Among the charter members of Team Alberta/Calgary Inferno franchise, Kelsey Webster was more than just an anchor on the defensive unit. One of Webster’s most admirable qualities was her love of the game, which also encompassed a sincere appreciation for the fans. Proud to be an ambassador for the team and the game, Webster emerged as one of the faces of the franchise. Along with Chelsea Purcell, they both exemplified leadership, both serving as team captains during those nascent seasons.
Although such seasons involved the almost obligatory, yet all-too visceral reality of emerging on the opposite end of the wins column, Webster’s warm and reassuring smile was prevalent, a harbinger of the good times to come for the franchise. As a side note, she would also play a handful of games with the Brampton Thunder during the inaugural CWHL season (2007-08), placing her among a rare and distinguished group of women in league history.
Through it all, Webster was part of so many historic firsts for the franchise. Not only did she play in the first game and first season with Team Alberta, she also graced the ice at Air Canada Centre for the first CWHL game contested in an NHL arena. Another milestone was skating in the CWHL’s first-ever fundraiser for Do It for Daron. These experiences not only produced vivid memories, they solidified her as an invaluable component in the franchise’s defining moments.
Having also played in the first playoff game in Calgary Inferno history, there was a sullen feeling among hardcore fans when it was discovered that Webster would not suit up for the squad in the Clarkson Cup finals. To see such an exemplary figure not be part of a watershed moment in women’s hockey history for Calgary was difficult to absorb.
During the broadcast of the championship game, broadcasters graciously acknowledged Webster. Although video footage showed teammates hugging a tearful Webster prior to the game, showing encouragement while displaying the true meaning of teamwork. Although the reaction to receiving such difficult news was completely understandable, such an absence could never take away everything that she accomplished with the team,
“To be honest, it was not easy at first and there are still days when it is not easy to forget. The news that I was not dressing came late in the day and was a hard pill to swallow to say the least. I will not deny that my reaction was not always a positive one, as I was extremely heartbroken to not experience a Clarkson Cup final to its fullest.
Although these moments were short lived and only experienced by a mere few, these few people played a significant role through the difficult moments that day. At the end of the day there was a larger goal that my team and I set out to achieve and the focus needed to be entirely on raising the Cup at the end of sixty minutes.”
Embodying the values that made her such a valued teammate, Webster maintained an exceptional dignity and positive attitude, motivated to see her team win and champion the cause of emerging victorious. Although it was such a difficult predicament that many others may not have been able to deal with, she displayed the qualities of character and teamwork that set a positive example for all younger players.
“My teammates needed to know that they had every ounce of my support and belief that we would win that day and that would not change no matter where I was watching the game unfold. My positivity came from witnessing the Calgary franchise play in its first CWHL final having been a member since its inaugural year. It came from watching the energy, passion and sheer grit my team displayed throughout the game. The game of hockey is truly what kept me positive!”
Although fans at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre (the first Clarkson Cup contested in an NHL arena) were denied the chance to see one of the Inferno’s most legendary players participate in the contest, a significant consolation was the fact that she was part of the postgame celebrations. On the ice, donning the team whites, desolation turned to jubilation as Webster held the Cup as gloriously high over her shoulders as possible, as tears of joy streamed down her triumphant visage.
“I am not sure if there are words to truly describe the feeling of lifting the Clarkson Cup over my shoulders. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I was handed the cup, but I felt fortunate and fulfilled by the experience. To sum it up, I could not have asked for a better way to end my career and my time in the CWHL. I have had the opportunity to step out on NHL ice more than once while playing in the CWHL, all of which were highlights for me.”
In the aftermath of the euphoric Clarkson Cup win, Webster’s contributions to Calgary during her playing career embodied the progressive road to glory that the franchise underwent over the last five seasons. With victory celebrations throughout the city, including a fitting on-ice tribute by the Calgary Flames, such moments also symbolically honored Webster and all the women who ever skated for the franchise.
Perhaps more importantly, Webster wanted to share the joy of the win. Her heart of gold shone in a way that empathically gave back. Along with teammate Jenna Cunningham, another individual whose class personifies the potential of women in hockey, the two graciously brought the coveted Cup to their home rink at Winsport Arena for an appearance at an exhibition ice sledge hockey game. With the Canadian national women’s ice sledge team facing off against the Calgary Scorpions, players from both teams could not hide their smiles at the site of the Cup and the admirable effort of both Cunningham and Webster, a seminal moment for them that bolstered their self-esteem and simultaneously encouraged them to keep pursuing their dreams.
As the CWHL Draft approaches, the Inferno shall be looking for a prospect that can fill Webster’s sensational shoes. As Webster made the difficult decision to hang up her skates, carefully considering her path as she gingerly approached an inevitable hockey crossroads for all players, the Cup victory served as her denouement.
Retiring from the game that she loves so much, Webster’s body of work is exceptional. Among a group of devoted women who worked tirelessly to make CWHL hockey viable in Western Canada, Webster’s dedication to teammates and fans alike helped to enhance a pioneering time. While the Inferno shall not be the same without Webster, another section of its earliest foundation now withdrawn, the positive impressions that she made over those five fantastic seasons will be long lasting, eternally tugging at the heart strings of those who had the privilege to know her, play alongside her, and most importantly, call her a friend.
“I do not think it is ever an easy decision to decide to stop doing something you love. In the back of your mind you are always questioning whether you are making the right decision. It was not a decision I came to quickly or lightly, but I am comfortable that it is the right decision and happy to be moving onto a world of new opportunities.
I am going to miss every bit of it; every part has its reasons to be missed from my teammates, the smell of the ice, the feeling of making an awesome defensive play, to the fans who take time out of their day to come and watch. I plan to continue to be involved in the growth of the sport in some capacity in the future.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Facebook