Prior to attending the Canadian national women’s ice sledge hockey training camp in the Ottawa suburb of Stittsville, Ontario, Claire Buchanan was the recipient of a remarkable gesture on part of the Brampton Thunder. Hosted at Oscar’s Roadhouse, the event was a fundraiser to help fund Buchanan’s trip to the training camp.
Of note, this is not the first time that the worlds of ice sledge hockey and the CWHL have intersected. Sami Jo Small, a co-founder of the CWHL is married to Billy Bridges, the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Canadian men’s ice sledge hockey program. During the 2015 ice sledge hockey men’s world championships in Buffalo, New York, Small had the opportunity to speak to the women’s team, who were also in Buffalo to participate in a three-game exhibition with their American counterparts.
Coincidentally, the Canadian women’s team wore game-used Hockey Canada jerseys from the national women’s stand-up team, of which Small played with for close to a decade. For Buchanan, whose hometown is Brampton, the chance to wear the game-used jerseys at the exhibition in Buffalo showed the encouraging connection between the two forms of women’s hockey, “It shows the future of women’s ice sledge hockey.”
Led by Thunder General Manager Lori Dupuis, many members of the team attended, showing their support for Buchanan, who has also shown great proficiency in wheelchair basketball. Among them was team captain Jocelyne Larocque, who brought the gold medal that she won as a member of the Canadian contingent at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Having won a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games, Dupuis was very proud to take part in a great community event,
“One of our sponsors, "Oscars Roadhouse" in Brampton, was the organizer of the fundraiser and we were asked to take part and support the cause. Anything we can do to help and support our local community is always a great opportunity for us.
Meeting Claire was great. The National Team does not provide funding for training and travel; therefore it is a struggle for all the members with funding. Anything that we can do to help hopefully will help her get closer to her goal of making the National Sledge Hockey Team. Claire has become a supporter of the Brampton Thunder and we are happy to have her confirmed as one of our ceremonial face-off officials at our Home Opener on October 24th at Memorial Arena vs. the Toronto Furies.”While the event raised over $2,000 to help fund Buchanan’s trip to Canada’s training camp, many of the Thunder players came away from the event with an enriched sense of the impact of women’s hockey in the community. Buchanan’s presence raised awareness that women are not only playing ice sledge hockey, but there exists a promising national team that shall compete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Paralympic Games (as a demonstration sport).
“Their support was huge. Some of the players were not aware that the women’s game had come to the level of a national team. Some of the Winter Olympics athletes that had come out to the fundraiser and they were displaying their gold medals from Sochi. I also wanted to recognize the Brampton Beast.”
Of note, Brampton was also home to a historic moment in women’s ice sledge hockey history. The inaugural International Paralympic Committee Women’s Ice Sledge Hockey Worlds took place in Brampton in November 2014.
Although the United States defeated Canada for the gold medal, adding a new dimension to the hockey rivalry between the two hockey powers, Buchanan was part of that landmark moment. Taking into account that she had friends and family cheering her on, the event provided her with a lifetime of memories,
“Probably the biggest thing was having the support system in the stands. It was like having another player on the ice. It was great to see family cheering us.”
Considering how the CWHL players and management take great pride in their role as hockey humanitarians, especially in making hockey accessible to all, the fundraiser was an extension of their proud legacy in the community. As men’s ice sledge hockey once played a period of exhibition play during the 2007 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Winnipeg, perhaps one day, the women who ride the sled shall gain the chance to do so at a CWHL event. For Buchanan, the idea of the two sports coming together, as they did at her fundraiser is exciting,
“Absolutely. The fund raiser brought those two sports together. It would be great to do some sort of event together.”
For Buchanan and women’s ice sledge hockey, the support from Brampton does not stop there. As Buchanan was named to the final roster for the 2015-16 Canadian team, a key omission was veteran Eri Yamamoto MacDonald, who is returning to her native Japan.
Engaging in the noble effort to launch a national women’s ice sledge hockey team, she has worked with Keiko Kimura Middleton to launch the WISH Project. Part of the Project’s goal is to obtain gently used equipment for the hopeful team. Of note, the Brampton Thunder generated a significant amount of equipment, helping to make their admirable dream of assembling a Japanese team much more attainable.
In addition, Buchanan shall be dropping the puck at the Brampton Thunder’s home opener on October 24. Before battling their eternal rival, the Toronto Furies, the ceremonial puck drop is a great opportunity for Brampton sports fans to appreciate Buchanan’s hockey heroics.
As Buchanan and the Canadian national team shall be hosting their American rivals in a three-game exhibition series in Brampton from November 6-8, there is no question that the support of the Thunder has only served to inspire her. In reflecting on the fundraiser, Buchanan is proud to say that the remarkable women of the Thunder have motivated her to be a better athlete,
“Absolutely. To see the support here in Brampton, it pushes you that much more to so your city proud. I did not know that there were so many Olympic athletes from Brampton. Not only do they support women’s hockey, but they want to get involved in supporting women’s ice sledge hockey as much as possible.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Sources: Don Simmons
Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/bramptonthunder?fref=ts