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Championship Ring ceremony a meaningful moment for Toronto Six

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Bringing a celebrated closure to an unforgettable run, the dedicated group of individuals that comprised the Toronto Six gathered for a championship ring ceremony. Commemorating the exhilarating 2023 Isobel Cup title, which saw the T6 prevail by a 4-3 mark in overtime versus the Minnesota Whitecaps, the distribution of rings represented a touch of class.

Considering that no one could have foreseen the changes that would transform the women’s ice hockey landscape, there remains a tinge of sadness that the Isobel Cup finals represented a final chapter for the proud franchise and the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF). Although the onset of another league signified a combination of shock and surprise, the T6 ownership remained loyal to their players, staff and volunteers with the gracious gesture of rings.

Taking place at the Weston Golf and Country Club in Etobicoke, Ontario, the ceremony went beyond the impact of a championship. The venue became an exciting portal, welcoming generations of stars that established the foundation today. From the roots of the competitive Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League (COWHL), which later morphed into the original NWHL, other ground breaking leagues were recognized. Including the Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL), plus the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), home to the Isobel Cup for several seasons, a unique and distinguished figure from the T6 holds linkages to many of these leagues.

Serving in the capacity of General Manager, the majesty of the Isobel Cup signified another proud achievement for Sami Jo Small. Among a rare group to have experienced Winter Games gold, an IIHF World Championship, plus the Clarkson Cup, Small stood between the pipes for the Brampton Thunder, Toronto Aeros, Mississauga Warriors and Toronto Furies, a team she helped co-found. Fittingly, Small was not the only Hockey Canada alum that comprised the T6 leadership. Both members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Angela James belonged to the ownership group, while Geraldine Heaney served in the capacity of head coach.

Worth noting, James and Heaney were teammates in the COWHL and NWHL, capturing four IIHF world championships. Small and Heaney made history as teammates on Canada’s roster at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games, capturing the national team’s first Olympic gold. Rekindling their winning ways with the jubilation of Isobel Cup, becoming the first Canadian team to do so, a collective feeling of legacy enveloped the ring ceremony.

“It was fun to see everyone, including Geraldine and Angela. I worked with Angela so closely on a daily basis, I miss getting to chat with her everyday. I was also so grateful that nearly 60 other alumni from the COWHL/NWHL/WWHL/CWHL/PHF came out to celebrate with us. I felt so much support in that room and it was such a pleasure to reconnect with so many men and women that have helped build women’s professional hockey.”

Scoring the overtime goal that brought the Six their first championship, it marked a defining moment for Tereza Vanisova. Becoming the first player to capture three consecutive Isobel Cup championships, having hoisted it in 2021 and 2022 with the Boston Pride, victory as a member of the T6 brought with it proud feelings of national pride.

Teammates with the T6 and the Czech National Team, 2023 provided plenty of emotion for Vanisova and Dominika Laskova. In addition to the Isobel Cup, both led Czechia to a bronze medal at the IIHF Women’s Worlds. Before the year expired, both were selected by Montreal in the PWHL Draft.

Bringing their world-class skills to La Belle Province, both garbed in Montreal’s burgundy jersey this season, the T6 remains a cherished time. Enjoying a professional championship together, the ceremony provided an additional element of enjoyment, a significant chapter in their shared hockey journey.

“It was obviously very special to get to win last season beside Dominika, since we have known each other for so long and have been friends a long time. It was a great season. We had a great group and I will always remember this team.”

Adding to the novelty of being teammates with two teams in two consecutive seasons, Vanisova and Laskova are joined by a trio of T6 champions. Also bringing their skill set to Montreal are goaltender Elaine Chuli, 2022 Olympian Leah Lum and Blueline Kati Tabin, a former captain with the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

Raised in Winnipeg, Tabin, whose PHF career also involved a season with the Connecticut Whale, enjoyed the milestone of her first professional championship as a member of the T6.

Eight days before the ring ceremony, Tabin and her Montreal teammates challenged Toronto in “The Battle on Bay Street.” Contested at Scotiabank Arena, the event broke a Canadian, and league, attendance record for a women’s ice hockey event. Such a unique brush with history helped set the tone for the ring ceremony.

Undoubtedly, this compelling time span encompassed many emotions. None more powerful than the sense of accomplishment upon being given her ring, a keepsake cherished by Tabin, poised to forever preserve the pride.

“I was so happy to see the ring! It turned out great and it was a special moment shared with the girls.”

Earning a place in both T6 and PHF history with the franchise’s first ever goal, taking place on January 24, 2021 versus the Minnesota Whitecaps, it was only fitting that Lindsay Eastwood gained the opportunity to hoist the Isobel Cup. In what proved to be her final game, albeit unexpected, as the onset of a new league resulted in PHF contracts becoming voided, the theme of full circle proved highly prevalent.

Currently serving as Manager of Communications and Team Services with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, Eastwood will always be celebrated as a pioneer. Enjoying the opportunity to reunite with her teammates, the event held multiple meanings, from gratitude and celebration, to a dazzling denouement in a brilliant career.

“It was awesome to get together with my old teammates and catch up, some of them I had not seen since we won in Arizona!

Sami Jo and company did a great job honouring all of the women who came before us to get women’s professional hockey to where it is now. It was a very special moment and I am glad and appreciative that we could get some closure as a team with that ceremony.”

For Small, surrounded by the friendly faces of former glories, multiple generations woven in an empowering tapestry, so many smiles proved uplifting. Although the Six deserved an opportunity to defend their hard earned title, the summit attained remains rich and fulfilling.

With so many hands adorned by the beautiful accoutrement of the championship ring, it marked a fait accompli. A franchise competitive from the very beginning, all involved brought a tremendous dedication to their craft Although the curtain closed far too soon, the Six made Toronto proud, simultaneously bridging the impact of the former Furies and the influence of the current club in their stylish powder blue. Ending their stellar run with a championship that tugged at the heartstrings of Toronto’s sporting enthusiasts, this event stood as a salute to an exultant group, all intertwined in an essential moment in the unfolding narrative of the professional game.

“It was a tremendous evening of positive excitement. To see their smiling faces was a real thrill and to be able to connect again, nearly a year later brought me so much joy.

Reminiscing about our season and recapping our big moments was so meaningful considering all that has transpired in women’s hockey and in the lives of the staff and players in the past six months.To be able to come together one last time helped bring closure to that chapter and helped me personally to be able to look forward and relish the place that we will always have in the history of women’s professional hockey.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated

Photos by Lori Bolliger Photography. Acknowledgements: Justin Levine, Paul Macchia, Sami Jo Small

Thank you to all that made Toronto Six hockey great.

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