be one of the driving forces behind the letter, was kicked off the team by Boork. Eliasson, who was 28 at the time, had been on the national team since she was 14, played in more than 200 matches for Sweden, helped lead her country to silver at the 2006 Olympics, and had just been named Swedish Player of the Year.

Boork told Sportbladet, “I think that too much has been compromised and that the leadership has been too weak.”

Eliasson would later tell Radiosporten that following the petition, she was summoned to a meeting with Boork, who asked her if she truly stood behind the contents of the letter, to which she said yes.

Roughly a month later, captain Jenni Asserholt abruptly retired at age 28. She would later tell the Swedish media that Boork had bullied her about her weight.

“It became a number on a scale. That’s what it’s about. He was pretty hard on me that you need to fix this. Somewhere I started to lose the desire to try to get back to the national team,” Asserholt told Radiosporten.

Despite the players’ unrest, SIF president Anders Larsson reiterated that the federation had “full confidence” in Boork, telling Sportbladet that the players’ letter had been “handled.”

In early 2017, a Swedish newspaper, Norrländska Socialdemokraten, reported that Sweden’s men’s national team could earn a bonus of several million kronor for advancing to the finals of the world championship, while the women would receive nothing if they had the same success.

ROAD TO RELEGATION

The unrest off the ice continued to spill onto it. In the 2016-17 season, Sweden won just four international games, the team’s worst record since 2002. The squad finished sixth at the 2017 world championship, losing 4-0 to Finland in the quarter-final and then falling to Russia in a shootout in the fifth-place game.

Following the tournament, Boork took to Twitter and shifted the blame to the players, writing, in part: “One of the problems of Swedish women’s hockey is that they previously compromised with so-called star players.”

At the end of 2017, SIF announced that it would not be renewing Boork’s contract after the 2018 Olympics, but the damage had been done. Sweden finished seventh at the PyeongChang Games, a record low for the team. The Swedes were dismantled by Finland in a 7-2 loss in the quarter-finals, and then fell 2-1 in overtime to Japan in their 5th-8th place semifinals game.

That summer, the Swedish Olympic Committee announced that it was cutting all funding from the women’s national team.

Ylva Martinsen, a former player and an alternate captain on the silver medal-winning team in 2006, was named the new head coach. But even though the team was free of Boork, things would get worse for Sweden.

The team was given just five days of preparation before the 2019 world championship. The Swedes lost their first two games to Germany and the Czech Republic. After a come-from-behind win against France, Sweden needed to beat Japan to avoid relegation.

With the game tied 2-2, Ayaka Toko scored with 1:15 left in regulation to give Japan the win and seal Sweden’s fate: for the first time, they would be demoted from the top division.

TEAM STRIKE

Relegation proved to be the final straw for the Swedish team. In August 2019, all 43 players who were selected for camp announced they would be boycotting the upcoming team activities, including that month’s Five Nations tournament.

The players and their union, the Swedish Ice Hockey Players Central Organization (SICO), which they had joined in 2018, published a list of grievances, including:

·       SIF’s withdrawal of all financial compensation for the women’s team
·       lack of insurance for players
·       limited ice time and poor travel conditions
·       not being provided with uniforms and equipment made for women; instead, SIF supplied the team with the same equipment given to Sweden’s junior boys’ teams
·       being provided supplements and nutritional products that were several months past their “best before” date

SIF said it was “surprised” by the players’ decision and added that compensation and insurance should be covered by an agreement with professional clubs in the country, which is the case for the men’s game.

Several big names in women’s hockey publicly supported the Swedish players, including Americans Jocelyne and Monique Lamoreux, who tweeted: “Proud of Team Sweden and what this will mean for their program and the next generation of young girls in Europe!”

Former player Eliasson also supported the boycott, telling Sportbladet, “It feels like there will be a lot of good from it.”

SIF responded by cancelling the 2019 Four Nations Cup, saying it could not guarantee Sweden’s participation. Klara Stenberg, who represented the players, told TheHockeyNews.com that the federation didn’t talk to the players before making its decision.

“The players did not tell the federation they won’t play. They just said they can’t give the federation an answer [right away], but the federation made the decision all by itself to cancel the tournament,” she said.

In October 2019, the players and SIF announced they had reached a deal, which included compensation for national team duties, bonuses for medals in international tournaments, and an additional bonus if the team rejoins the top division at the women’s worlds.

Forward Fanny Rask, who has since retired, said in a release, “For us players, we have always said that there is nothing greater than playing for our national team. It feels like we have taken important steps in the discussions and that we have now been given better conditions for playing [for Sweden].”

Last year, SICO announced the first-ever collective bargaining agreement between the players and the Swedish Women’s Hockey League (SDHL), which includes insurance to cover injuries sustained in either the SDHL or international play.

Unfortunately, Sweden will have to wait another year to work its way back into the top division for the women’s worlds, with the Division 1 tournament being cancelled the past two years due to COVID-19.

Carleton’s Allie Lehmann overcomes challenges to win Swiss hockey championship

Lehmann in action as a Raven in 2019

By Simon Hopkins – Charlatan

Still sporting a set of Ravens goalie pads, Allie Lehmann hoisted a championship trophy in an empty Switzerland arena. She had just completed back-to-back shutouts in the finals to win the Swiss Women’s Ice Hockey Championship.

The former Carleton women’s hockey goaltender played two years as a Raven before turning pro in the summer of 2020. In August of that year, Lehmann travelled from her home in northern British Columbia to Lugano, Switzerland, where she joined the HC Ladies Lugano of the Swiss National Women’s League.

Even though Lehmann has Swiss citizenship, playing professionally in Europe brought a set of new experiences and challenges that many would find daunting.

Adapting on and off the ice

For Lehmann, the first challenge was the language barrier. Over 80 per cent of Switzerland speaks either German or French, but in Lugano—which sits on Switzerland’s southern border with Italy—most people speak Italian. This included most of Lehmann’s new teammates and coaches.

Team Scotiabank’s Kristen Campbell ready to compete for spot in Canada’s crease

Manitoba-raised goalie Kristen Campbell hits the ice for a training-camp session with Hockey Canada in January 2021. Campbell is among the stars of the PWHPA’s Secret Dream Gap Tour stop in Calgary

By Wes Gilbertson Calgary Sun

Kristen Campbell always dreamed of being part of Canada’s defence.

Just not necessarily the last line of defence.

“When I was a little girl, I started out on the blue-line,” Campbell said. “I actually idolized Cassie Campbell. I wore No. 77 because of her, and I’d always watch all the national-team games.

“And then I ended up switching to goalie. My brother was a forward, so he threw me in the net. And once he threw me in, I basically never came out.”

That way-back-when switch from the blue-line to the blue paint proved to be a wise move for Campbell, who is emerging as one of the best in her business.

In fact, the 23-year-old — a proud member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) — was thrilled to learn earlier this month that she will be one of the three goaltenders on Canada’s centralized roster for the upcoming season, the short-listed candidates to represent the country at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“It’s an honour to be named to that roster and it’s a goal of mine that I’ve had now for my entire life,” Campbell said. “It’s something I’ve been craving — to get into that competitive, high-performance environment of centralization. I think the news has started to kind of set in now, and I can’t wait to get things going with that group.”

Originally from Brandon, Man., Campbell has been playing the waiting game again this week with the stars of the PWHPA gathered in Calgary for a Secret Dream Gap Tour stop.

She tends twine for Team Scotiabank but because the locals have such a crowded crease, she’s yet to be tabbed for a start. That should change in Friday’s clash at the Saddledome against Team Bauer, still perched atop the standings despite Thursday’s 4-3 loss to Team Sonnet.

That means Campbell will be staring down a dynamic cast that is led by the likes of Marie-Philip Poulin and Laura Stacey.

It’s been a tough go for Team Scotiabank, on the wrong end of two lopsided losses so far at this three-team showcase, although that shouldn’t come as a major surprise since the Calgary-based training group hasn’t been able to practise in several months due to public health measures. They’re playing games and playing catch-up at the same time.

Although Campbell moved to the city last summer, determining after a standout collegiate career with the University of Wisconsin Badgers that it would be ideal to be close to Hockey Canada’s resources and training facilities, she admitted during pre-tournament quarantine that she still hadn’t met a lot of her Scotiabank sidekicks.

“I want to be in that team environment again, just get to know people better,” she said. “And then when I do get a chance to play, give my team the best chance to win. That’s my goal.”

For Campbell, the prep work certainly hasn’t stopped because practice time has been so scarce during the pandemic. She has been able to knock off some of the rust at Hockey Canada camps, including try-outs for a world championship that was postponed on startlingly short notice.

“There are a lot of little things that I do on a daily basis to keep myself ready. It all starts with what you do as a part of your routine,” Campbell explained. “I do a lot of visualization and a lot of vision training off the ice, just things that are going to keep me ready for whenever the puck does drop for a game. And I’ve been able to get a sprinkle of action this year with the camps. So just getting back in those (scrimmages), it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year since I’d actually played a game due to the prep that you do off the ice.

“I’ve worked with a sports psychologist now for five or six years and we do a lot of visualization even for practice. So even though you’re not getting the game reps in, it’s making sure that you’re making the most of those practice sessions so that you can trust you’ve fully put in all the work when you do get to the games. Just visualizing certain things that I want to work on, even if I don’t get to be on the ice — like sitting there and going through those drills and those reps in my head. And then obviously there’s visualization for games, so going through different situations that will come at you and visualizing the environment that you’ll be in and trying to make it as clear as you can, even without being in that exact moment.”

Back when it was more daydreaming than a mental training exercise, Campbell had visions of being a defensive stalwart for Team Canada.

She could, come February in Beijing, be standing in the crease instead.

“People are always like, ‘Oh, why would you want to be a goalie?’ I’ve heard that so many times,” she said with a chuckle. “But I just love the pressure, honestly. And you get used to it, too. It’s not even pressure anymore. It’s just fun.”

Bulgarian Women’s Ice Hockey: How to destroy a team’s dignity in one game

By Nick McAdam – The Tangerine

Step 1: Preview

The 2010 Winter Olympics were filled with iconic sports moments from premiere athletes who were arguably in their prime at the time. Shaun White took his second-straight gold medal in the Men’s Halfpipe, Apolo Ohno became one of the USA’s most achieved winter athletes in the country at the time and Sidney Crosby closed the games with his iconic “Golden Goal” to give the Canadian men’s hockey team the gold medal in an overtime win against the United States.

Yet, in the 2010 games, and in most Olympic processes, a majority of fans choose to tune out the qualification process of getting to the games in the first place. Sometimes, these events can be just as interesting as the Olympic games.

This happened to be the case for the Bulgarian Women’s National Team in ice hockey, yet, in a way that the hockey world never thought would be imaginable before.

Step 2: Qualification

Qualification for the women’s hockey tournament at the Olympics started in 2008. The system of qualification ran through the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), and it’s a process that still occurs today.

At the time, there were a total of 34 countries in the world competing in women’s ice hockey at the international level. Throughout the course of annual world championships, the IIHF ranked all 34 countries based on several performance indicators at each championship. The system then assigned points to teams at each tournament for ranking purposes. The IIHF totaled these points every four years to determine the top six teams that qualify for the following Olympic games.

Based on performance at the 2005, 2007 and 2008 world championships, along with the 2006 Winter Olympics, Canada (2,950 points), the United States (2,930 points), Finland (2,770 points), Sweden (2,760 points), Switzerland (2,645 points) and Russia (2,575 points) all received automatic qualification to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

To give lower-ranked teams a chance to qualify for the games, the IIHF split every remaining team after the top six into groups. These groups were split into four-to-five teams per group, who played each other once. The team with the most wins, and thus points in the standings, would then compete in a playoff format to determine the final two teams that qualify for the Olympics.

For the sake of the article, we’re going to focus on Group A, which consisted of Slovakia, Italy, Latvia, Croatia and Bulgaria.

There were a total of 10 games played in Liepaja, Latvia between these teams over the course of five days in September of 2008. These five days would prove to be a nightmare for the Bulgarian team.

Step 3: Embarrassment

Bulgaria opened group play with a game against the Italians on Sept. 2, 2008. A total of 45 people in attendance witnessed the Bulgarians get crushed by a score of 41-0. To put this in perspective, the Italians scored a goal about once every minute of the game.

Italy totaled 122 shots on goal in the game, while the Bulgarians managed four shots on its opposition. Four Italian players recorded hat tricks and the team finished with 41 goals and assists in one night of play.

Fast forward to the Bulgarians second game against Croatia the next day on Sept. 3. Bulgaria managed to score a goal late in the third period of the contest from forward player Olga Gospodinova. This would be the only goal scored from the team in the entire group stage and the team went on to let in 30 goals against the Croatians that night.

In a similar fashion to the team’s first game, multiple Croatian players recorded hat tricks that night. Diana Posavec Kruselj, a Croatian defenseman, recorded 11 goals in the game.

It didn’t get any better for the Bulgarians in the team’s third game against the host country Latvia. Bulgaria lost 39-0 and recorded the team’s least amount of shots on goal in a group stage game up to that point, only managing two on the net.

Before recapping the team’s final game against Slovakia, let’s put these numbers into perspective.

Back in the 1980s, it was easier to score a goal in the game of hockey than it is today. Goalie size, both in terms of equipment and physical status, is historically cited as the primary reason for this. In the 80s, goalies weren’t given nearly as much protective equipment that we see today. Pads were much smaller in width, shoulder and stomach protection was very thin and the famous masks that audiences see in movies such as Slapshot were being used in the National Hockey League.

Photo of former United States goalie Jim Craig

The size of the net (72” x 48”x 40”) has never changed, nor has the size of the puck (three inches in diameter). But, when the size of the person guarding the net is smaller, there is more net to shoot at.

The blog, Hockey Wilderness, covered this changing dynamic of the game after former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, told reporters that goals are simply “much harder to come by these days.”

The blog tested this hypothesis by comparing goal totals in 1980 and in the 2014-2015 season. With 30 teams in 82 games, there were a total of 2,460 games of NHL hockey played in the 2014-2015 season. Both conferences scored a total of 6,719 goals that season, averaging 2.73 goals per game.

In the 80s, with just 21 teams in 80 games, the two conferences totaled 6,457 goals that season with 3.84 goals per game. The blog goes on to note that if two extra games were added for each team that season, based on the league’s goals per game average, the total number of goals scored would be 9,446.

Furthermore, nine of the top 10 goalscorers of all time in the NHL played within the 1980 time-frame. Wayne Gretzky leads the list with 894 goals. In 1981, Gretzky scored his 50th goal of the season in just 39 games; an amount that will never be recorded again in that amount of time. The only exception to this list is current Washington Capitals forward, Alex Ovechkin, who at age 35 has a total of 712 goals.

It’s an accomplishment (maybe not so for the Bulgarians) that the team let in 110 goals in just three games, especially in the modern era. In 70 NHL games last season, the Detroit Red Wings let in the most goals in the league with 267. The Bulgarians were a little less than halfway to that amount in three contests.

Step 4: A World Record

The final game for the Bulgarian women’s team in the group stage took place on Sept. 6, 2008, against the Slovakians. Up to this point, Slovakia had been dominating the group, only letting in one goal combined in the team’s two victories against both Italy and Latvia.

The team, undeniably, were favorites to take the group. They ended up doing just that and a few months later, the team would become the seventh out of eight teams to qualify for the Olympics along with China. The team would then go on to get routed by Canada in the Olympics by a score of 18-0.

That all came after the team scored 82 goals in one game against the Bulgarians. The Slovakians scored 31 goals in the first period, 24 goals in the second period and 27 goals in the third period. To achieve this in a 60-minute game, the Slovakians had to score a goal every 43.9 seconds.

A total of 16 out of 20 Slovakian players scored goals that night, with a total of 10 players individually scoring more than five goals. The team also managed 139 shots on goal in the game for a conversion rate of 59 percent. Forwards Anna Dzurnakova, Petra Dankova and Maria Herichova scored more than 10 goals in the game, making them the top goal scorers in the entire group up to that point.

The Bulgarians only statistic was penalty minutes with a total of 39. Forward Tina Lisichkova totaled 25 of those penalty minutes in the game. A wealth of these penalty minutes seem to come from several altercations throughout the game, including shoving and almost fighting between the two teams.

According to blog writer James Mirtle, the Bulgarians substituted the team’s starting goalie after letting in 77 goals with only three minutes left in the game. The backup goaltender then let in five goals on five shots in one minute and 25 seconds. Despite this, starting goalie Liubomora Shosheva saved 57 shots in the game. Offensively, the Bulgarians did not manage a shot on the net.

This scoreline, according to the Guinness World Records, is the highest-scoring professional ice hockey game of all time.

There was no mercy rule in international women’s hockey at the time, either. Mercy rule allows a team facing potential humiliation in terms of the scoreline to forfeit the game, while also preventing the victorious team satisfaction from inflicting a blowout.

It was only in 2010, two years after the game, that the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Rene Fasel, considered the possibility of creating a mercy rule in women’s hockey. Since then, no updates have been provided on the matter, nor has a mercy rule been added to the IIHF rulebook created in 2019, which is valid up until this season.

Oddly enough, this game was the only of the Bulgarians four contests that collected post-game comments that were on record. Slovakian coach Miroslav Karafiat referred to the game as “training” in a post-game interview, despite playing two competitive games prior to the contest.

The chair of the Bulgarian Ice Hockey Federation called Slovakia’s display a “mockery” and “not at all sportsmanlike.”

Media outlets across the world quickly picked up on this story, ranging from ESPN, Yahoo! Sports and even the NHL. The Bulgarian national media called the loss “an embarrassment to the entire country” and pointed blame at the Bulgarian government for the devastating loss.

It was a PR-nightmare for the small hockey nation and one that still affects them to this day. The team’s website and social media profiles are outdated and filled with ridiculing comments. In 2020, the Bulgarian women’s team was still ranked last in the world according to the IIHF.

When all was said and done in both group play and in IIHF standings after the 2010 Olympics, the Bulgarian team finished with zero points in the standings. The team just above the Bulgarians was Turkey, with a total of 840 points.

Photo from the Bulgarian Ice Hockey Federation Instagram in a post from 2019.

An Explanation

Very few publications have gone into detail about the Bulgarian team during this time, both nationally and across the globe. Yet, national publications immediately after the game pointed fingers to the Bulgarian government to blame, sourcing the very limited access to play in the country.

To help put this into perspective, at the time, Bulgaria had a population of 7.4 million. Within this number, there were only 299 registered hockey players in the country with three indoor rinks in 42,855 square miles. Out of the 299 registered players, there were only 37 females likely ranging from very young ages.

In contrast, Canada had 74,000 female players registered in various leagues throughout the country. This gives the nation a lot more to choose from at the national level to fill a team consisting of 20 openings.

Bulgaria also had a professional league for these female players, but the league only consisted of two teams at the time, which wasn’t sustainable to run the operation.

So, the pool of players to select was minimal and the development of homegrown and professional talent wasn’t there. In the end, there wasn’t much invested in women’s hockey in the country, which still remains true to this day. In fact, national registration for female hockey in Bulgaria recently declined from 65 players in 2016 to 53 players in 2020.

Although unconfirmed, some sources indicate that the Bulgarian government simply threw a team together at the last minute, filled with females who could skate. Though the likeliness of this theory remains slim, there are no filings of international play from the Bulgarian Ice Hockey Federation before 2008, meaning that a rushed federation could’ve put a team together just to qualify for play.

In the end, both statements indicate a lack of priority in the country for the game. From roster-building all the way to the team’s final game against Slovakia, it only took a few moves to tarnish the Bulgarian hockey identity forever.

Women’s hockey players ‘devastated’ after world championship cancellation

Jamie Rattray (L), captain Brianne Jenner and Jillian Saulnier of Canada.

Source: Canadian Press

Shock and disbelief gave way to a swirl of emotions as players on the Canadian women’s hockey team packed their bags in Halifax and headed home Thursday.

In a span of two days, they’d gone from nervously anticipating the announcement of the world championship roster to standing around baggage carousels feeling demoralized.

All systems appeared go for the women’s world championship May 6-16 in Halifax and Truro, N.S., when premier Iain Rankin pulled the plug Wednesday over concerns about COVID-19.

Nine other teams would have arrived Thursday to join Canada in a 14-day quarantine before the tournament.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer Robert Strang had given his approval for the tournament a day earlier, which sharpened the sting for the Canadian women.

“We were pretty shocked,” said forward Brianne Jenner of Oakville, Ont. “I know Hockey Canada was shocked because the chief medical officer had OK’d it.

“This kind of came out of the blue for us. We really felt we had a safe protocol in place.”

The 2020 women’s championship in Nova Scotia was also cancelled because of the coronavirus. Canada’s women’s team has played a total of five international games in the last two years.

The combination of the pandemic and women’s leagues in transition has kept many of them from playing in any real games in over a year.

While the International Ice Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada vow to hold the women’s championship in Canada this year, when will they play a game that isn’t an intrasquad is a question that continues to go unanswered.

“Is this going to happen and when is big on all of our minds,” Jenner said. “It’s tough to plan ahead. We still kind of have a dream of competing in a world championship this year.”

Nova Scotia launched tighter travel restrictions Thursday. The premier stated the women’s tournament wasn’t essential.

“I’m a hockey fan. I’m not happy with the decision, but we have to put public safety first,” Rankin said.

“I couldn’t conceivably ask Nova Scotians to restrict more of their lives and make an exception to have people fly into Nova Scotia from other countries.”

The 2021 men’s under-20 championship was held in Edmonton, with coronavirus protocols there supplying the template for Nova Scotia.

This year’s men’s under-18 championship starts Monday in Frisco, Texas. The men’s world championship is scheduled to start in less than a month in Riga, Latvia.

The cancellation of January’s world under-18 women’s championship in Sweden has Jenner feeling that, for a myriad of reasons, international women’s hockey is getting hit by the pandemic in a way that international men’s hockey isn’t.

“If you pan out beyond this tournament and you look at the fact that we haven’t played a game all year, I don’t know if there’s anyone to blame, but if you’re a young girl, the outcome is you are seeing no women’s hockey games this year,” Jenner said.

“If you are a young boy, you are not seeing the same.”

Her teammate Sarah Nurse of Hamilton has similar feelings.

“Without pointing a finger and placing blame, because we can’t really compare our tournament location to any other tournament, every government has their own guidelines so I definitely want to make that clear, but I just feel like it’s very hard not to look at it from a gender standpoint because it’s seems like a little bit of a trend,” Nurse said.

“It’s hard not to look at it through that lens for sure.”

Canada’s roster for last year’s championship was set when that tournament was cancelled, so Hockey Canada made it public in recognition of the work the women did to make that squad.

Head coach Troy Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., and his staff, along with director of national women’s hockey teams Gina Kingsbury, were about to start the heavy discussions over which players would be named to the Canadian team when the tournament was called off.

Thursday was going to be a difficult day for the players released, but it turned out to be a sad day for all.

“It just felt like we got the rug pulled out from under us,” Nurse said.

Kingsbury said a 2021 roster would not be released.

Canada’s 47-player selection camp that ended abruptly and the world championship roster that would have been chosen from it are key pieces of preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Hockey Canada has little in the way of game data to choose a “centralization” roster of roughly 30 players who will congregate in Calgary in August and start working toward Beijing.

“I don’t think we’re in a position right now to know what our next move is and how we prepare for Beijing,” Kingsbury said.

“We’ll work closely together as a group and put together the best possible plan to make sure we’re successful in Beijing and our athletes are prepared and get the experience and opportunities they deserve here moving forward.

“To be honest, right now we’re just digesting this disappointment.”

The majority of the Canadian team was playing in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League when the CWHL folded in the spring of 2019.

Those players and American stars became the faces of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) working to create a league that provides a living wage and the competitive supports men’s leagues have.

The PWHPA ran “Dream Gap Tour” tournaments and games on both sides of the border in 2019-20. The pandemic knocked similar plans for this season sideways.

The PWHPA’s American chapter played a few games in the U.S. in recent weeks, but the Canadians haven’t because of tighter pandemic restrictions in their country.

So while the NHL, AHL and other men’s pro hockey leagues carry on, Canada’s top female players remain in limbo.

“Our group in a way feels as if our sport is on hold,” Jenner said. “It goes beyond just one tournament. We’ve just had a string of bad luck in women’s hockey.

“There’s a lot of layers to it. I’m still processing it and my teammates are too. It would be nice to catch a break in the near future.”

For the Nova Scotians hoping to represent Canada on home ice, the disappointment was acute.

They felt the tournament could help heal a province in which 22 people were killed in a mass shooting just over a year ago at the same time the pandemic was descending upon the globe.

“The only thing we were going to bring into this province was excitement, joy, and a little bit of life at a time when I know we all needed it most,” Haligonian forward Jill Saulnier wrote Thursday in a social media post.

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