The long blonde ponytail makes the name Piper and the number seven hard to see, but Cherie Piper herself hard to miss.
The 26-year-old forward for the Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team is noticeable for more than her hockey skills these days, as her waist-long hair flies behind her on the ice. She’s been growing it for more than a year, and plans on chopping off approximately 12 inches after Hockey Canada’s January evaluation camp is completed next week.
Why? She, like many others, has been touched by cancer.
“A couple of people close to me died (last) summer,” Piper said. “This is just something little I can do for those who meant so much to me.”
Piper, a Scarborough, Ont. native, has been a member of the National Women’s Team since 2001, winning a World Championship Gold medal in 2004, as well as Olympic Gold medals in 20. She is on leave from her Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) team, the Mississauga Chiefs, because she was invited to Calgary to attend the evaluation camp for the 2008 Women’s World Hockey Championships to be held in Harbin, China in April.
It’s been more than a year since Piper skated with the team, after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament late in 2006. This past October, she was back on the ice, but with a heavy heart.
Her hair, though, will no longer be heavy after it is donated to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization based in Florida that manufactures hairpieces for disadvantaged children under the age of 18.
Being in the spotlight as one of Canada’s well-known female hockey players, Piper knows she can promote and inspire awareness. “You get a lot of good people involved in this sport. We’re role models for people.”
Along with Locks for Love, Piper has been involved with United Way and March of Dimes, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing infant mortality, birth defects and premature birth.
The team also gets involved as a whole, making appearances at schools to speak to students.
“We’re always active within our communities,” Piper said. “It’s a way for us to give back through a sport that has done so much for us.”