Following a thrilling Clarkson Cup victory, the hockey calendar found one more notable on-ice event for the triumphant Markham Thunder. Participating in the third annual Tealpower Charity Game, a collaborative concept by local entrepreneur Steve Conforti and Thunder alum Rebecca Vint, it emphasized their strong standing as hockey humanitarians.
Having always been held in Bolton, Ontario, the 2018 edition served as the conclusion to a fascinating hockey trilogy of fundraisers. Raising $20,000 over the course of three fundraising games, along with the increase of awareness for cervical cancer and the remarkable hockey humanitarians that have worn the Thunder jersey, such an experience was a labor of love for Conforti, a local entrepreneur who also skated with the opposing Sunday Night Hockey League (SNHL) All-Stars.
Considering that the Thunder have always graciously given their time to participate in this positive experience for community and charity alike, this year’s edition definitely had a greater gleam to it. As the Thunder captured their first-ever Clarkson Cup championship in franchise history, besting the expansion Kunlun Red Star in a pulse-pounding overtime, their presence this year added an exceptional prestige.
Revelling in the jubilation of this sensational achievement, the involvement of the Thunder was a point of pride for Conforti. Discussing how the accessibility and friendliness of the players resulted in more than just an exciting fundraising opportunity, but an exciting fan experience for the young supporters in attendance, the Thunder also brought the coveted Clarkson Cup to Bolton. As eager fans and hockey aficionados posed with both players and trophy, there was an added bonus. Overtime hero Laura Stacey had also skated for Canada’s contingent at the 2018 Winter Games. Enjoying the thrill of a podium finish, Stacey brought along her medal, resulting in both admiration and amazement.
“For sure, having the Clarkson Cup champs participating added to the excitement of the fundraiser. Especially for me. I had the pleasure of working with Chelsea Purcell as she rebranded the team this year, we were their print sponsor. So for them to win was really exciting, but then they also brought the Cup with them to our event for photos and autographs with the kids. (Plus) Laura Stacey made an appearance with her Silver medal, and that was pretty cool too.”
As the Thunder’s usual goaltenders abandoned their familiar place in the crease, the contest resulted in a much more different complexion. In spite of the fact that there was a very understandable element of nervousness for the opposing team, facing off against a CWHL squad that embodied the pinnacle of success, the outcome was unexpected. With the Thunder featuring a handful of guest players providing a commendable appearance, plus a possible element of fatigue from a long season for some players, the emphasis was on fun and fair play, as the final score was not as relevant as the greater goal of raising money for charity,
“The final score was SNHL All-Stars 8 - Thunder 3. I think the guys came into the game a little more worried this year, as they were playing the recently crowned Clarkson Cup champions. They got out to a lead and did not let up.”
Reflecting on the origins of the event, Conforti acknowledges Vint’s tireless efforts. Although Vint spent the last season lacing up her skates for the Buffalo Beauts, also earning a spot in the 2018 NWHL All-Star Game, her admiration of the cause, and respect for the loyalty of the Thunder, resulted in her inspiring presence. Grateful for her devotion, a sense of teamwork definitely emanates,
“The past two years, Becca was my employee at We Are Creative. Sports Marketing All-Stars is our sports division of the company. This year, she was volunteering her own time to help out with the game. I definitely would not have been able to do it without her. She just came in, knew the areas she could help best, and got it done.
It shows the kind of character she has a person. Her dedication to the charity, to our community, to women's hockey, and to me too. That's what makes her a great teammate -- on and off the ice.”
Certainly, Vint’s career is one that holds a compelling fascination to it. Having rewritten the scoring records with the NCAA’s Robert Morris Colonials, her return north of the border to her home province of Ontario resulted in the closing of a compelling chapter in Canadian women’s ice hockey history. Bringing her smooth scoring touch to the Thunder, currently the longest running women’s club team, she was part of their final season in Brampton, a denouement that ran parallel to the 50th anniversary of the Brampton Canadette-Thunder organization.
“Being a part of Tealpower for the last 3 years has been more than wonderful. In the last 3 years we have made a combined total of $20,000! The most enjoyable part of it all is how close our community is, and the amounts of support we have received.
From all players involved to the entire community, we could not have asked for a better group throughout the three years to continuously help bring (the) Faceoff to Fight Cervical Cancer game together.”
While Tealpower’s legacy emphasizes sportsmanship, goodwill and compassion, all in the name of a great cause, the event has also reimagined the role of the players. Once again, the 2018 edition was a concoction of talented individuals, an exciting dream team that helped the final chapter in Tealpower take on an exciting luster.
Serving as a portal, where the perception of anomaly becomes congruent, the most notable example involves Thunder general manager Chelsea Purcell. With a CWHL career that included serving as the first captain in Team Alberta history, Purcell successfully transitioned to the Thunder’s front office. Donning the team’s colors for the second Tealpower fundraiser, adorned in their silver and black jersey, with the number 44 gracing the back of said jersey, she is not the only member of this unique sorority of sensational women that skated with the Thunder for a dazzling day.
Candice Moxley, a former player who served on the Thunder’s coaching staff during this memorable championship season laced up the skates one more time. Donning the green and white jersey, it marked a proud milestone for the alum. Having skated in the CWHL for the now defunct Vaughan Flames (along with a memorable stint as Buffalo State head coach), she became an honorary Markham player for one day.
In the 2018 edition, there was no shortage of unique subplots, as players extended the theme of taking on different roles. From the outset, Liz Knox, the longstanding goaltender of the Thunder franchise, and the last player from the 2012 Clarkson Cup finals roster still active in league play, abandoned her familiar role between the pipes.
Serving as a member of the blueline corps, this transformation did not represent a first in Knox’s hockey journey. Internationally, she suited up for Team Italia at the 2015 ISBHF Women’s Worlds in Zug, Switzerland, serving in a defensive role.
Worth noting, Knox was not the only player with ball hockey ties on-hand at Tealpower. Competing with Canada’s contingent in a bronze medal effort at the 2017 edition of the ISBHF Women’s Worlds, Giulianna Pallotta also holds another unique connection with Knox. Having both played for the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks, although not as teammates, school pride represented a unique opportunity to call each other teammates for the first time, each sharing in a special milestone.
In addition, Tealpower brought with it a strong theme of reunification. Bringing together the feeling of team spirit, Vint and Jess Jones, both high scoring forwards whose time with Brampton also included CWHL All-Star status, graced the ice with former teammates. Undoubtedly, it was a special occasion for Vint and Jones, marking the first time (although somewhat unofficial) that skaters donned the jerseys of an NWHL and CWHL team in the same season.
This unique brush with history was only eclipsed by the unbreakable bonds of rapport that come with being teammates. Certainly, the chance for Vint to extend the season with a celebrated teammate that has shared in her professional journey, from Brampton to the CWHL All-Star Game at Air Canada Centre, to Buffalo and Tealpower in Bolton, was an occurrence clearly defined by fun,
“Always! It’s always fun to extend the season with current teammates, and past teammates. It was a great night and we all had a blast.”
Having both played during the Thunder’s final season in Brampton, it also marked Jones’ and Vint’s last games for the franchise, making the transition to Buffalo with Sarah Edney in the off-season. As a side note, this titanic trio also appeared in the 2018 Isobel Cup championship finals. For Jones, who graciously recognized Vint’s efforts, personifying the essence of teamwork, the collaboration proved to be an enjoyable one,
“I love participating in the Teal Fundraiser because it is for a really good cause. Its always a great time to play in. The guys are awesome and playing with the Thunder is always something to look forward to. I love helping out with the Teal fundraiser because I see first hand the hard work Becca and some of the volunteers put into it. Becca puts in a lot of time and effort for this event so I try to do anything I can to help her out. I am just happy she asked me to play!”
Considering that Brampton’s colors were scarlet and black when Vint and Jones skated for them, Tealpower signified the first game that this distinguished duo of Thunder alumnae were donned in the current colors of Green and White, mirroring Moxley’s experience.
Of note, green was not a color unfamiliar to Vint. With the Toronto Shamrocks, whose jersey was also green and white, she was part of a remarkable roster that captured the 2015 CBHA Nationals. Also featuring future Clarkson Cup champions Jamie Lee Rattray and Kristen Richards, the chance to wear the green once again served as the perfect ending to the legacy of Tealpower.
As friendship and belonging were prevalent, setting a positive example as to what women in hockey can achieve in partnership, regardless of their allegiances, the chance to share the ice with familiar faces represented a fun experience for all involved. Reflecting on the milestone of surpassing $20,000 in the final edition to the spectacular series of fundraisers for cervical cancer, Tealpower has not only resulted in an amazing chapter in Vint’s sporting odyssey. From making new friends to cultivating community pride, while the long term brings the promise of potentially saving lives, the 2018 fundraiser supplied Vint with cherished memories that shall be treasured, simultaneously affirming the positive effects of this tremendous initiative.
“It was a blast, I had a ton of fun. I met a couple new faces to Thunder and got to see some that I have not seen all year. It was awesome, and I can never truly thank the Thunder enough for always helping out for this great cause. Without them we would not have the success we created.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Teri DiLauro
Rebecca Vint image by Michael Hetzel
Jess Jones image by BDZ Sports
Steve Conforti image obtained on Twitter
To learn more or make a donation, please visit: http://wearecreative.ca/new/faceoff/