RICHMOND, B.C. -- The Esso Women's National Hockey Championship, an eight-team tournament featuring many of the best female hockey players on the planet, is set for the Minoru Arena from March 6-9.
The annual Esso Women's Nationals is jointly presented by Canadian Hockey, Imperial Oil, Air Canada, the Royal Bank and the local organizing committee and is one of the most important events presented during the Canadian Hockey season. This will be the 16th annual women's national championship, with Team Quebec returning as defending champion. Quebec has won the last three straight national women's titles.
Three-time champion Edmonton Chimos (1984, 85, 92) will be participating, representing Alberta, and the two-time champion Toronto Aeros (1991, 1993), the Ontario champion, also will be competing in the tournament.
This year's event features at least 20 players who have won at least one gold medal for Canada at the Women's World Hockey Championship, and most of the players who will represent Canada at this year's world tournament in Kitchener, Ont., from March 31 - April 6. Canada is gunning for a fourth straight gold medal at the World's.
"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."
Becki Bookham, chairperson of the organizing committee for the Esso Women's Nationals, noted that the Vancouver area was privileged to be hosting a major women's tournament for the second time in less than 12 months.
"We held the Pacific Rim championship last April and now, with the Esso Women's Nationals coming to Richmond, it's another opportunity for fans to watch many of the players who compete for Canada internationally," said Bookham. "It's nice for us to be a part of the process that leads through the Women's World Hockey Championship in Kitchener to the Winter Olympics in Nagano."
The 1997 championship will be contested between teams from eight provinces, divided into two pools of four teams. Pool A includes Quebec, Manitoba, B.C. and New Brunswick, while Alberta, Saskatchewan, P.E.I. and Ontario will compete in Pool B. The round-robin portion of the tournament goes Thursday, March 6 and Friday, March 7, with the playoff round, including the gold-medal final game, on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9.
The 1997 Esso Women's National Championship game will be played at 4 p.m. (7:00 p.m. EST), and will be televised live on TSN, and its Quebec-based sister network, Le Réseau des Sports (RDS).
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.
1997 ESSO WOMEN'S NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Pool A -Quebec, Manitoba, B.C., New Brunswick
Pool B -Alberta, Ontario, P.E.I., Saskatchewan
1 Stadium Quebec vs New Brunswick 9:00 am
2 Spectrum B.C. vs Manitoba 9:30 am
3 Stadium Alberta vs. Saskatchewan 11:15 am
4 Spectrum Ontario vs. P.E.I. 11:45 pm
OPENING CEREMONIES 3:45 pm
5 Stadium New Brunswick vs. B.C. 4:30 pm
6 Spectrum Alberta vs. Ontario. 6:30 pm
7 Stadium Saskatchewan vs. P.E.I 8:00 am
8 Spectrum New Brunswick vs. Manitoba 10:00 am
9 Stadium Quebec vs. B.C.. 10:15 pm
10 Stadium Ontario vs. Saskatchewan 2:30 pm
11 Stadium P.E.I. vs. Alberta 4:45 pm
12 Spectrum Manitoba vs. Quebec 7:00 pm
13 Stadium 2nd Pool A vs 3rd Pool B 8:30 am
14 Stadium 2nd Pool B vs 3rd Pool A 10:45 am
15 Spectrum 4th Pool A vs 4th Pool B 10:30 pm
16 Stadium Winner Game 13 vs. B-1 1:30 pm
17 Stadium A-1 vs. Winner Game 14 4:00 pm
18 Stadium Loser Game 13 vs. Loser Game 14 9:00 am
19 Stadium Loser Game 16 vs. Loser Game 17 12:00 noon
20 Stadium Winner Game 16 vs. Winner Game 17 4:00 pm