SASKATOON, SK - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has been awarded the 2003 Esso Women's National Hockey Championship, the Canadian Hockey Association announced on Tuesday.
The 2003 Championship, which will be held from March 12-16 at the Sask Place, will mark the 22nd year of existence for Canada's National Women's Championship. "Since their inception in 1982, the Esso Women's Nationals have played a major role in the promotion and development of female hockey throughout Canada and the world," said Bob Nicholson, President of the Canadian Hockey Association. "I know the Saskatoon Host Committee will do a phenomenal job running this great event, which in the end will help raise the profile and encourage more females to sign up and play hockey in our country."
The 2003 Esso Women's National Hockey Championship will be presented by the Canadian Hockey Association, the Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA) and the premier sponsors of the CHA: Esso, Bauer NIKE Hockey and the Royal Bank Financial Group. This elite women's hockey event showcases members of Canada's National Women's Team, Canada's Under 22 National Team as well as players who have starred in the Canada Winter Games and National Women's Under 18 Challenge.
Current and former Saskatchewan female hockey stars that have taken part in this annual event include such players as Hayley Wickenheiser (Shaunavon, SK), Fiona Smith (Edam, SK), Kelly Béchard (Sedley, SK), Dana Antal (Esterhazy, SK), Colleen Sostrics (Kennedy, SK), Carol Scheibel (Wilcox, SK) and Lorenda Beuker (Watson, SK). The 2002 Esso Women's Nationals are in Renfrew and Arnprior, ON from March 6-10. Seven players from Team Canada's Silver medal winning entry at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics took part in last years Championship in Summerside, PEI as Alberta defeated Québec 1-0 in a thrilling final to capture the championship.
"As a premier sponsor of the CHA, Imperial Oil is pleased to sponsor the Esso Women's National Hockey Championship. By supporting hockey programs and events we believe we are contributing to the youth of our country in a meaningful way. We believe events such as the Esso Women's National Hockey Championship will provide unique experiences for youngsters in the Province of Saskatchewan. This event also enables us to demonstrate the tremendous benefits the great game of hockey can produce for the players who play, coaches, officials and the fans," said Todd Corradetti, Marketing Sponsorship Manager for Imperial Oil.
Joe Bloski, Saskatoon Sports Tourism Board Member, commented "Saskatoon Sports Tourism is extremely proud to be a partner in bringing the 2003 Esso National Women's Hockey Championships to Saskatchewan. Our role in providing event support services, particularly in the bid process exemplifies the need for an aggressive approach to securing major sporting events for our community. On behalf of our organization I thank the event decision-makers for choosing Saskatoon and I give you our commitment to make this the best National Women's Hockey Championships ever."
"We're excited about the opportunity to host the Esso Women's National Hockey Championship in 2003," said Al Hubbs, President of the SHA. " The Women's National Championship has been held in Saskatchewan on two previous occasions, in North Battleford, SK (1986) and in Lloydminster, SK (1990). Saskatoon and the Province of Saskatchewan will be great hosts and we look forward to hosting this event."
"On behalf of the 2003 Esso Women's Nationals Host Committee, it is an honor for us to have been chosen to host this prestigious event," said Dona Dixon, co-chair of the Host Committee. Bill Espey, who is the SHA's female hockey representative and co-chair for the event states, "The people of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan have proven their support of hockey over the years and we expect strong support from the entire province in creating an exciting atmosphere for the participating teams. We will ensure that all visitors to Saskatoon have a memorable time while they are at the 2003 Esso Women's National Hockey Championship."
The tournament opens with two pools of teams playing a round robin with the top three teams in each pool qualifying for the playoff round. The top teams in each pool receive a bye to the semi-finals. The Bronze and Gold medal games are played on the final day of the tournament.