With eight IIHF World Championships and three Winter Games medals, highlighted by gold in 2018, Kacey Bellamy, a highly likeable and articulate individual with an engaging personality, is already in the exalted status of the greatest among her generation. Burnishing this sterling standing was an opportunity to be part of a ground breaking and highly historic event at the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis.
Following the appearance of US teammates Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne, plus Canadian skaters Renata Fast and Rebecca Johnston at the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition in San Jose, which became a pop culture phenomenon, raising awareness about the women’s game while turning numerous stars into household names, a return in 2020 took on a much grander setting.
Featuring 10-player rosters consisting of American and Canadian PWHPA stars, there was no sense of rivalry on this day. Rather, it was an atmosphere of celebration as Bellamy was among the stars enjoying the prestige of participating in the first-ever NHL Elite Women’s 3-on-3 showcase.
“If we can help little girls feel confident and believe in the things that we are doing, it’s a game changer.” Thank you @Kompany39 for letting us tell our story and help better the next generation. #femaleathletes #womenshockey #teamusa #empowergirls #womenwholead pic.twitter.com/qt9W5tuIxU
— Kacey Bellamy (@kbells22) January 28, 2020
Considering that Bellamy has spent over a decade in the USA jersey, along with championship-filled stints in both the CWHL and the NWHL, the native of Westfield, Massachusetts, has been at the pulse of the greatest moments in women’s ice hockey over the last decade. With so many wonderful experiences and highlights that constitute one of the most prolific careers over the last decade, St. Louis offered Bellamy an opportunity to experience a new milestone.
Undeniably, the Major League feeling of acceptance and equality were two defining themes in St. Louis, and such sentiment made a profound impression on Bellamy. Simultaneously rekindling fond memories while creating new ones, the sense of being regarded as equals was certainly in abundance, participating in an atmosphere fertile for creating new mythologies. It also took an engaging persona for Bellamy, as she was the recipient of two NHL jerseys, certainly enhancing the sense of recognition and appreciation.
As the 2018-19 season saw Bellamy, along with Decker and Rigsby following their gold medal from the 2018 Winter Games, bringing their superlative abilities to Calgary, one of the premier hockey cities in Western Canada, their collaborative effort not only resulted in an appearance at the 2019 CWHL All-Star Game, taking place on NHL ice at Toronto’s Scotiabank Centre, it marked one of the greatest acquisitions in league history, simultaneously enhancing a unique chapter of American-born stars competing in Canadian markets.
With their only season in Calgary reaching a glorious climax as the Inferno defeated Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the Clarkson Cup Finals, the last game in CWHL history, there was a feeling of connection to a unique facet of the NHL’s past. Taking into account that 30 years earlier, the NHL’s Calgary Flames defeated Montreal to capture the 1989 Stanley Cup, the sense of history repeating itself added an exciting chapter to Calgary’s growing legacy for elite female sport.
Joined by fellow Inferno teammates, and 3-on-3 participants for Canada, Rebecca Johnston and Blayre Turnbull, this tremendous group met Calgary Flames All-Stars David Rittich, Mark Giordano and Matthew Tkachuk. Honored for their contribution to Calgary’s sporting history with customized Flames jerseys, each featuring the Elite women’s names and the numbers they traditionally wear with their respective national teams. Such a gesture made a profound impression on Bellamy, proud to enjoy the euphoria of such a heart-warming moment with her fellow Inferno alums.
A few of our Inferno sisters are taking part in the Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game at the #NHLAllStar Skills Competition so we brought them a little gift!
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 25, 2020
“It was a very cool experience being able to share that moment with the whole Calgary family. The Flames have always made it a priority to include and support the Inferno in various ways. It was a moment I’ll never forget because it was extremely kind and generous for them to go out of their way and make us feel special during the weekend of events.”
Leading up to the 3-on-3 event, jerseys were another theme. It would have been understandable for fans to expect the participants to grace the ice in their traditional Team USA and Hockey Canada paraphernalia, jerseys that have already affirmed their status among the game’s elites. Instead, all the phenomenal female stars were draped in sharp jerseys, adorned by the highly iconic NHL logo. With the American roster wearing charcoal gray jerseys, while white was the color for the Canadian contingent, such accoutrement was critical towards cementing the credibility of such a watershed moment in both NHL and women’s ice hockey history,
“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, this is the start of something big!’ Wearing that logo was special, and as I do before every game, I took a few seconds to take look at the crest and take in the moment. I think speaking for all the women it felt historic and monumental to wear that jersey for the first time.”
With the US team coached by Cammi Granato, while the Canadian contingent featured former CWHL commissioner Jayna Hefford as bench boss, it actually brought their own NHL All-Star experience full circle. When Toronto served as host city for the 2000 NHL All-Star Game, its first since 1968, a game notable by the fact that it marked Bobby Orr’s All-Star debut, the 2000 edition hosted a women’s ice hockey game for the first time.
As Toronto’s All-Star Weekend saw Saturday host an Alumni Game and the All-Star Skills competition, while the Sunday was the All-Star Game itself, in which Team World’s Pavel Bure emerged as the Game’s Most Valuable Player, Friday night belonged to the wondrous women of the American and Canadian national teams.
Taking to the ice at the Air Canada Centre, with over 14,000 fans in attendance, the match, publicized as the TSN Challenge, broadcast nationally on The Sports Network (TSN), featured a new chapter in the eternal rivalry between Canada and the US. With over 14,000 fans in attendance, the NHL All-Star logo adorning the face off circle, Granato and Hefford, both future inductees in the Hockey Hall of Fame, were among the participants. As a side note, other future Hall of Famers in the TSN Challenge included Geraldine Heaney and Danielle Goyette, signifying the first time that women’s ice hockey was part of an NHL event.
Worth noting, akin to Bellamy during the 2018-19 CWHL season, in which she was joined on the Calgary Inferno roster by fellow Team USA stars Brianna Decker and Alex Rigsby, Granato has also played professionally in Canada. Having competed for the Vancouver Griffins franchise during the 2002-03 NWHL season, which was also the first Pacific based team in the league. Reincarnated as the British Columbia Breakers, Granato would play alongside former Canadian rival on the club, both skating during the 2004-05 Western Women’s Hockey League season.
— Kacey Bellamy (@kbells22) January 28, 2020
Granato’s impact on women’s ice hockey in the United States is akin to Babe Ruth during baseball in the early 20th Century, a place that deserves greater recognition as one of the true cultural icons of American sport. Poised to join the NHL’s expansion club in Seattle as the first female pro scout in the league’s history, Granato is the incarnation of the game’s revival in the 1990s, taking on the dimension of a mythological figure. Certainly, her continued presence is one of influence that has extended far past her playing career, one that aa player of Bellamy’s stature can find inspiration,
“One of the highlights of my life! She is it, she is a legend, an icon. She’s been our role model since we first put on skates. How she carries herself in everything she does is something I try to emulate. It’s been special being able to interact with her and get to know her on a more personal level. She is why many of us are playing this sport.”
Just as important in St. Louis was the feeling of a shared milestone, which extended beyond the peerless presence of the players. The feeling of history was accentuated by the service of an all-female officiating crew. Both forever intertwined in NHL lore, the growing number of female officials signifies a new chapter in the expanding history of women’s ice hockey.
Considering that in March 2019, the NCAA Frozen Four women’s ice hockey championships in Hamden, Connecticut, featured all female officials for the first time ever, consisting of Kelly Cooke, Katie Guay, Delaney Harrop and Amanda Tassoni. Setting a highly important precedent, a defining moment which raised awareness that the role of women in hockey has also adopted multiple facets, the wave of momentum from the Frozen Four saw Cooke and Guay attended the NHL Officiating Exposure Camp in Buffalo, New York, in the succeeding summer.
With Kendall Hanley and Kirsten Welsh joining Cooke and Guay at said Camp, their NHL dream became a shared one. From working at NHL rookie tournaments in September, it was only fitting that their empowering paths would cross once again in St. Louis. For Cooke, a graduate of Princeton University, the opportunity saw dynasty and destiny collide.
Calling Bellamy a teammate in two different leagues, first with the CWHL’s Boston Blades during the 2014-15 season, culminating in a Clarkson Cup victory, followed by winning the Isobel Cup in 2016 as teammates in the resuscitated NWHL for the Boston Pride, they would become part of a special sorority of players to have won back-to-back championships in different leagues.
While Cooke’s focus involved pursuing her legal studies, while delving into officiating on a full-time basis, having also worked at IIHF events, the fact that she was back on the ice with Bellamy in St. Louis marked a fascinating evolution in her hockey odyssey. Finding tremendous pride in the achievements of her former teammate since her final season of professional hockey, Bellamy is also pleased at the fact that the prominence of women in hockey also involves officiating, a key element in continuing to grow the game and demonstrate how women can remain involved in the game after competition,
“Yes I am extremely proud of Kelly for everything she has accomplished! She deserves it because of how hard she works and how great of a person she is. Women’s hockey isn’t only growing but so is the women’s referee world. I will always treasure the time I was able to put on the same jersey as Kelly, now I am able to treasure sharing the ice with her in any opportunity! As long as she doesn’t call penalties on me…”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Featured image by Jeff Roberson: Associated Press