For a young generation of women’s hockey fans, Cheryl Pounder is one of the faces that shines on their TV screens as she engages in her superlative coverage of the game for the likes of media outlets such as The Sports Network (TSN). Working with former football player Rod Black, one of Canada’s premier sportscasters, the two have covered events ranging from the Clarkson Cup to the IIHF Women’s Worlds.
Their ability to weave various events into a story worth telling, an on-air chemistry defined by Black’s friendliness and Pounder’s encyclopedic knowledge of the players, makes them the finest women’s hockey broadcast duo today. To the young fans admiring their work, they will likely grow up eliciting the same emotions of reminiscence, similar to modern NHL fans that grew up watching Bob Cole and Harry Neale on Hockey Night in Canada in the 1980s and 90s.
While all these fans have enjoyed Pounder’s on-air work, those same fans may be surprised to know that Pounder is not just a talented on-air personality, but a highly accomplished former player. Having won gold for Canada at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Games, she made her debut for the Canadian national team as a 16 year-old at the 1994 IIHF Women’s Worlds.
Pounder’s career would culminate with five World Championship gold medals and an additional seven gold medals at the Four Nations Cup. As a side note, hockey runs prominently in Pounder’s bloodline. Her grandfather, Phil Wemmer served as the General Manager of the Montreal Jr. Canadiens. Under his leadership, the squad captured back-to-back Memorial Cups in 1968-69 and 1969-70.
In an era when women are making significant inroads in sports casting, Pounder is among a sorority of many Hockey Canada alumnae that have adjusted brightly to the broadcast booth. Among those that join Pounder in this profession are the likes of Cassie Campbell, Daniele Sauvageau, Kim St. Pierre and Tessa Bonhomme (who worked with Pounder at TSN during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games). Reflecting on her first broadcast experience, she also emphasizes how the advice of a cherished friend and former teammate is testament to the bonds of teamwork that still exist.
“Nervous and excited…in some ways it was/is the same anticipation/adrenaline before a big game. The tough part was understanding how it all worked behind the scenes or that makeup was required (laughs).
It is great to stay connected to the game and live my passion in a different capacity! Cassie Campbell-Pascal is a seasoned veteran in this field now. She is always sending me helpful tips and notes…once a teammate, always a teammate.”
In such a distinguished career, Pounder has accumulated more than just accolades, awards and championships. Accumulating a remarkable lifetime of memories may be the most treasured aspect. Whether it stems from donning the Canadian jersey, proud family achievements or glories from a more innocent time, her reflections weave together a rich tapestry, representing the growing possibilities of women as hockey heroes.
“There are so many great memories that come to mind! Some might find it hard to believe that winning my first Provincial Championships in OT is one of my fondest memories. A little girl, smiling ear to ear with her first hockey medal! I fell in Love with the game!
When I came back from the 2002 Olympics, I went to my niece’s final game (Provincials-Atom)…she won and I cried my eyes out! It reminded me that when gloves get thrown in the air…it doesn’t matter what level it is…the gloves have been thrown for the same reason!
Others that come to mind…my first U18 National Championship with Ontario and the Toronto Aeros (in the same year), Laurier’s rise to the National Championships and playing in the 2004 World Championships in Halifax.
I vividly remember being in the dressing room before the final game against the USA (in 2004)…the building had this amazing energy…it was almost shaking…while the crowd chanted C-A-N-A-D-A.”
Leading up to her proud Hockey Canada career, Pounder emerged as a talent to watch when she graced the ice in the former Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (rechristened as Canadian Interuniversity Sport); she was one of the first stars with the renowned Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, helping them to ascend to consistent status as a national powerhouse. Of note, OUA All-Star honors were bestowed upon her in three consecutive seasons, complemented by the University’s President’s Award in 1998, respectively.
Subsequently, she has also competed at elite levels of play such as the COWHL and the first edition of the NWHL, followed by the ensuing CWHL (earning First All-Star Team honors in 2008–09). As a member of the Mississauga Chiefs, her status as one of the elite superstars that competed during the CWHL’s blossoming years helped to set a foundation that current players have proudly built upon. Among CWHL circles, Pounder is still a remarkable presence, making a superlative impact as Master of Ceremonies. Having hosted various functions, including the inaugural CWHL Draft in 2010, and the CWHL Awards (one of the league’s signature events), Pounder’s effervescent personality projects an entertaining and pleasant flow while maintaining interest.
Such ability represents Pounder’s strong aptitude as a guest speaker, which has helped spark inspiration for others. Incorporating values such as a pursuit of excellence, the courage to overcome adversity, plus key factors such as leadership and teamwork, she hopes to help others unleash their hidden potential. One such instance involves her motivational speaking for FitSpirit. Part of Pounder’s passion to give back, while providing a message of encouragement, FitSpirit employs numerous programs and events with the goal of helping teenage girls enjoy fitness and a healthy lifestyle, while enriching their lives with friendships.
“I really enjoy sharing my passion and encouraging others (especially youth) to participate and engage in their own lives. FitSpirit provides an opportunity through school for young girls to become mindful of their activity level while promoting confidence, self -assurance and self-esteem. As a Mother of two young daughters, I want them to be strong, active and curious about life! Seize the opportunity!”
While she also dons the hats of educator and mother, the most endearing aspect about Pounder may be the fact that she holds great sincerity concerning the promising growth that would enable a prosperous future for the female game. One experience that Pounder shares braids together the aspects of motherhood and hockey, resulting in a heartwarming revelation,
“Perhaps my favourite ‘Mom’ moment was when my then three-year old stayed up to watch the first period of the Toronto Maple Leafs game. She watched them on the blue-line during the National Anthems and had a very confused look on her face. Finally, she looked at me and said ‘Mommy, I think they are boys.’ She had no idea boys played hockey!!! Who knew…?”
Also serving in an executive capacity for the non-profit Ladies First Hockey Foundation, Pounder’s leadership and enthusiasm have been infectious, symbolizing her profound appreciation for the game and the women who play it. Formed in the aftermath of Canada’s double gold at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games (which Pounder was a part of), the Foundation recognized the efforts and scarifies involved for the women planning to don the Maple Leaf. With the 2006 Torino Winter Games in sight, the Foundation worked with Hockey Canada for team fundraising through initiatives such as the “Family and Friends” program and its annual golf tournament, the “Good as Gold Open”. Still running strong after more than a decade, Pounder’s contributions have maintained a proud legacy, ensuring that Canada maintains the gold standard in world competition.
“When playing for Team Canada, the funds that Ladies First provided were integral in my individual training, alleviated the pressure to work, and gave me more time (less work) to focus on reaching my potential. Perhaps more importantly, it helped my family attend the Olympic Winter Games. The people that got us there…should be there!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from: http://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Cheryl-Pounder