CALGARY, AB -- The Esso Women's National Hockey Championship, a 10-team tournament featuring many of Canada's silver medal-winning Olympic team members, is set for the Father David Bauer Arena and the Max Bell Centre from March 19-22.
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 17th annual women's national championship, with the Edmonton Chimos looking to return as defending champions. The Chimos won their fourth national title last year in Richmond, BC. The Chimos also won the Esso Women's Nationals in 1984, 19. The Chimos will compete against the Calgary Chargers and the Calgary Oval teams this weekend at the Alberta Provincial Championship, with two teams moving into the National Championship: the provincial champion and a Calgary-based host team.
The two-time champion North York Aeros (1991, 1993), the Ontario champion, also will be competing in the tournament, along with four-time champion Team Quebec.
This year's event could feature as many as 15 members of Canada's Women's Olympic Hockey Team that won a silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Several other participants have helped Canada win gold medals at the Women's World Hockey Championships, which Canada has won all four times it has been held.
"If you want to see the premier players in Canada today, the Esso Women's Nationals gives you that opportunity," said Judy Colpitts, chair of the tournament organizing committee. "And following the first-ever women's hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics, we're hoping fans will turn out in large numbers to show their support for women's hockey.
"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," Colpitts added.
Colpitts noted that Hockey Alberta and the Southern Alberta Women's Hockey Association are also key partners in staging this important national championship. The organizing committee also has received invaluable support from Shoppers Drug Mart and the Calgary Sun, host event partners for the 1998 Esso Women's Nationals.
Colpitts said it was fitting that Calgary would be playing host to the Esso Women's Nationals this year.
"The Father Bauer Arena was the training home for Canada's Women's Olympic Hockey team, so it's fortunate that the showpiece event of the Canadian female hockey season will be held at the same facility," said Colpitts. "Calgarians really adopted the women's Olympic team as their own, as you might imagine.
"Their being based here has boosted interest in female hockey tremendously, which we believe will help make this tournament a ringing success."
The 1998 championship will be contested among teams from nine provinces, divided into two pools of five teams. Pool A includes Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Pool B is composed of Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and the host team. The round-robin portion of the tournament goes Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20, with the playoff round opening on Saturday, March 21 and concluding with the bronze- and gold-medal games on Sunday, March 22.
The 1998 Esso Women's National Championship game will be played at 6 p.m. (8:00 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, the Mickey Walker most sportsmanlike player award and the Canon K. Richardson most sportsmanlike team shield.