MONCTON (New Brunswick) - The Esso Women's National Hockey Championship is set for Moncton, New Brunswick, with nine provinces coming together to compete in the four-day event.
The annual Esso Women's Nationals is jointly presented by Canadian Hockey, Imperial Oil, Air Canada, Royal Bank and the local organizing committee.
Featuring a selection of Canada's best female hockey players, the 1996 Esso Women's Nationals will bring together several members of the Canadian pool of top 30 players, as well as players selected to represent Canada at the 1996 Pacific Women's Championship in Richmond, B.C. from April 1-6, 1996. Canada, winners of the inaugural event in April 1995 in San Jose, California, will face China, Japan and the United States in the second Pacific Women's Championship.
"If you want to see the premier players in Canada today, the Esso Women's Nationals gives you that opportunity," said Karen Wallace, director of female hockey for Canadian Hockey. "This event allows us to continue our evaluation process leading eventually to the selection of our team for the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. We'll see plenty of great talent and hard fought games.
"With some great provincial rivalries and several former gold medal teams taking part, these games could prove to be most exciting. I'm convinced that our spectators will be entertained and amazed by the talent on the ice," added Ms. Wallace.
"This year we're especially pleased to have Imperial Oil, Air Canada and Royal Bank as sponsors for the event ," said Frank Libera, policy committee member and Canada's representative on the International Ice Hockey Federation's Women's Committee. "For years, these sponsors have been outstanding contributors to Canadian Hockey through their support of our national teams and minor hockey system."
Vic Landry, Imperial Oil's general manager for New Brunswick, noted that Imperial Oil is extremely proud to sponsor the 1996 Esso Women's Nationals. "We're very proud to extend our best wishes to all teams, players, coaches, administrators, and volunteers who are working to make this tournament a resounding success and a vital part of Canada's hockey tradition. I know that New Brunswickers will support this event with great enthusiasm."
"It is with great pride that the host committee takes this opportunity to work with Imperial Oil, Air Canada, Royal Bank and Canadian Hockey to present the 1996 Esso Women's National Championship," said Don Breau, co-chair of the championship. "With over a hundred volunteers, we are confident to have the best championship yet."
The 1996 championship will be contested between teams from nine provinces. Team Quebec will defend their title for a second year in a row with a provincial representative team, featuring six 1996 national team members.
The teams will be divided into two groups, with Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Quebec in Pool A, and, New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan in Pool B.
The 1996 Esso Women's Nationals champion will be determined after four days and 24 games of competition at the Moncton Coliseum.
The 1996 Esso Women's National Championship game will be played at 1 p.m. (12 noon Eastern Standard Time), and televised on live The Sports Network, and their French counterpart, Le Réseau des Sports.
The opening ceremonies will include all 160 participants, and take place at 5:45 p.m., Thursday, March 23.
In addition to competing for the Esso Women's National Championship title and the Abby Hoffman Cup, five individual awards and one team award will be presented to those deserving players for: most valuable player, top defence, top forward, top goaltender, top scorer, the Mickey Walker most sportsmanlike player award and the Canon K. Richardson most sportsmanlike team shield.
Assisting in the selection of these awards will be two members of Canada's pools of national coaches - Melody Davidson of Castor, Alberta, and Shannon Miller of Calgary - and national women's team consultant, Clare Drake.
Miller was appointed head coach for the Women's Pacific Championship with Davidson as one of two assistants. This events allows the coaches to evaluate many players who, after a week of competing against each other and only one day of rest, will be flying to Vancouver to defend their Pacific Championship title as teammates.