In the aftermath of the gold medal game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, a modern-day Miracle on Ice for Canada’s national women’s team, two of its heroes earn the chance to compete in an exciting venue. Entering the second season of The Amazing Race Canada, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson are among the group of competitors, making them the first women’s hockey players to compete.
Hosted by Olympic gold medalist Jon Montgomery (like Mikkelson, he won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games), hockey fans can see the first episode featuring Spooner and Mikkelson on July 8 on the CTV Network. They are among 11 teams competing for a prize of $500,000.
A television franchise that began in the United States in 2001, The Amazing Race has been franchised in twelve other countries. The premise involves teams consisting of two people with each episode representing the leg in a season-long race. In each episode, the objective is to avoid finishing last at the “pit stop”. Transportation modes vary in each episode, from methods incorporating air, rail and land. Clues, obstacles and penalties also represent each leg of the race.
For Spooner, a victory in the popular of the television program would continue a memorable year. From making her Olympic debut in gold medal fashion at Sochi to leading the Toronto Furies to its first-ever Clarkson Cup win, it placed her in rarified air. The pair of on-ice glories made Spooner the first woman to win Olympic gold and the Clarkson Cup in the same year, a Hall of Fame worthy accomplishment.
Paired with Mikkelson, Spooner shall be engaging in a televised journey across Canada with an athlete whose Olympic experience was defined by courage. Having competed at Sochi with a broken hand, Mikkelson gained the respect and admiration of her teammates. Despite the fact that she is still recovering, it may serve as a source of motivation for this dynamic duo. The chance to appear in the program is certainly another example of Mikkelson’s growing popularity.
In 2012, she was featured in Sports Illustrated’s annual “Where are they Now?” issue with her father Phil (a member of the Washington Capitals inaugural season) and her brother Brendan, a Memorial Cup champion. One year later, she set hearts racing as one of several Canadian athletes to appear in swimwear in Sportsnet Magazine’s “The Beauty of Sport” edition.
With her girl-next-door looks and growing role as a leader on Canada’s blueline, her TV appearance may certainly help casual sports fans catch up to the talent that is Mikkelson. Ironically, a TV appearance four years ago held similar impact for hockey superstar Tessa Bonhomme. After an emotional gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Bonhomme appeared on Wipeout Canada, serving as the launching pad for a remarkable TV career.
While the chance for these Canadian sporting heroes to appear on The Amazing Race Canada is remarkable exposure for women’s hockey, it is important to recognize that they are not the first female hockey players to aspire for an appearance.
In 2013, the inaugural season for the program resulted in two pairs of CWHL players audition. Ann-Sophie Bettez (2014 Angela James Bowl winner) and Cathy Chartrand (second captain in Stars history) have played together with the McGill Martlets in Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the Montreal Stars. The other pair of hopeful contestants was two empowering women from the Toronto Furies; Amber Bowman (who is also a world champion firefighter) and Erika Vanderveer (an editor at the Hockey News). Just like Bettez and Chartrand, these remarkable women were also teammates in university (Ohio State) and in CWHL play.
Their auditions generated media interest and certainly made a statement that the women of hockey are not only educated and articulate women, they are also inspirational and motivated to overcome any new sets of challenges. This shall be the true legacy that Spooner and Mikkelson will represent when viewers can see them on The Amazing Race Canada.
Image obtained from: http://www.ctv.ca/TheAmazingRaceCanada.aspx