In the aftermath of an historic Isobel Cup championship, becoming the first Canadian team to savour the victory, the theme of celebration expanded for the wondrous women of the Toronto Six. From an audience with Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, to Lindsay Eastwood, who scored the first goal in franchise history, hoisting the Cup at a Maple Leafs home game, the sense of civic pride extended to another memorable day.
Blanketed under a sunshine filled sky, garbed in their home jerseys, members of the Toronto Six enjoyed the privilege of gracing the field at Rogers Centre, home of the Blue Jays, on April 16. With the Isobel Cup also taking a cherished place on the playing surface, a display of achievement worthy of a major league audience, smiles evident all around such proud faces, a joyous occasion raised the relevance of the franchise.
For Eastwood, a talented blueliner holding a revered place in the franchise’s “Group of Seven”, charter members part of this year’s championship team, the Cup celebration accentuated a long standing familial connection in the city’s sporting conversation. The niece of Mike Eastwood, his 13 year NHL career involving playing for the Maple Leafs from 1992 to 1995.
Eastwood’s own legacy took a place of prominence when she scored on Minnesota Whitecaps goaltender Amanda Leveille on January 24, 2021, an historic franchise first scored on the power play. Coincidentally, the Whitecaps played another role in franchise history, providing the opposition in the Cup Finals. Reflecting on a whirlwind of exciting events, it marks a strong point of pride for the jubilant Eastwood.
“Pretty special being honoured by some of Canada’s most prominent sports teams. You know what they say, real recognizes real (laughs), but in all seriousness, it has been a very exciting last couple of weeks celebrating our championship and much appreciation for the support of the Leafs and Jays.”
Belonging to the franchise’s “Group of Seven”, charter members part of this year’s championship team, Emma Woods, who finished the regular season third in team scoring, found tremendous joy in the recognition. Raised west of Hamilton in the community of Burford, approximately 120 km from Toronto, the highly skilled forward grew up in the era when Carlos Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells were the Blue Jays biggest stars.
The opportunity to be on the same field as such revered names marked a moment of fascination for Woods. No stranger to winning, her superlative skills having helped the Quinnipiac Bobcats raise an ECAC championship banner. Worth noting, former Bobcats teammate Kati Tabin also held a place on the Six roster this season (both finished their Bobcats careers as team captain). Enjoying feelings of reunion and achievement, the celebration of a professional championship in such a remarkable milieu as Rogers Centre saw her love of two games coincide.
“I was super excited to hear we were invited to go to the game, and get recognized by the Jay organization. It is obviously a great privilege to be welcomed down to field level. As a kid, it is something you dream about, so it was a pretty cool experience for myself, and our entire team.”
Prior to the final match of their three game series versus the first place Tampa Bay Rays, 18 members of the Six roster took their places in front of the pitchers mound for the pregame ceremony. Forward Breanne Wilson-Bennett, also part of the “Group of Seven”, had baseball in hand. Having scored in the Isobel Cup championship game versus the Minnesota Whitecaps, her first goal of the playoffs coming at the perfect time, she also contributed a pair of assists in the opening round of the playoffs.
Worth noting, the first round provided Wilson-Bennett and her Six teammates an opportunity to enjoy another profound linkage to Toronto sports. With the matches occurring at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, located inside the historic Maple Leaf Gardens, following it up with a celebratory event at Rogers Centre truly represented the best of both worlds.
Enjoying the opportunity to engage in the ceremonial first pitch, with an enthusiastic encouragement from Ace, the Blue Jays mascot, the result was a perfect throw. Additionally, a unique element of coincidence occurred. Catching Wilson-Bennett’s first pitch, prized offseason acquisition, Daulton Varsho, highly versatile as an outfielder and catcher, spent his first three seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Of note, Toronto’s Cup victory took place at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Arizona.
“I was absolutely thrilled when the team told me I’d be throwing out the first pitch. I played competitive baseball growing up and even played for team Ontario and Team Canada. I think I may have been a better ball player than hockey so it was a dream come true to be on a major league field throwing out the pitch. It was so much fun to be with my teammates to celebrate such an amazing achievement. We have the best group of women. Daulton Varsho caught my throw and it was humbling to meet such a great athlete. He signed the ball and that will definitely be in the trophy case!”
With celebration an essential theme on a sensational Sunday, friendship proved just as compelling. As several members of the Six have called each other teammates before, either with Canada’s Under-18 National Team or at the university level, a cherished component of the professional journey involved the enjoyable opportunity to cross paths once again.
For a fantastic pair of friends, the opportunity to be teammates again held a profound feeling of building on a proud legacy as local heroines. As the first celebrated alumnae from Toronto’s York University Lions to win the Isobel Cup, the careers of Courtney Gardiner and Taylor Davison have run parallel for many years. Having played for the OUA’s McCaw Cup in 2020, the opportunity to grace the championship stage three years later such jubilation served as the seminal moment of their shared journey.
Hoisting the Cup together on the field of Rogers Centre definitely provided an exhilarating splendor. Standing together on the first base line, numbers 14 and 20 proudly emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys, the Cup appeared to be piercing the horizon, a visual encouragement for other Lions to pursue their hockey dreams. With the moment captured by camera, the opportunity to preserve a highly meaningful friendship with such a beautiful image is one that tugs at Gardiner’s heartstrings, a keepsake that shall be treasured, accentuating their arrival as champions.
“Being able to be on the field at the Jays game this past Sunday was a really exciting and special moment for everybody. Taylor had the idea to get the picture holding up Izzy and it turned out to be a great picture- one that I will likely be framing some day!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”