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Sips, Sticks and Stilettos

Hockey Canada Foundation helps families join National Women’s Team players on Road to Sochi

Kristen Lipscombe and Kristi Patton
|
January 22, 2014

The Road to Sochi is long indeed.

In fact, there are 9,183.528 kilometres, or 5,706.38 miles, separating Hockey Canada’s home base of Calgary, Alta., and the site of the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games in southern Russia.

Canada’s National Women’s Team has just turned its final corner on its last stretch to Sochi, travelling overseas to Vienna, Austria, this week for some practice and pre-competition before the Olympic puck drops. Not only is that an extremely intense journey for the players themselves, but it’s also a long trek – that carries a hefty price tag – for family and friends who want to be in the stands at Shayba Arena and the Bolshoy Ice Dome to cheer their loved ones on as they go for gold.

That’s where the Hockey Canada Foundation has “stepped” in to help, with an event called Sips, Sticks and Stilettos, held this past fall to help raise funds for the National Women’s Team family program, which cuts costs so that the top female players in the country can have their top fans supporting them at Sochi 2014.

The Oct. 29 event was held at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alta., in the midst of one of Team Canada’s many road trips this season. Hockey Canada Foundation board director Doug Goss emceed the special evening, which gave invited guests the chance to mix and mingle with Canada’s National Women’s Team over dinner, and featured both an impressive live auction and a hot stove sessions hosted by two-time Olympic gold medallist Cassie Campbell-Pascall.

“We did this in 2009 as well, just leading into Vancouver, and the idea then, as it is now, was to provide support for the women’s hockey team and their families to attend the Olympics,” said Goss, who is also NAIT’s former board chair, and knew the school’s outstanding culinary students would put together a delicious five-course meal for attendees, which also included Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and several other high-profile guests.

“But the stars of the show were the players,” Goss said. “They were all great on stage, Cassie Campbell was terrific and I think everybody left feeling really close to all of the players, and feeling that they were all part of their journey in some way – and that’s a good thing.”

In total, Sips, Sticks and Stilettos raised about $120,000, with 75 per cent of the proceeds going to the National Women’s Team family program, and the other 25 per cent being donated to the Edmonton Girls Hockey Association to help grow the female game at the grassroots level, and inspire Team Canada’s future stars.

“This helps us tremendously, because we get to now bring our families to Russia," Canadian netminder Shannon Szabados of the festivities held in her hometown, and at her former post-secondary school. She said Sips, Sticks and Stilettos is giving her parents the chance to join her in Sochi “without re-mortgaging their house.”

Her parents have done the obscenely early morning drives to the rink, long weekend road trips countless times, and have followed their hockey-loving daughter pretty much everywhere else she’s played, including when she was in goal for the Olympic final at Vancouver 2010. So it seems only fair that they be there to support Szabados and her teammates as they defend that Olympic gold medal. Her husband will make the long trip, too, making it a smaller posse than the one she had in Vancouver, but an extremely important one.

“They were quite excited when I told them events like this help cover their expenses,” Szabados said. “I may not be able to spend a lot of time with my family when they are there, but it means so much just to know they are there supporting us, watching us, and if I need someone to talk to, they are there."

Campbell-Pascall happily helped out at this season’s Sips, Sticks and Stilettos event, since she knows all too well how important it is to have your biggest fans in attendance for your biggest games.

“Especially for Sochi coming up, it’s going to be a pretty expensive trip for the families to be there,” she said. “For some girls, it’s their first Olympics and for some girls, it’ll be their last, and as a former athlete, there’s nothing better to compete, and hopefully be successful, and then have your family right there to share it.”

The best women’s hockey players in the world “don’t make millions and millions of dollars a year,” Campbell-Pascall pointed out, adding “it just helps eliminate the costs … and it’s really important, I know, to the girls to have their parents and friends, and whoever else can, make the trip there.”

Campbell-Pascall said the success of Sips, Sticks and Stilettos shows that “there are a lot of great people out there that are supporting the game.”

“In my day, not many of the girls wore high heels to the rink,” she said with a chuckle of the appropriate yet quirky event name. “But you look at the girls now, and they’re all wearing them and that’s the style – it fits.”

Hockey Canada Foundation executive director Chris Bright described Campbell-Pascall as “natural and engaging” when it comes to garnering support for Canada’s National Women’s Team, adding she “was a great compliment to the evening’s success.”

“The foundation is proud to support these athletes and their families,” Bright said. “Like all Canadians, we wish them all the success on the ice. Off the ice, it is hard not to admire the commitment and dedication they have to pursue gold.”

Jamie Keeley.

A hockey mom, a hockey coach, a hockey leader

Armed with a passion for helping women find confidence behind the bench, Jamie Keeley has created opportunities in her association, in Calgary and across Alberta

Jason La Rose
|
July 05, 2024
The genesis of Jamie Keeley’s minor hockey coaching journey was about as Canadian as it gets – just a parent wanting to enjoy the hockey experience with their child.

“It was seeing my son on the ice and just having that want and desire to be out there with him and experience what he was experiencing, helping him learn,” she says.

That was almost six years ago.

Today, Keeley is the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award recipient in the Community category, and the creator of a thriving coach development program with the Knights Hockey Club in Calgary.

“I think it’s important for women to realize that they have so much to offer and that what they have to offer is recognized and is appreciated,” Keeley says of the BFL CANADA honour. “This award gives that; it brings light to [the fact] that we can do this. We’re here now, and let’s keep blazing trails and breaking ceilings and all of those amazing things.”

A ringette player growing up who dabbled in hockey when the boys’ team in her northern Saskatchewan community needed bodies to fill out the lineup, Keeley had never given much thought to coaching until her son got into the game at the Timbits U7 level in the fall of 2018.

When she wasn’t selected to coach the following season in U9, her attention turned back to her first athletic love and she joined the Bow View Ringette Association, working as an assistant coach and head coach at U10 and U12.

“[It was about] learning and gaining the confidence that I needed to step back into hockey and make a difference,” she says of her three years with Bow View.

The word that continually comes up is process – Keeley spent those seasons observing other coaches, ensuring she was surrounded by the right people, building her coaching support system, filling her toolbox and learning how to be a coach in the competitive space.

One of her biggest takeaways? No one does it alone.

“What I believe makes the most successful coach is to surround themselves with people for the skills that they don’t currently have,” Keeley says. “And so for me, I always make sure that I have a very, very rounded team of people that can offset the skills that I don’t have, that I can learn from.”

When the 2022-23 hockey season rolled around, Keeley was ready to get back behind the bench with her son at the U11 level.

But she didn’t come back to hockey empty-handed. In addition to the skills she had learned with Bow View, Keeley came armed with a proposal for a coach development program targeted at women.

“The program was not so much about giving women all the tools they needed to be a coach,” she says. “It starts with having the confidence to put up their hand and say, ‘Yeah, I have something to offer.’ It was really about just helping the ladies to make that decision to put up their hand and to help them have that confidence to step on the ice.

“One of the objectives was to make sure that we had strong female leadership to keep girls in sport, because that’s important. What if we have strong leadership from the same gender on the ice? Would that make a difference? Would girls want to stay [involved in hockey] if they saw strong female coaches on the ice?”

The association was quick to jump at the proposal, and Keeley was off and running.

“Where we started was I held one on-ice session to begin with, and we had 12 ladies that put up their hand and came out,” she says. “And really what it was about more than anything was just to see what this program was all about.

“I had an hour-and-a-half ice time, and I think we spent 20 minutes on the ice. What we spent more time doing was talking about if this was the right fit for them, if they had the confidence to put their skates on and what this was going to look like if they actually got selected to be on the ice with their kid. It was amazing to hear females talk about challenges and obstacles and barriers, and me as a part of launching this program, being able to provide that space to have those open and honest conversations that they wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

What was originally meant to be a local program for women in the Knights program rapidly turned into something much bigger, much to Keeley’s delight.

Next was a training course, with the help of Hockey Alberta – the province’s first women-only Coach 2 clinic.

“At first, I was just opening it to the [local] group that had shown interest. Then we decided to open up to all of Alberta. And so on a very snowy November day, we had 24 females sitting in a room from across Alberta. We did the four-hour classroom, and then the next day we met for another seven [hours].

“That’s where the network started. A lot of us still keep in contact, and we send out emails to each other, and when there is an event happening for all female coaches, we make sure that we share and attend.”

In that first season, nine women were behind the bench with the Knights Hockey Club. During the 2023-24 season, that number grew to 14 – two as head coaches and 12 as assistants.

Keeley hosted a start-of-season meeting in September to teach coaches how to prepare a season plan and build practice plans, and had regular check-ins with every coach involved in the program, working through any challenges they were facing and ensuring they were getting what they needed from the experience.

She also continues to work closely with Hockey Calgary, participating in ongoing opportunities for women in coaching, including on- and off-ice development sessions.

But her No. 1 role is still being a mom, and there are few things that give her more joy than sharing hockey with her son. This season, Keeley led the U13 Tier 4 team.

“I always ask if he wants me to coach,” she says of her son. “And that even existed when I went and coached ringette because, of course, I wasn’t with him. I was always a non-parent coach in ringette, and I would ask him every season, ‘Are you okay if I do this?’

“When I coached the U12 AA team [in the spring of 2022], I was away quite a bit. We were on the ice five times a week. That was the first time he ever said to me, ‘Mom, I miss you. Can you come coach me?’

“We’re just in the midst of filling out our application for this upcoming season, which is his second year of U13. And he said, ‘Mom, are you going to coach again?’ I said, ‘Do you want me to?’ He said, ‘As long as you want to.’ So yes, I’m going to apply to be a coach again.”

That’s a lucky son, and a lucky association that gets to benefit from what Keeley has to offer.

But ask her, and she’ll tell you just the opposite – that she’s the lucky one, benefitting from what the players can offer her.

“I have had some really amazing experiences both on and off the ice, just learning from these players. The amount, if you sit back and you listen, that you can learn is just unbelievable, and they always make you smile.”

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Shakita Jensen.

Giving back through coaching

Guided by influential coaches during her playing days, Shakita Jensen knew she wanted to give back to the game she loved by becoming a coach in her hometown

Shannon Coulter
|
July 04, 2024

It was a full circle moment for Shakita Jensen when she stepped on the bench as head coach of Team Northwest Territories at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games.

In 2014, she played in the tournament in Alaska. A decade later, she returned to Alaska to coach.

“I felt a lot of emotions,” says Jensen, the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner in the Competitive category.

Jensen, from the Tahltan First Nation, started as an on-ice volunteer with the Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association in 2014. Since then, her passion for giving back has driven her to continue her coaching journey.

“The hockey community has given me so much that I felt an obligation to want to give back to the hockey community in any way I could,” Jensen says. “When I got back from school, I was like, ‘I should probably try coaching, see if I like it.’ And of course I liked it right away.”

In addition to giving back, a few impactful women who coached Jensen growing up opened her eyes to her own potential journey.

“Having my first female head coach was super cool, and that made me want to get into coaching,” she says. “Growing up, being sometimes the only girl on my hockey teams, not really many women coaching, and then having my first few female coaches thinking, ‘Wow they’re so cool, I want to be like them one day.’”

The position of being a role model and a leader for youth in her community was also a driving factor in wanting to become a coach.

“I’ve had so many influential coaches in my own playing career. [There are] everlasting impacts they can have on their players, not only on the ice, but off the ice as people as well, what you can teach your players as a coach. I felt that I had lots to offer [as a head coach] and I wanted to be there for kids.”

Shakita Jensen coaching Team NWT at a One For All practice.

 Jensen was in the right place at the right time to get her first head coaching position. There was a shortage of coaches in her association, so they asked Jensen—who initially applied to be an on-ice helper—if she wanted to be a head coach.

“It was a lot of quick learning and kind of being thrown into it, but I felt confident in myself the whole time,” the 26-year-old explains. “I just tried to network with past coaches as much as I could to have a successful season, which I think I did.”

Early in her career, Jensen decided to apply to be a part of the 2023 Canada Winter Games coaching staff for Team NWT, but she wasn’t selected. However, one of the coaches recommended she apply for the Aboriginal Apprentice Coach program with the Aboriginal Sports Circle.

“They chose one woman and one man from the territory, and it could be from any sport, so I knew that it was a bit of a long shot, but when I heard I got in for hockey, I was super excited.”

Through the apprenticeship program, Jensen was able to attend last year’s Canada Winter Games on Prince Edward Island and work with Team NWT leading up to the event. Afterwards, she became an assistant coach for Team NWT for the 2023 Arctic Winter Games before being promoted to head coach for the 2024 tournament.

“I think that definitely opened a lot of doors,” she says. “It was cool to see the progression and to allow me to gain all the tools and resources that I needed to prepare my team.”

As head coach of Team NWT, the location of each player’s hometowns can often be difficult to navigate—sometimes resulting in very few full team practices before an event.

“It was definitely a challenge wanting to build your team culture and work on your strategies and trying to prepare for a high-performance, short-term competition when your team is scattered all over the territories, in some places that are fly in/fly out or just a lot of money barriers,” she explains. “I think one thing that was super helpful was our ability to connect online leading up to the Games.”

Another huge opportunity for Jensen’s team this year was February’s One For All event in Yellowknife. With more than 300 participants over four days, the event celebrated women’s and girls’ hockey with Try Hockey events, on-ice skills, coaching clinics and more.

Team Northwest Territories and Team Nunavut gathered to practice and face off in an exhibition game.

“It was an overwhelming successful weekend—players putting on their hockey gear for the first time and then other players who were about to be graduating minor hockey,” says Jensen, who volunteered with the event. “It felt super to contribute to that program, give back and hopefully keep that program on a yearly basis here.”

When Jensen found out she was the BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner for Hockey North in the Competitive category, she was shocked.

“I was so surprised, kind of caught off guard. I felt so much pride and gratitude.”

Jensen was unsure if she would be able to compete with the great provincial and territorial candidates across the country. But when she saw Cassie Campbell-Pascall on a video call congratulating her for winning the national award, she was in disbelief all over again.

“There are really no words,” she says of winning the national award. “There are so many influential coaches who go unrecognized sometimes for all the work they do. [I’m] really feeling proud of myself, but also feeling proud of everyone else across Canada who’s doing so much for the women’s game.”

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Kelly Paton with the BFL Canada Women in Coaching logo.

The importance of mentorship

When Kelly Paton began her coaching journey after she hung up her skates, it was her coaching mentors that were key to helping her develop confidence behind the bench

Shannon Coulter
|
July 03, 2024

Even as a player, Kelly Paton had always taken an interest in what happens behind the scenes in hockey. She took opportunities to learn more about the game from her coaching staff, including how staff helped to support student-athletes while she attended the University of New Hampshire.

That, along with her strong hockey IQ, led Paton’s head coach, Brian McCloskey, to give her a piece of advice: “Patty, you’re a coach.”

“He just kept telling me I was a coach,” says Paton, the national BFL CANADA Women in Coaching Award winner in the High Performance category. “Certainly, I was interested; I didn’t have my mind made up. I wanted to find ways to stay connected to the game and at that point, with some limitations of hockey beyond college, that was probably my best pathway for it.”

A Woodstock, Ontario, native who has spent the last six seasons as head coach of the women’s hockey team at Wilfrid Laurier University, Paton grew up in an athletic family. When her older brother started playing hockey, Paton wanted to start playing as well.

“Many days were spent in our cul-de-sac; I got stuck in the goalie position and his friends would shoot many pucks and balls my way,” Paton says. “That’s probably where my interest started.”

Paton initially played boys hockey in her hometown until switching to girls’ hockey with the London Devilettes. After her final year of minor hockey, she spent four years at New Hampshire, serving as captain and finishing as a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior in the 2009-10 season.

“[It] helped shape my confidence in my ability to play the game, but then big picture, how there are ways where I could give back and help the development of others,” Paton says of her time as a Wildcat. “I think that’s where I had some affirmation that my IQ for the game was pretty good and that aligned really well with coaching.”

Kelly Paton coaches the Laurier women's team during a break in play.

After completing her undergraduate degree, Paton wasn’t sure how she wanted to incorporate coaching into her life, whether as a volunteer or as a career. But after finishing a graduate degree at Mercyhurst University and then living on Vancouver Island for a while, she decided to return home to Southwestern Ontario and get back involved with the game she loved.

She reconnected with her minor hockey roots by taking on a coaching role with the Devilettes’ junior program. There, Paton credits Dwayne Blais for being one of her mentors as she began her coaching journey.

“I was the head coach, but he certainly was the one I leaned on the most with being mentored and learning how to manage conflict, how to manage expectation, but more importantly just building practice plans that supported development.”

After reconnecting with one of her junior coaches, Paton was presented with an opportunity to join Western University as an assistant coach.

“I walked into a space where [the Mustangs] were coming off a national championship, which came with a lot of expectations,” Paton says. “I was happy we were still able to carry out some of that momentum and be a top performer in the OUA.”

Paton served as an assistant coach for two years before being promoted to head coach at Western. Ahead of the 2018-19 season, she made the move to Laurier.

“We’re coming off a great season this past year and our leadership group has done an excellent job of really stepping into a space where they’re allowing me to coach, which is awesome,” she says. “We’re certainly a team that carries high expectations, knowing that we still have responsibility to carry the legacy of Laurier hockey. […] The goal is to keep moving forward. I certainly think we’re in the right pathway to do that, and a lot of that is a testament to the players that we have in our program now.”

Kelly Paton looks on from the bench.

Reflecting on her time coaching in U SPORTS, one of the bigger transitions for Paton was navigating how to match her communication to each individual player on her team.

“In the university sector, it can get really challenging to satisfy 25 athletes with all different learning styles and still walk away and feel like we got through what we needed to get through today,” she explains. “Now with experience, I’ve learned that’s part of the process. But when I was younger, that day-to-day management of seeing where everybody’s at—generally the only way to figure that out is to ask, and that’s where the communication piece is.”

Building relationships has been key to Paton’s coaching journey, and she is grateful to have found a support system in her corner as she continues to develop as a coach.

“It’s been a pretty critical piece to finding confidence in myself,” Paton says of her mentors. “There’s been a couple that have been instrumental with shaping my coaching style, my communication style, my knowledge of the game. Dwayne was a big piece of that, Rachel Flanagan, and even my college coach, Brian. I still speak with him [14 years after graduating].”

For those looking to begin their coaching journeys or advance their coaching career into the high-performance area, Paton’s advice would be to stay honest and accountable.

“When mistakes happen, don’t shy away from taking ownership of that. If there are areas that are challenging or you need advice on, that’s where that mentorship really comes in handy; having somebody that’s a neutral soundboard that’s going to help you make decisions without carried bias or carried experiences.

“I’m really grateful that I’ve had those opportunities to have good people around me and have the confidence that went up when mistakes are made, and that helps trickle into the player group as well.”

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Canadian duo gets called to the Hall

Shea Weber and Colin Campbell part of Class of 2024 for Hockey Hall of Fame

Jason La Rose
|
June 26, 2024

When the Class of 2024 goes into the Hockey Hall of Fame this fall, there will be a little bit of Canadian content.

Of the seven names announced Tuesday, two have a distinct Canadian connection – Shea Weber will be enshrined in the player category, while Colin Campbell will go in as a builder.

A closer look at the inductees…

Shea Weber is one of the most decorated defencemen in Team Canada history, winning a pair of Olympic gold medals, gold at the IIHF World Championship and gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship, along with a World Cup of Hockey title.

The Sicamous, B.C., product wore the Maple Leaf on six occasions, and only once – at the 2009 IIHF World Championship, when Canada finished with silver – did he not leave with the top prize.

Despite the silver medal, that 2009 Men’s Worlds was arguably his best international performance – he led all blue-liners in scoring with 12 points (4-8—12) in seven games, was named Best Defenceman and earned a place on the Media All-Star Team.

Weber was part of the ‘Dream Team’ at the 2005 World Juniors, winning gold, and followed that up with gold at the 2007 IIHF World Championship at the conclusion of his second NHL season. Three years later, he contributed six points (2-4—6) in seven games to help Canada to a home-ice Olympic gold in Vancouver, and added six more (3-3—6) in six games in 2014 for another Olympic gold.

The tournament in Sochi included Weber’s biggest Team Canada contribution; the game-winning goal in the third period of a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Latvia.

Outside of the international accomplishments, Weber was a three-time finalist for the Norris Trophy (2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14), a Mark Messier Leadership Award recipient (2015-16) and a six-time NHL All-Star who captained the Nashville Predators (2010-16) and Montreal Canadiens (2018-22).

Colin Campbell, who has served as senior executive vice-president of hockey operations with the National Hockey League since 1998, has spent five decades involved in the NHL as a player, coach and executive.

A veteran of 636 games as a player with Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Colorado, Edmonton and Detroit, the Tillsonburg, Ontario, native also spent 12 seasons as a coach with the Red Wings and New York Rangers, helping the Rangers end a 54-year Stanley Cup drought as associate coach in 1994 before serving as head coach for the following three seasons.

For the last 26 years, Campbell has left his mark on hockey operations, officiating and central scouting with the NHL, helping shape the way the game is played today,

Weber and Campbell will officially be inducted on Nov. 11 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, joined by fellow inductees Natalie Darwitz, Pavel Datsyuk, David Poile, Jeremy Roenick and Krissy Wendell-Pohl.

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Emerance Maschmeyer

In My Own Words: Emerance Maschmeyer

The National Women’s Team goaltender talks about life with partner Geneviève Lacasse, starting a family, being a trailblazer in the PWHL and the importance of being one’s true self

Emerance Maschmeyer
|
June 15, 2024

A few of our friends described it as a “hard launch.”

Geneviève and I decided not to officially “come out,” but instead we decided to just post the photos from our wedding last July. At that point, our friends, our families, our circle – the people who meant the most – all knew about our relationship.

We wondered if we needed to have a big coming out story. But we thought posting the photos of the day was a fun way of saying, “This is us. We got married,” like anyone else would post about getting married. It was time for us to just put ourselves out there and not be scared. There was so much love and support, and it was just so inspiring to see the effect we were able to have, just posting about our relationship.

We have a platform and influence, and we have people who follow our journeys. At the end of the day, those who support us will support us, and we want them in our lives, and we want to connect with them, but those who don’t, that’s all right.

We knew the impact we could have sharing our relationship and sharing our story; we knew there would be a positive impact, and we could help so many other individuals with their journey. And so maybe with age, there was some courage in telling our story, but we have all the support we need. So, for us, it was – how do we help others and support others now?

Going public was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders that neither of us recognized was there. And now I feel like we’re very open to having conversations, talking about our relationship and being our true selves. It’s been a rewarding journey. It was only a year ago, and it’s been so fun to just be out there and be us as a couple.

Geneviève and I started dating in 2015. I told my sister pretty early on about our relationship. Geneviève was the first woman that I ever dated. So, I also wanted to make sure that it was something, a longstanding relationship, before I told my entire family, which I would’ve done in any relationship that I was in.

I was in school at Harvard at the time, and so my teammates and friends at school knew early as well. And I knew I wanted to tell my family, but I wanted to do it in person. I didn’t want to make it a big deal, but I also know the norm in society is still, you’re heterosexual until you say otherwise. You have to come out and tell your story. I wanted to make it as normal as possible, but I also wanted to have in-person conversations with my family.

About a year after we started dating, I started telling my family. I told my parents one at a time. I went through my family. And I have a big family, so it was a lot of conversations. Being young, I was 20 years old, I was quite nervous about the conversations, but ultimately my family was so supportive– every conversation left me with ‘my family supports me and loves me no matter who I love.’ I know that’s not the case for everyone, but I am very fortunate to have a family that has my back no matter what. They were just happy I was in a loving relationship.

There were hesitations in coming out publicly, but it didn’t really have anything to do with our sexuality. It had everything to do with the fact that both of us were still active with the National Women’s Team, and we didn’t want our news to be about our relationship or our sexuality. We wanted it to be about hockey and our performance.

It’s certainly not easy when you and your partner share a profession. At the beginning, we had to say to each other that in many ways our relationship comes first, but we also have to put our own hockey first. And not in a selfish way, it’s more like… “If you do everything you can to make a team and to put yourself in a position to play, and I do everything I can to make a team and put myself in a position to play, then it’s not up to us. It’s up to the coach, it’s up to the scouts, it’s up to external factors.”

We were on the journey together, we were working hard and doing everything we could do individually, but when it came down to those decisions, we weren’t angry at each other. We could feel empathy if one played over the other, but at the end of the day, if one of us is in net, then it became, “Okay, I support you or you support me.”

We did have some bumps in the road along the way. I was released from the 2018 Olympics and she made the team. And then vice versa, in 2022, I made the Olympic team and she was released. This presented us with a big learning opportunity in our relationship. The first time around when I was released, we weren’t equipped with the skills to handle it. It was a big dream of mine to make that team and to play in the Olympics. And what do you say to your partner on either end, the one who makes it or the one who doesn’t? Navigating the situation and our dynamic was complex. We were supportive of one another, and to protect our relationship we felt that not talking about hockey was the best course.

The second time around, going into Beijing, we learned how to talk through it. We gained an understanding of how to have difficult conversations, to talk about how we feel. We wish that neither of those situations happened, but they actually made our relationship a lot stronger. We have acquired the skills to support each other and communicate through difficult situations, and recognize the importance of continuously practicing and refining those skills.

We found out we were pregnant in late 2023, a few months after we got married. We’re fortunate that we have friends that have gone through the fertility treatment process that we could use as a resource, and so we asked a lot of questions. We did a lot of research. We were living in Quebec, and luckily there’s funding to make the financial burden easier. Our journey to conception wasn’t long, and for that we are grateful.

It’s been quite a journey. We’re so excited to start our family and welcome our little boy to the world. It’s something that we had been wanting to do for so long, but having us both playing, it wasn’t really a possibility, especially without the salaries and security of a professional league. But now we’re finally in a position where I’m playing in the PWHL and Geneviève has security in her job as manager of corporate sponsorships and sales with the league. It’s the most security and stability we’ve had in a long time, and we’re excited to start our family.

We are looking forward to having our son grow up around strong women. And we know that he’ll grow up to respect women and look at women’s athletes as just athletes.

And I can’t forget the gender reveal! I was sitting on the bus with Emily Clark on a road trip this year, and we were chatting about doing a gender reveal, and just brainstorming some ideas. And then somehow it came up that it would be so fun to have an obstacle course and have the team involved. It evolved into Clark vs. Jenner, boy vs. girl, and went from there.

Geneviève and I gave them the link to the gender, because we wanted to be surprised as well. We set up one day after practice, and Clarky and Jenner, they came up with how the race would go. It turned out so good!

This year has been such a whirlwind. The wedding, the announcement of the PWHL, signing with Ottawa, finding out we were pregnant, launching the league, winning another world championship … hard to believe that’s only the last 11 months.

It’s been so incredible, the momentum that we have in the PWHL, the fandom, the support, the investment and the visibility. And just the growth that we’ve had within just our first season. Being a professional hockey player still feels surreal to me, but the pride I felt every time I stepped onto the ice with my teammates in Ottawa this season … it’s indescribable to be part of something so special.

Obviously, there’s still a long way to go for equity and parity, but we’ve made some huge steps in the past few years. Even in the grassroots now, there’s that ripple effect from the PWHL of getting women in sport and staying in sport.

At our games, I see young fans, not just young girls, but young boys too who just see us as hockey players. They don’t see us as women’s hockey players. They’re looking up to us like, “You’re my favourite player, you’re my favourite goalie.” They’re not saying, “You’re my favourite female goalie.” It’s been fantastic to see the shift in the mindset, and there are so many more stepping stones to come.

Because it is Pride Month, which means so much to me, I did want to end with a few thoughts.

Individually, everyone can look inward and see where they can do the work. I think often, people lead with assumptions when meeting someone. But we can all do a better job at letting them tell their story versus labelling them with, ‘You are this or you are that.’ It can be intimidating to be your true self because of preconceived assumptions.

Unfortunately, there’s going to be hate online. That’s unavoidable in the social media age we live in. But I think as much as we can, we need to hold on to the love and the support, and ensure the kind, loving, supportive voices drown out the negative ones.

As someone who’s in a same-sex relationship, I know that at times I can still be a little timid or discouraged to be my true self, but for those in our community, I encourage you to be as courageous as you can. Be your true self. If you come into a conversation and lead with your authentic self, it will start changing minds slowly. One person at a time.

We are moving in the right direction, and together is how we’re going to keep moving.

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Hockey Canada forms women's and girls' steering committee

15 stakeholders to lead work on reflections and insights on state of women’s and girls’ hockey

NR.038.24
|
May 31, 2024

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Hockey Canada has formed a committee of stakeholders, chaired by current board member and National Women’s Team alumna Gillian Apps, to oversee a discussion paper that will lead to formal recommendations to guide the organization’s next women’s and girls’ hockey strategic plan.

The committee was formally launched at a press conference in Winnipeg today, where Hockey Canada’s Spring Congress is taking place alongside a women’s and girls’ hockey symposium with provincial and territorial representation from all of Hockey Canada’s 13 Members, facilitated by Canadian Women & Sport.

“Internationally, Canada has always been a leader in women’s hockey. Now is the time to ensure we are on the leading edge of identifying and addressing gaps in the current system to provide women and girls with even more opportunities to thrive in the future,” said Apps. “This committee’s efforts will be critical to furthering the game at all levels, and we are grateful this group has agreed to volunteer and be part of this important work.”

The committee features 15 stakeholders, including six National Women’s Team (NWT) alumnae:

  • Gillian Apps, Hockey Canada Board of Directors and NWT alumna
  • Pierre Arsenault, chief executive officer of U SPORTS
  • Thérèse Brisson, president and chief executive officer of Alpine Canada, and NWT alumna
  • Cassie Campbell-Pascall, broadcaster, special advisor to the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) and NWT alumna
  • Debra Gassewitz, president and chief executive officer of the Sport Information Resource Centre
  • Jayna Hefford, senior vice-president of hockey operations for the PWHL and NWT alumna
  • Katherine Henderson, president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada
  • Marian Jacko, Hockey Canada Board of Directors
  • Angela James, Hockey Canada Foundation Board of Directors and NWT alumna
  • Rob Knesaurek, senior vice-president of youth development and industry growth with the National Hockey League
  • Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer of Own the Podium
  • Mary-Kay Messier, vice-president of marketing for Bauer Hockey
  • Brad Morris, Hockey Canada Foundation Board of Directors
  • Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, chief executive officer of Canadian Women & Sport
  • Kim St-Pierre, regional manager at Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and NWT alumna

“Supporting the growth of women’s and girls’ hockey in Canada is a priority for our board, and forming this committee is a tremendous next step to further understand and address the challenges that exist in the game,” said Jonathan Goldbloom, chair of the Hockey Canada Board of Directors. “We thank Gillian for taking on a leadership role with this project and are confident the committee’s efforts will benefit our organization, Members, stakeholders and Canadians for generations to come.”

After consulting with Hockey Canada’s Members, the committee’s women’s and girls’ hockey discussion paper is expected to be published in early summer 2024. Additional interviews will take place at that time with stakeholders inside and outside of the game, including opportunities for the Canadian public to be part of the research.

“Our women’s and girls’ hockey department, led by Marin Hickox, has made significant strides in the past few years to grow the game at all levels, including by mobilizing the leads from each of our Members,” said Henderson. “We are thrilled this new committee will work collectively with Marin and her leads to review existing research and establish a roadmap for where we all envision women’s and girls’ hockey in the future, as there remains a tremendous amount of potential to remove existing barriers to the sport.”

To learn more about Hockey Canada, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on FacebookX and Instagram.

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Kaylee Grant instructs a group of young girls on the ice at the One For All event in Yellowknife.

Making an impact in the North

A game-changer in women’s hockey, Kaylee Grant tirelessly gives her time across the territories, volunteering to ensure opportunities exist for women and girls

Katie Brickman
|
April 14, 2024

The first thing Kaylee Grant did when she moved to Yellowknife was find a hockey team.

The operating engineer took a one-year term to gain experience in her industry. Twelve years later, she’s still in the Northwest Territories and hockey has been a reason why she calls it home.

“You gravitate to what you know, and I knew sports,” Grant says. “When you join a sport, you instantly have 17 friends and a group where you feel accepted through a common goal and interest. When I moved to the North, I didn’t know how else to meet friends, so I went to the rink right away.”

Grant grew up around the rink in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The community was also a hockey hotbed, supporting its Junior A, Junior B and university teams. Being around that passion and community made hockey an important part of her life.

“Playing hockey is what we did,” Grant says. “The community rallied behind our teams and the rinks were full, the atmosphere was great, and hockey was so prominent.”

She played minor hockey in Nova Scotia before moving to Newfoundland and Labrador to play at Memorial University. At 23 years old, she made the move to Yellowknife and knew she would find her community inside a rink.

“I find that the easiest thing to do when you come to a new place to meet people is through sport,” she says. “With joining a hockey team, I was already creating a group of people that were like-minded in interests and similar age. Plus, there are so many opportunities in the North to grow as coaches, players and mentors that have been so helpful.”

Grant’s love for the game wasn’t just as a player—she expanded her knowledge by getting into coaching while in Nova Scotia. She started as an off-ice coordinator with the Antigonish Bulldogs women’s under-18 team.

Kaylee Grant smiles as she skates with a young player on the ice.

She did her Coach Development 1 training before getting her High Performance 1 training and evaluation certification. She continued to pursue additional coaching certification and training over the years to educate herself and give back to her community.

“I think seeing the female game continuously grow and develop that keeps me interested,” Grant says. “I love to see the progress in my players. I love seeing these players grow and adapt as individuals. Seeing them get involved in coaching is the coolest part.”

Her coaching philosophy is to develop a player’s passion for the game, be a role model and create an environment that is positive for women and girls.

Coaching and mentoring young girls are important to Grant, and she saw that path was through high-level opportunities, particularly by becoming a facilitator to drive more players into the coaching route. She has been working with Hockey North and the Hockey Canada Women Master Coach Developer program, which is focused on removing barriers to coaching education for women.

“Kaylee has volunteered at pretty much every level and she’s getting more involved with training coaches and being a clinician, which is an amazing progression for her,” says Kyle Kugler, executive director of Hockey North and a close friend of Grant. “She’s a great ambassador for hockey by giving back to other coaches through her experiences and helping with their development.”

Through being a volunteer coach, Grant has been able to experience some highlights with her teams, including as head coach for the Arctic Winter Games and Canada Winter Games, and as an assistant coach for Team North at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship.

“Hockey North has given me so many opportunities and having that support has impacted me as a coach,” Grant says. “I enjoyed every year with those territorial teams and those experiences are a very big reason why I stay here – the coaching opportunities and knowing that we continually have room to grow.”

Another event that Grant was a key volunteer for was the inaugural One For All festival held in Yellowknife in February. It was a four-day event for women and girls from across the N.W.T. and Nunavut that included goaltending clinics, on-ice scrimmages and other off-ice experiences. The event was launched in partnership with Hockey Canada and Hockey North to celebrate the sport and grow grassroots hockey in the North.

“Kaylee is one of our co-leads in the North, and when we set out to deliver this programming in Yellowknife, it was a no-brainer that she would be involved. And typical Kaylee, she just runs with a task and completely owns it,” says Katie Greenway, manager of women’s and girls’ hockey with Hockey Canada. “To have champions like Kaylee that dedicate themselves to their community and sport is so important.”

Giving back through coaching is just what Grant does—it’s like a hobby for her and she does it for others and to see more women in the sport, not for what it could bring to her.

“I’ve known Kaylee for a few years now and she has so much on her plate, but she never says no,” Greenway says. “She doesn’t do it for the accolades, but out of the goodness of her heart with a smile on her face. She’s fantastic and is really impacting everyone that she comes across.”

Grant’s impact on hockey in the North has been felt by many of the girls she has coached, mentored and played with over the past 12 years, but it’s the bigger picture that is most important to her.

“I’m not going to say that myself, individually, has drastically impacted female hockey in the North. I think I am a very small portion of what’s been going on in the North in the last 10 years,” Grant says. “I would like to think that I have helped develop more female coaches and I’ve been a good role model. I think if I have impacted hockey in the North, its pushing players to want to coach a little bit, but it’s a collective—everyone has left their mark on the female game.”

For Kugler, as the lone administrator for Hockey North, having volunteers like Kaylee is so critical to the work and development of hockey players.

“I think volunteers are essential for the delivery of anything in small communities in the North,” he says. “[Kaylee] takes on more than we even realize. Coaches have a huge influence on teams and athletes and she’s a positive role model and advocate for female hockey. She’s selfless with her time and she’s just an awesome person.”

Interested in becoming a coach? Visit HockeyCanada.ca/Coaching, or contact your local hockey association or Hockey Canada Member for more information.

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Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. United States

Sunday, April 14 | 5 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Gold Medal Game

Jason La Rose, Shannon Coulter
|
April 14, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. UNITED STATES (APRIL 14)

Here we go. Canada’s National Women's Team is one win away from a record-extending 13th gold medal at the IIHF Women’s World Championship, taking on the host Americans in the gold medal game Sunday night.

Last Game

Canada took care of business in the semifinals, shutting out Czechia 4-0 to advance to the gold medal game. Laura Stacey set up first-period goals for Blayre Turnbull and Jocelyne Larocque. Emily Clark and Sarah Fillier rounded out the scoring for the Canadians. Ann-Renée Desbiens made nine saves while Canada put 47 shots on Czechia’s Klara Peslarova.

The United States come into the gold medal game undefeated, earning a 5-0 shutout of Finland in the semifinals. University of Wisconsin forward Laila Edwards recorded a hat trick, with Hannah Bilka and Savannah Harmon finding the back of the net as well. Finland’s Sanni Ahola made 50 saves, while Aerin Frankel stopped 15 shots for the semifinal win.

Last Meeting 

The North American rivals played arguably the best game of the preliminary round last Monday, with the Canadians dropping a narrow 1-0 decision in overtime. Ann-Renée Desbiens was absolutely sensational, finishing with 29 saves, but Canada couldn’t solve Frankel. It marked just the third time in 184 all-time meetings that Canada and the U.S. went 60 minutes goalless – the other two were both in Women’s Worlds gold medal games, in 2005 and 2016.

What to Watch 

While names like Poulin, Nurse, Spooner and Fast get the headlines, Jocelyne Larocque continues to just go about her business quietly and effectively. Set to play in her 10th Women’s Worlds gold medal game, the Ste. Anne, Manitoba, product – who cracked list of top-10 oldest players to represent Canada at the tournament (she was 35 years, 10 months, 17 days for the prelim opener) – leads the Canadian contingent in time on ice (22:21 per game) and tops the tournament with a plus/minus of +15. She’s also chipped in with a goal and four assists in six games.

In order for Canada to have success today, they will need to find a way past Frankel. She has had a record-breaking tournament for the United States, allowing only three goals in five games, with a 0.59 goals-against average and a 0.962 saves percentage. With her semifinal shutout, the 24-year-old set the record for the most shutouts at a single Women’s Worlds with four.

A Look Back 

This will be the 22nd time Canada and the U.S. have met for gold at Women’s Worlds, with Canada holding a 12-9 edge in the first 21. Nor surprisingly, these two teams always seem to play a close game with a world title on the line.

Prior to last year’s 6-3 win for the Americans – which was a tie game with less than four minutes to go – seven of the previous eight gold medal games were one-goal contests, and the only outlier, in 2015, was a two-goal game. Those eight games included five that needed overtime – in 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2021.

All-time record: Canada leads 104-79-1 (23-20 in OT/SO)
Canada goals: 508 
United States goals: 445

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Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Czechia

Saturday, April 13 | 7 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Semifinal

Nicholas Pescod
|
April 12, 2024

Canada’s National Women's Team is into the final four at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship, taking on Czechia in a Saturday night semifinal in Utica with a place in the gold medal game on the line.

Last Game

Canada booked its spot in the semifinals after downing Sweden 5-1 in its Thursday quarterfinal. Renata Fast scored twice, opening the scoring in the first period and adding insurance in the second, while Laura Stacey, Natalie Spooner and Jaime Bourbonnais rounded out the scoring for the Canadians. Jocelyne Larocque joined Fast as multi-point scorers, picking up a pair of assists, while Emerance Maschmeyer turned aside 17 of the 18 shots she faced.

Czechia secured its spot in the semifinals thanks to Daniela Pejsova, who got a point shot through traffic for the game’s only goal with 7:06 left to give the Czechs a 1-0 win over Germany. Klara Peslarova stopped all 24 shots the Germans threw her way for her second shutout of the tournament.

Last Meeting 

In preliminary-round play last Sunday, Kristin O’Neill scored two goals and provided an assist, Sarah Nurse contributed with two helpers and Ann-Renée Desbiens made 13 saves for the shutout as Canada blanked the Czechs 5-0.

What to Watch 

While Canada’s goaltending has been the focus, and rightfully so with Desbiens and Maschmeyer combining for a .973 save percentage through five games, let’s turn our attention to the bottom of the Canadian forward group. While the top unit has scored just twice (one of them an empty-netter), the fourth line of O’Neill between Danielle Serdachny and Julia Gosling has been terrific (O’Neill leads Canada in scoring), and the trio of Stacey, Blayre Turnbull and Emily Clark contributed the game-winning goal in the quarterfinals. Don’t sleep on the big guns, though; last year in the semifinals, Sarah Fillier potted a hat trick in a win over Switzerland.

Natálie Mlýnková is tearing it up for the Czechs. The 22-year-old is tied for second in goals with four and tied for second in points with six, and is the top scorer in the tournament not wearing the red, white and blue of the United States. For the trivia buffs, three Czechs — Anezka Cabelova, Tereza Plosova, and Adela Sapovalivova — can make history by winning a medal in Utica; they would join Marie-Philip Poulin (Canada, 2009), Susanna Tapani (Finland, 2011), and Nelli Laitnen and Viivi Vainikka (Finland, 2019) as the only players to win a medal at the IIHF U18 Women's World Championship and IIHF Women's World Championship in the same season.

A Look Back 

History is very, very recent between these two teams. They’ve only met twice – last year in Brampton and last weekend in Utica.

All-time record: Canada leads 2-0-0
Canada goals: 10 
Czechia goals: 1 

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Canada vs. Sweden

Women’s Worlds Preview: Canada vs. Sweden

Thursday, April 11 | 5 p.m. ET | Utica, New York | Quarterfinal

Nicholas Pescod
|
April 10, 2024

GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. SWEDEN (APRIL 11)

It’s on to the playoffs for Canada’s National Women's Team as it takes on Sweden in quarterfinal action Thursday at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

Last Game

Ann-Renée Desbiens was sensational on Monday night, making 29 saves, but Canada closed out the preliminary round in Utica with a 1-0 overtime loss to the United States to finish second in Group A. Laura Stacey and Natalie Spooner led the Canadian offence with four shots on goal apiece.

Like the Canadians, the Swedes are also coming into the quarters on the heels of a 1-0 defeat. Sweden dropped its final preliminary game against Germany on Monday, despite outshooting the Germans 32-24 —forward Lina Ljungblom had seven of the Swedes’ 32 shots.

Last Meeting 

Canada narrowly avoided the upset in the quarterfinals a year ago at Women’s Worlds in Brampton, escaping with a 3-2 victory thanks to overtime heroics from Sarah Nurse. Nurse scored a pair in that game, while Blayre Turnbull added the other for the Canadians, who finished with a 54-14 advantage in shots but ran up against a red-hot Emma Söderberg in the Swedish goal.

What to Watch 

The obvious storyline here is goaltending. Ann-Renée Desbiens was nothing short of terrific through the preliminary round, fashioning a tournament-leading .974 save percentage and 0.65 goals-against average through three starts, capped by a 29-save clinic against the Americans. And if Canada decides it wants to save Desbiens for the weekend, Emerance Maschmeyer is a heck of a backup; she was perfect in her lone prelim start against Switzerland, stopping all 12 shots she faced in a 3-0 win to post her sixth shutout in 13 all-time appearances at Women’s Worlds.

For the Swedes — Lina Ljungblom, Hilda Svensson, Hanna Olsson and Söderberg. Seventeen-year-old Svensson forced overtime against Canada a year ago, tying the game with just 10 seconds to go, and sits tied for second in goals (three) and tied for second in points (five) through the prelims. Svensson leads all players in shots with 29 and had the other goal in the quarterfinal defeat in Brampton. Meanwhile, Olsson owns a tournament-leading 72.15% faceoff percentage, which puts her slightly ahead of Marie-Philip Poulin, and Söderberg has been terrific again, allowing only four goals in three games.

A Look Back 

Canada remains unbeaten against the Swedes at Women’s Worlds, owning an 11-0 record. New York has also been historically good to Canada when it comes to playing Sweden; it owns a 4-1 record in the Empire State, with the last meeting occurring at the 2013 4 Nations Cup in Lake Placid. Natalie Spooner scored twice to help the Canadians to a 4-3 win.

All-time record: Canada leads 79-2-1
Canada goals: 509 
Sweden goals: 70 

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For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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