As the 2018-19 season shall represent Ailish Forfar’s first season of professional hockey it runs parallel to the proud milestone of Laura Stacey’s first full season with Markham. As the club was located in Brampton during Stacey’s rookie season, the two shall wear the Markham green together in this compelling chapter. Gaining the opportunity to skate alongside Stacey once again, calling her a teammate for the third time, it stands as one of the feel-good stories heading into this season.
In addition, another competitor from this year’s CWHL Draft Class, shall gain the privilege of calling another player a teammate thrice. Alex Rigsby, selected by the Calgary Inferno in the fourth round, was a teammate of Decker with the University of Wisconsin Badgers and in a gold medal effort at this year’s Winter Games, wearing the Stars and Stripes of USA Hockey.
Not only does the opportunity to skate alongside Stacey again emphasize the feeling of coming full circle, it also holds a reciprocal feeling, providing a unique subplot. While February 2018 supplied Stacey with the long awaited dream of participating in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games, Forfar actually enjoyed a similar opportunity, gaining the chance to be part of one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
In association with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Samsung, a Worldwide Paralympic Partner held a contest allowing multiple bloggers a treasured privilege of recording video blogs at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. Having submitted a video entry, Forfar was awarded the privilege of covering the Games. Flying across the Pacific to South Korea merely days following her final appearance in the Ryerson Rams jersey.
Considering that Forfar’s major at Ryerson was sport media, this was an opportunity clearly in line with her ambitions, one that may serve as the springboard towards greater prospects. Certainly, the experience at the Paralympic Winter Games, including the opportunity to provide a video blog regarding the Opening Ceremonies represented a cherished privilege, allowing her to understand her own experiences as a highly competitive athlete, finding common ground with the admirable athletes whose sweat and sacrifice allowed them to compete in PyeongChang.
Coincidentally, the Games presented another unique linkage to the CWHL. Capturing a silver medal at the Games, Billy Bridges, the all-time leading scorer in the history of Canada’s ice sledge hockey team, is married to Sami Jo Small, a co-founder of the CWHL, and current General Manager of the Toronto Furies.
Before the CWHL Draft, Forfar would also gain the chance to enjoy her own Hockey Canada experience. Named to a group of USPORTS All-Stars, Forfar was invited to attend Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase in Calgary. Not only was Forfar the first-ever Ryerson player invited to the Summer Showcase, she was joined by fellow CWHL Draft Pick Kaitlin Willoughby. Having starred with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, where she reached the century club in career points, complemented by a silver medal obtained at the 2017 Winter Universiade, Willoughby was part of the Calgary Inferno’s draft class.
As Forfar anticipates the opportunity to grace CWHL ice, aligned with the Thunder in the ongoing Battle of Toronto, the friendship with Stacey constitutes only part of a unique subplot in Forfar’s inaugural season of professional hockey. Worth noting, Forfar becomes the third graduate from the Rams to call the Thunder her club team, contributing towards another unique facet of Markham’s unfolding history.
During the run to the 2018 Clarkson Cup championship, Rams alumnae Jessica Hartwick and Melissa Wronzberg were part of the championship roster. Both drafted by the Thunder in 2016, the same year that Stacey was drafted, they are also part of the Rams’ inaugural season of OUA hockey.
“Being able to add to the list of Ryerson alumni who have worn the Thunder jersey is another honour. It shows that this program is continuing to develop players to reach the highest levels of hockey, and will continue to pave the way for more Rams who want to continue to play after college. It’s also a bonus that my Ryerson teammates can be biased and cheer exclusively for the Thunder for at least one season!”
Having spent two seasons with the Rams, starring under the tutelage of head coach Lisa Haley, who was a member of Canada’s coaching staff at the 2014 Winter Games, Forfar’s time with the program represented a major step forward in its evolution. Coincidentally, Forfar’s time at Ryerson also allowed for another unique instance of reunion. Among her teammates was Danielle Im, whom Forfar had once called a teammate with the Jr. Aeros. Adding to the unique 2018 Olympic connection is the fact that Im skated for the Korean Unified Team in PyeongChang.
Forfar’s mark on the club was indelible, taking on a key leadership role from her first game onwards. Emphasized by her role as team captain in 2017-18, such a breakthrough season may have also been the most cherished in Forfar’s university career. Gaining OUA First-Team All-Star honors (Ryerson freshman Brooklyn Gemmill was also named to the OUA All-Rookie Team), Forfar paced the Rams with 23 points, setting the Rams new single-season record for most points in one season, surpassing the previous program mark of 20 points. Breaking the record on February 2, 2018 versus the Nipissing Lakers, it was part of a series of inspiring performances that established her as a finalist for Ryerson’s H. H. Kerr Female Athlete of the Year award.
Placing fourth in the OUA scoring race, Forfar’s finest statistical performance involved a four-point outburst, highlighted by a hat trick against the cross-town rival University of Toronto Lady Blues. In addition to being the first hat trick of her Rams career, Forfar was among only seven skaters in OUA regular season play to achieve a hat trick.
Bestowed the prestige of Ryerson’s Athlete of the Week on January 15, 2018, Forfar amassed six points while the Rams enjoyed back-to-back wins. A January 13 victory versus the nationally ranked Queen’s Golden Gaels resulted in Forfar notching a pair of assists. The following day, a brilliant four-point performance was essential in a convincing 5-2 defeat of the Waterloo Warriors.
Undeniably, Forfar’s competitive background was a key factor in propelling the Rams into the 2018 OUA Playoffs, the first postseason berth for the evolving program. In spite of the fact that the Rams did not advance past the opening round of the 2018 OUA McCaw Cup playoffs, it signified a major milestone, inspiring next year’s roster to build on such momentum. As a side note, Forfar’s final goal in the Rams jersey took place during the postseason, recording a goal in a February 21 OUA quarterfinal match against the Lakers.
Complementing such a meaningful season on the ice was a significant honor which represented an important and historic achievement for both Forfar and the program. From the outset, she was named the recipient of the USPORTS Marion Hilliard Award, which recognizes academic and community excellence. Other nominees for the honor included Beatrice Harrietha from Saint Mary’s, Nicole Howlett of the McGill Martlets, plus UBC Thunderbirds skater Mikayla Ogrodniczuk.
Becoming the first player in Rams women’s hockey history to win a major award, Forfar’s efforts in giving back were highlighted by a commendable participation in a humanitarian trip to Cambodia in 2017. Testament to Forfar’s inspiring leadership is the fact that she was also engaged in another humanitarian trip in 2018, marking the third consecutive year that a group of Ryerson student-athletes travelled overseas for benevolent purposes.
Serving as a student leader, she was integral in helping to organize an admirable effort that resulted in nine Ryerson student-athletes visiting the Savior Children Foundation School and Orphanage, in Kasoa, Ghana. Joining Forfar on this heartwarming journey was teammate Sydney Authier, while a handful of competitors from the varsity soccer and volleyball programs were also on-hand.
Adding to her haul of hockey hardware, Forfar was named a Second Team All-Canadian, another historic first in Rams women’s hockey lore. Also honored with the prestige of the G.L. Dobson Award for community service, along with recognition as a USPORTS Academic All-Canadian, Forfar’s legacy as one of the greats of Ryerson Rams athletics is secure.
Prepared to donate her time as a member of Haley’s coaching staff, proudly returning to Ryerson hockey, while balancing her commitments to the Thunder, it is indicative of the superlative team-first approach that Forfar has cultivated in her career, one that demonstrates her superlative qualities as a role model, inspiring leader and hockey humanitarian,
“My final season with Ryerson was one I will always cherish. Having the honour to represent our growing program by winning the first major USPORTS award, and also our first all-Canadian recognition is something I do not take lightly.
Coming home to Ryerson after graduating Dartmouth was the start of a new chapter, where I set a goal to grow as a student, an athlete, and most importantly as a member of the community. Ryerson allowed me the chance to put my leadership skills into full force, and I am forever indebted to their incredible programs on and off the ice.
This year, I am still doing my best to give back to our team and community, as a volunteer assistant coach with the women’s hockey team and also as the head of our student athlete humanitarian trip.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Ryerson Rams images by Alex D’Addese
USPORTS All-Star photo obtained from twitter: https://twitter.com/OUAsport
To view Forfar’s Paralympic Blogs, please visit:
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