As women’s hockey takes on a new and exciting dimension, the province of Ontario once again plays a significant role in its history. Just like the province (in the city of Ottawa) hosted the inaugural IIHF Women’s Worlds in 1990, the province (in the city of Brampton) welcomed the world for another historic and exciting women’s hockey event.
The inaugural IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Women’s World Cup championships took place in Brampton, Ontario in November 2014. Hosting teams from Canada, the United States and Europe, each team played each other twice in the round robin. The end result was heralding the arrival of a sport earning its long overdue world class recognition.
While the event began and ended with Canada and the United States facing off against each other, the feelings of jubilation and triumph were extended, towards all participants. Although rivalries in the able-bodied version of women’s hockey can be extremely visceral, sometimes bordering on the personal, women’s ice sledge hockey is defined by a mutual respect and a collective perseverance towards raising awareness in the efforts of positive growth.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the event was defined by the ages of the competitors. From teenaged players, that shall provide a solid foundation for the sport’s future, to mature competitors over the age of 50, the long preconceived notion of age (especially past middle age) and its role in sports is being eradicated and redefined.
Gracing the ice at 62 years young, Karen Smith was an emotional leader for the United States in its run to the gold medal. Guarding the crease for the undefeated squad, she reflected on the feelings of jubilation,
“We started out strong. We played Canada in the first game, a great way to open it up. There was a lot of back and forth. Our team was on fire. We had a great coach. She brought us into that point. Game after game, we fought for it.”
Of note, Kelsey DiClaudio would log a tournament-best 16 goals and 23 points for the United States. Erica Mitchell ranked second on the US with seven goals, while Canada’s Ashley Goure led all Canadian with eleven goals. As a side note, Europe’s Annika Santanen led all Euorpean skaters with three tallies.
“The gold medal game could not have been better. It is a big rivalry between Canada and the United States, and they (Canada) had a strong fan base the whole week.
By the gold medal game, we had also developed a strong fan base. Another tournament had been going on in the arena and a lot of American players were participating. They had heard about us and came to support us,” remarked Smith.
Such support certainly evoked a strong sense of elation. The hard work displayed on the ice is matched by the tireless efforts of players and volunteers alike off the ice. Of note, fund raising is the lifeblood of the sport. It is a common thread that all teams competing at the event share, regardless of the players’ ages, backgrounds and nationalities.
It only made the chance to participate at an IPC sanctioned event so much more rewarding. The result was the experiences and dreams of these empowering women weaving a winning tapestry during an historic week in Brampton.
That atmosphere of admiration helped set the foundation upon which an even greater moment arrived. The IPC announced the women’s ice sledge hockey would become a demonstration sport at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Once these courageous women grace the ice at Pyeongchang, it shall run parallel to another unique women’s hockey milestone. As 1998 marked the first time that women’s ice hockey was contested at the Winter Games (coincidentally, those games were also held in Asia), its 20th Anniversary shall complement the beginning of another new and exciting chapter for the women of hockey.