MONCTON (New Brunswick) - If experience playing at the Esso Women's National Hockey Championship and with the national women's team is a guide to success, then there is no doubt that Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick would be considered the big four' of the 1996 national event. The 15th annual national championship begins Thursday, March 21 at the Moncton Coliseum, and ends with the gold medal game being broadcast live on The Sports Network (TSN) and Le Reseau des Sports (RDS), Sunday, at 12:00 noon (EST).
Of the 172 players coming to Moncton for the national championship, over two thirds (115 players or 66.9%) have either played in last year's Esso Women's Nationals, represented their province at the 1995 Canada Winter Games, or took part in any national women's team event (training camp or championship) since 1990.
In fact, Edmonton Chimos' forward, Alison Ramsley, is the only player to have competed in all 14 national championships since 1982, winning titles in 1984, 19.
Looking at team make-ups, Team Quebec, national champions for the past two years, and New Brunswick's Maritime Sports Blades, 1995 silver medalists, have 18 players with national experience, while at the other end of the spectrum, the Pictou County Sobey's have youth on their side with 11 of 20 players from Nova Scotia's entry in the 1995 Canada Winter Games.
Another interesting factor is the presence of 16 of 20 1996 national women's team players. The Maritime Sports Blades have three players, Ontario's North York Aeros and the Edmonton Chimos each have four, and Team Quebec sports five players.
While opponents during the Esso Women's Nationals, these national team players will regroup in Vancouver for the Pacific Women's Championship from April 1-6, 1996. Canada will defend its 1995 title against the United States, China and Japan.