09 July, 2018

Winter Games a Wondrous Milestone for Kristen Lipscombe (Part One)



Part of an empowering generation of women that have chronicled the growth of the female game, demonstrating how a positive impact can also take place off the ice, Kristen Lipscombe continues to add to a splendid body of work. Having enjoyed the opportunity to cover the female heroines of the game in multiple facets, the gregarious Lipscombe reached new heights in 2018, gaining the privilege of gracing the game’s biggest stage.

Serving as a media operations manager for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for women’s ice hockey at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, it was a prized opportunity for a dedicated and assiduous individual whose love of the game is unparalleled. Taking into account her participation in elite university hockey, along with devoted volunteer work, and a full-time career with Hockey Canada, Lipscombe’s impact on the game has spanned close to two dazzling decades.

“Being approached by the International Ice Hockey Federation with an offer to serve as media operations manager for women's hockey at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, was a very pleasant surprise and of course, a complete dream come true for me. 

I have volunteered and worked in women's hockey media relations for much of my life, including many years full-time for Hockey Canada and on contract with the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL). Yet, until PyeongChang 2018, I had not worked a full Olympic Winter Games schedule on site at the event itself, so travelling to South Korea was absolutely my opportunity of a lifetime.

It honestly felt like a long-time coming and well-deserved chance for me to showcase my abilities and skills acquired from a life of playing and working in the female game.”

During Lipscombe’s tenure at Hockey Canada, with its origins tracing back to the 2002 4 Nations Cup in Kitchener, Ontario, where she served as a promotions assistant, she has travelled the world over with all three of the program’s women’s teams. From the Under-18 program, to the Under-22/Development team, followed by its acclaimed senior squad, she watched history unfold as a generation of talent ascended towards peak performance.

Having enjoyed the privilege of covering so many remarkable events with this trinity of elite hockey teams, including a golden outcome at the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championships, one of four gold medal- winning national teams that she worked with, the one event that eluded her distinguished career involved the prestigious prospect of covering the Winter Games.

In spite of this, Lipscombe remained focused on a bigger picture, one that was shaping the game’s heritage. Maintaining a positive attitude and friendly demeanor, she not only served as a mentor for young players and aspiring journalists alike, transitioning them into a much larger yet compelling world, she also helped spearhead the growth of coverage for the budding CWHL. Highlighted by the Clarkson Cup Finals and its inaugural All-Star Game, she helped compose the rich narrative developing, her devotion to the game never wavered.

“This IIHF opportunity happened very naturally as a result of all of these special experiences I have had with Hockey Canada and the CWHL, along with my very specific women's hockey knowledge base, experience as a competitive high-level player, and background as both a sports and news journalist.

Interestingly, even my political science degree and experience covering politics as a reporter became useful in South Korea, as there was some very intense international media focus on the united Korean women's team.

So, although at first I was pleasantly surprised to be offered an IIHF media relations contract position at PyeongChang 2018, in the end, it actually made complete sense that I was the right fit for this particular job, given my very different and diverse resume. It really quite organically became my time to shine on the Olympic stage, in my capacity as a women's hockey communications expert and specialist.”

When Canada served as the host country for the 2010 Winter Games, contested in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lipscombe’s devotion and commitment to her hockey sisters shone brightly, testament to her strong sense of team spirit. Making the journey out of pocket from Calgary, home to Hockey Canada’s headquarters to Vancouver, there was a combined sense of national pride yet sadness at not being able to celebrate with the team.

“I served as media relations coordinator for Canada's National Women's Team leading up to both the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, travelling across the contenant and globe with Team Canada,” she said.

“However, I ended up paying my own way to Vancouver to be with the team in 2010 and had to stay behind due to limited credentials available at Sochi in 2014, and in both cases, it was very difficult to go from being what felt like a pivotal part of the team to watching my beloved teammates win from afar. So, being able to take part in PyeongChang 2018 in a similar but different capacity very much seemed like it was meant to be for me.” 

Having been at the pulse of the women’s game nationally for several years, Lipscombe’s role helped to positively transform the history that was taking place. Understandably, there was a visceral feeling, knowing that she was a spectator in Vancouver. But she employed an admirable maturity, as the golden glory resulted in Canada becoming the first host country to capture both men’s and women’s ice hockey gold on home ice, moments that soothed any desolate sentiments. Motivation and perseverance would propel her forward.

Making the journey across the Pacific for the 2018 edition of the Winter Games, it was one that saw Lipscombe tap into her hockey roots, reaching a fulfilling sense of coming full circle. Seated on a plane ready to depart from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, she could not have foreseen the arrival to come. Approaching Lipscombe was an individual whose presence in the game had taken on many roles. From player to hockey mom, sandwiching in roles as both broadcaster and philanthropist, the presence of two-time Olympic Winter Games gold medallist Cheryl Pounder would become a highly affable travel companion.

Worth noting, Pounder and Lipscombe both share a compelling common ground. Both competitors at the Canadian university level, proudly wearing the iconic jersey of the dynastic Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) Golden Hawks, Pounder gained a spot on the Ontario University Athletics All-Conference team, while Lipscombe earned status as a Canadian Interconference Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Athletics Academic All-Canadian All-Star.

Part of a phenomenal group of alumnae that have donned the iconic purple and gold jersey, kindred spirits that subscribe to a proud sense of family as Golden Hawks, such sparkling hockey legacies are certainly shared ones. Joined by the likes of Liz Knox, a former Brodrick Trophy winner, Ashley Stephenson and Kate Psota, who both played on Canada’s entry into women’s baseball at the 2015 PanAmerican Games, there is no shortage of phenomenal women that have skated for the program. In addition, two-sport star Cindy Eadie, ball hockey icon Giuliana Pallotta, and Devon Skeats, the first Canadian-born player to have won both the Clarkson and Isobel Cups, also skated at Wilfrid Laurier.

Although Pounder and Lipscombe were never teammates, the paths of their hockey odysseys intersected at the CWHL level. The 2013 Clarkson Cup resulted in Lipscombe serving in an editorial and media relations capacity, her first Finals for the league, while Pounder took on double duty. From the outset, she was the Master of Ceremonies for the 2013 CWHL Awards, followed by a role on the television broadcast team for the Clarkson Cup finals with Rod Black on TSN.



That sense of family and shared background saw them both experience a profound feeling of harmony and rapport in Korea. Reflecting on the chance to start her Winter Games journey alongside one of the modern game’s pioneers, it helped to establish things on a pleasant and enjoyable tone for her, ecstatic at this newest chapter in her sporting endeavors,

“Yes, I had quite the start to my South Korean adventure! There I am getting settled into my uncomfortable middle seat on my flight out of Toronto, when I see fellow Wilfrid Laurier University alumna Cheryl Pounder walking down the airplane aisle toward me. ‘I'm sitting next to you!!’ she said with a big smile.”

Although we missed playing with each other on the Golden Hawks by just one season, we got to know each other quite well over my years at Hockey Canada and the CWHL, as after retiring as a National Women's Team player, she started working as a women's hockey colour commentator for various Canadian broadcasters.

She worked with CBC on its Olympic coverage in South Korea and did an excellent job, as usual. Sitting next to and catching up with Cheryl on that overseas flight made the journey much more enjoyable (although perhaps not much more comfortable).

Cheryl's fellow Canadian sportscaster Kate Beirness was also on our flight, so there was plenty of good company to keep us busy on the long trek. The two of them were planning to meet up with Team Canada alumna and CBC superstar Cassie Campbell at the airport, and as it turned out we were all staying at the same hotel, so I just stuck with the women's hockey media crew when we landed.”

Upon landing in Korea, Pounder would be joined by another hockey luminary. Revered as the first woman to captain teams to back-to-back gold medals in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games, Cassie Campbell-Pascall personifies the meaning of living legend. Of note, these two icons of female sporting Canadiana would also provide Lipscombe with an essential source of camaraderie and encouragement, especially after discovering that she arrived in South Korea before her luggage.  

“Visiting a new country is always a bit nerve-wracking, and it had been awhile since I had travelled to Asia, so it was helpful and comforting to kick off the trip with friends and colleagues.

They also kept me calm when I realized that my luggage had not made it onto the flight, which meant I would be without my business clothes and other essentials for at least a couple of days. And yes, we were starving for real food when we landed, so we enjoyed some traditional Korean delicacies like barbecue and kimchi (chili pickled cabbage), before we even left the airport to head into PyeongChang.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Images obtained from Facebook

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