With Toronto’s Air Canada Centre serving as the host venue for the third CWHL All-Star Game, it provided many first-time participants with both, a proud career and personal milestone. The chance to skate on NHL ice not only brought a gratifying feeling of major league importance and relevance for the sensational skaters of the CWHL, such euphoria was enhanced by the chance to compete in front of a national TV audience.
Among the rookie sensations named to the 2017 edition of the All-Star Game, it was a privilege that brought Laura Stacey’s career, along with her family’s outstanding hockey heritage, full circle. In a season that has seen her compete with Canada’s senior team at the 2016 Four Nations Cup, giving her the unique accomplishment of having competed on all three levels of Hockey Canada’s women’s program, there was a unique sense of family.
Taking into account that this season represents the treasured tenth anniversary of the CWHL, along with the centennial celebrations of the Toronto Maple Leafs, plus the half-centennial of the first NHL expansion, each had a profound chapter in the hockey history of Laura Stacey’s family.
Starting the 2016-17 season saw Stacey’s great-grandfather, Hockey Hall of Famer King Clancy, among the Leafs legends to have his jersey number retired by the club on opening night, an appropriate start to their centennial celebrations. With Stacey unable to attend the event due to her hockey obligations, it was most fitting that she had the chance to compete at Air Canada Centre during such a notable season.
“Playing in the All-Star game at the Air Canada Centre this past weekend was a huge honour especially being able to share it with my family and the heritage that my great grandfather and great uncle created while playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They both have always been huge role models for me, and having the opportunity to follow in their footsteps was truly an unbelievable experience.”
Gracing the ice with the celebrated banner of her legendary great grandfather overhead, the feeling of history and heritage were prominent for a jubilant Stacey.
Her great uncle, Terry Clancy, who would spend one season with the Maple Leafs during the 1970s, was a part of NHL history, as he skated for the Oakland Seals during their inaugural season, which also signified the first NHL expansion back in 1967. As a side note, Terry Clancy also shares a proud Hockey Canada connection with Stacey, as he skated for Father David Bauer on the Canadian contingent at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Games.
One of eight Thunder players named to the CWHL All-Star Game, Stacey was joined on Team White by Jess Jones, who would score a historic hat trick in the game, Laura Fortino, the CWHL’s leading scorer among blueliners, and Rebecca Vint. As a side note, each Thunder player that donned the Team White jersey logged at least one point on Air Canada Centre ice.
The opposing Team Blue also consisted of four Thunder members. Goaltender Erica Howe, who was the winning goalie in the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game was joined by former PWHL and collegiate teammate Jamie Lee Rattray. Team captain Jocelyne Larocque and fellow blueliner Courtney Birchard rounded out the Thunder’s presence on Team Blue.
Despite the competition of the game, the most important elements of the game consisted of a celebration of the game and mutual respect. With more than 8,000 fans at Air Canada Centre, a CWHL attendance record, it represented the real victory on this magical day.
“The All- Star game was a ton of fun and being able to play with and against some of my teammates from the Brampton Thunder made it that much better. Although at times the game got relatively heated I think we were all able to have fun playing the game we love while enjoying it with our best friends regardless of what team we were on.”
Along with Thunder teammate Rebecca Vint, both skated on a line with Marie-Philip Poulin, who was the first pick overall in the CWHL All-Star Frozen Fantasy Draft in both 2016 and 2017. Finishing the season with a share of the Angela James Bowl (which also saw Brampton’s Jess Jones tie for the scoring lead), Poulin registered four points at the 2017 CWHL All-Star Game.
Stacey and Vint would earn their first All-Star points on the same play, credited with the assists on Marie-Philip Poulin’s third period goal. The milestone points for both first-time All-Stars was made even more specila by the fact that Poulin’s goal stood as the game-winning tally in a 9-5 final for Team White.
“It is always an honour to play with Marie-Philip Poulin as she is truly the best player in the World and makes everyone around her better. I had a blast being her line mate this past weekend and just tried to get her the puck whenever I could.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Jess Bazal