Returning to the CWHL after an absence of two seasons, Brooke Beazer combines solid leadership and a fundamentally sound game, qualities that shall be crucial in order to keep the Toronto Furies in the playoff conversation. Among the unique stories that have comprised a fascinating season for the league, Beazer’s comeback certainly deserves consideration as one of the most heartwarming.
An inaugural member of the Furies, Beazer’s place in franchise lore also involves having her name etched on the iconic Clarkson Cup. With a Furies roster that features many new faces this season, it is essential to their complexion to have a championship player like Beazer that can set the positive example.
During her first run of CWHL hockey, Beazer also donned the black and red colors of the Brampton Thunder for three seasons, seeing both sides in the Battle of Toronto. Having first graced the ice for the Thunder starting in the 2008-09 season, her inaugural season would culminate with a spot on the league’s All-Rookie Team.
Statistically, Beazer’s finest season took place in 2009-10, as she ranked among the top 15 scorers in league play, amassing a solid 24 points. Having appeared with the Thunder in the 2010 edition of the Clarkson Cup Finals, she was not only a key contributor, her three seasons overall were definitely part of the franchise’s halcyon days.
Prior to returning to the Furies for this season, Beazer joined the coaching ranks, serving on Matt Holmberg’s staff with the Queen’s Golden Gaels. Based in her hometown of Kingston, the two years spent there (2015-17) certainly brought her career full circle. With a roster that featured star players such as Addi Halladay, Katrina Manoukarakis, Stephanie Pascal and Jessica Wakefield, the club qualified for the OUA Playoffs in both of Beazer’s years.
Making such a memorable time even more cherished was the fact that the Golden Gaels served as the host for the 2017 USPORTS Nationals. The chance for Beazer and the rest of the Golden Gaels to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the nation’s giants also allowed her to connect with her CWHL roots. Of note, Julie Chu and Karell Emard of the Montreal franchise served as coaches with the Concordia Stingers, who were one of two teams from the RSEQ Conference that appeared at Nationals.
Just as important during Beazer’s coaching stint in Kingston was the time to admirably give back to the community. In collaboration with the Greater Kingston Girls Hockey Association (GKGHA), Beazer was one of three female coaches providing instruction to aspiring players in the Ice Wolves FUNdamentals program.
Joining Beazer were another pair of local legends including Morgan McHaffie, one of Beazer’s colleagues on the Golden Gaels coaching staff (and a former player for theprogram), along with Elizabeth Kench. Akin to McHaffie, Kench is also a former competitor with the Golden Gaels, and has a hockey resume that includes time spent as a PWHL coach along with officiating in the OWHA.
Reflecting on the experience as a coach at Queen's, it allowed Beazer a different perspective on the game. Providing a unique element that has made her a stronger player with the Furies, she is confident that it has made her overall game better. Through it all, she is grateful for the opportunity to have been part of two memorable seasons with the program, sharing her acumen for the game with a group of talented competitors,
"I think coaching in general makes anyone’s game better. Gives you a thought process to the entire product on the ice. I think coaching with Matt and Morgan was great. They both have different input and it is nice to learn from other people’s ways of thinking.
Coaching with the Golden Gaels was great. They had an amazing group players and was always fun to be behind the bench watching them battle it out."
Motivated to return to active play, it was evident that Beazer still yearned for the thrill of competition. Observing the enthusiasm of the Golden Gaels players, and the overall love of the game that was evident throughout the OUA, it sparked an interest to lace up the skates again. At the prompting of one of the Furies co-founders, and one of the game’s luminaries, it was the catalyst that propelled Beazer to make the empowering comeback to a team that she called home over the course of four seasons,
“Coaching Queen’s over the past two years really had me wanting to play again especially by the second year away from playing. But by far the reason I came back was Sami (Jo Small) asking me to play again. I never actually thought about coming back to the CWHL until she put the thought into my head. So this one is on her.”
Since her comeback this season, Beazer had the chance to contribute towards a historic moment for Small. Taking on the Vanke Rays in a two-game series that signified their regular season debut, Small was the winning goaltender in the second game. Contested on October 29, the 3-2 win allowed Small to become the oldest goaltender in league history to be victorious in a regular season game.
Of note, Beazer’s first game back in the CWHL represented another exciting new chapter, one that also tapped into her earliest roots in the league. Competing on home ice in an October 14 contest, rekindling the fond memories of helping shape the Furies formative years, there was a flood of emotion for a proud Beazer. From the outset, the Furies were hosting their eternal rivals, the Thunder. Having relocated from their only home in Brampton to the York Region municipality of Markham, complemented by a new green color scheme, this new chapter in the Battle of Toronto held significant emotion for Beazer.
“Well, after being away from playing a full 60 min game in two years... you could say there was a little bit of getting back into on ice shape. Yet, overall it is not going to bad. I am able to practice with Toronto and back home in Kingston, I am able to jump on the ice with the Jr team and a midget AAA team so that also helps.”
Worth noting, Beazer’s return to the Furies also involves a unique element in six degrees of hockey separation. When the Furies captured the Clarkson Cup in 2014, Britni Smith, who scored the Cup clinching goal, would join the coaching staff of the Clarkson Golden Knights. Coincidentally, two stars that Smith coached at Clarkson, Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast, were part of the Furies Draft Class in 2016.
Having graduated from Clarkson back in 2008 with 75 career points, Beazer adds to a growing list of star players from Clarkson that have gravitated to the CWHL. In addition to the aforementioned, Erica Howe and Jamie Lee Rattray are Clarkson alums with the Markham Thunder, while recent graduate Cayley Mercer was the first-ever draft pick in the history of the Vanke Rays, one of two expansion teams from China.
Taking into account the fact that the presence of the Chinese clubs, plus player compensation has resulted in a much different league than the one Beazer first played in, it represents an exciting growth that she is proud to be involved. With Beazer’s return helping to bridge generations, she is poised to become an ambassador for the game, adding to an already strong list of achievements,
“I think anyone is the league would agree this is an exciting time to be part of this league. I started playing in this league in 2008 and every year the league has made progressions. Adding teams like Boston and Calgary, and now China, it is amazing to see how the league is continuing to grow.
Adding compensation is great. I mean for me personally. It is letting me afford to actually play again. It’s going to allow a lot of players to be able to focus that much more on their game as well.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Chris Tanouye, Brandon Taylor, Michael Hermer