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CWHL All-Star Game Provides Unique Experience for Delayne Brian

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Joining fellow goaltenders Christina Kessler, Charline Labonte and Genevieve Lacasse, Delayne Brian of the Calgary Inferno was part of a unique group of competitors, as all four had achieved the unique distinction of having participated in the first two CWHL All-Star Games. Both hosted at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, Brian stood between the pipes for Team Black, as her fellow goaltender Kessler nearly collaborated in the first shutout in All-Star Game history, leading their team to a 5-1 victory against Team White.

At the inaugural All-Star Game, Brian and Kessler were on opposing sides as Brian was a member of Team White, while Kessler suited up for Team Red. During that event, Lacasse and Sami Jo Small were Brian’s teammates. The three would also combine for some memorable hi-jinx at the All-Star Skills Competition as all stood in the goalmouth, preventing an opposing skater from scoring in the shootout portion.

Among the players that Brian called teammates on Team White at the inaugural game, a number were reunited with her in 2016. Getting the opportunity to be teammates with Brian for a second time in All-Star play included the likes of Jocelyne Larocque and Caroline Ouellette, among others. The chance to be able to play again on NHL ice only added to the proud feeling of accomplishment that Brian and all participating players felt,

“I think playing on that ice is a good warm up for the Clarkson Cup this year. The teams who make it to play (in the finals) will be on the Ottawa Senators rink after their recent partnership with the league. The Inferno usually get at least one league game at the Saddledome, which did not happen this year, so that was kind of a disappointment. So it was nice to be able to play at the ACC. The staff and the venue were amazing.”

Of note, Brian’s presence in the 2016 CWHL All-Star Game brought with it a unique accessory. Other sports have seen athletes utilize cameras in game play, such as the catcher in baseball, along with competitors in football, most notably in the ill-fated XFL. With a camera at the top of her helmet, which was colored black, it would be the most unique piece of equipment donned on the ice.

It would be part of a unique effort on the part of Rogers Sportsnet to bring an even more profound connection for the viewer. Along with a helmet-cam used by a referee, which provided a unique sight of the face-off at centre ice, plus a camera on the Team Black bench, which captured proud smiles, waves and an element of humor with a player spraying the lens with a water bottle, it was part of the strong production values.

Reflecting on the opportunity to don the unique helmet, it becomes clear that it added to the feeling of fun and fair play that defined the All-Star Game. Although Brian did not get to keep the unique accessory as a souvenir of her experience, it definitely should be a part of future All-Star Games to come,

“To be honest I could not really feel the Go Pro on my helmet. Unfortunately it was not on in the second period when (Kelly) Terry rang one off my head, so we will not be able to see that footage. Yet, there was another in warm-up that I think was caught on tape.

Last year, our media staff asked me if I would take a camera with me on the bench and the video turned out pretty funny, so I figured why not give it a try. I do not know where the camera came from and did not get to keep it unfortunately.”

Despite allowing Team White’s only goal in the contest, there was a tinge of irony involved as it was allowed to a very familiar face. Not only was Jessica Campbell a teammate of Brian in the inaugural All-Star Game (where she was the first rookie to serve as captain), the two are also teammates with the Calgary Inferno.

With Team Black enjoying a 3-0 lead, Campbell snapped the shutout bid, while scoring the first All-Star Game goal of her career. While Brian looks back on the goal with humor, recounting many experiences at team practices, there is no question that there is a strong mutual respect between the two as well.

“I was just trying to give Campbell a confidence boost as we will need some goals in the coming weeks against our opponents. I chirp Campbell a lot during practice because she either fires the puck wide or goes bar-down every shot so I cannot say I was expecting a low one to come from her! All jokes aside, Campbell is an obviously great player who is in the Team Canada program, so I cannot be too mad at myself for giving one up to her.”

In the third period, Campbell thought that she had scored her second goal for Team White. Hitting the post with a laser-like shot, the puck hit the goalpost, subsequently bouncing several times. From several angles, it would have looked like said bounced into the net. The crowd collectively moaned as Campbell’s body language reflected the visceral emotion of missing by such a narrow margin.

Preserving the lead for Team Black, which resulted in Team White losing the All-Star Game for the second straight time, Brian showed the superlative skill that made her the recipient of the 2014 CWHL Goaltender of the Year Award. While rivalries melt, replaced by friendships over the two-day period, it helped provide Brian with some cherished memories. Although such friendships are placed aside for the remainder of the season, as the race for the Clarkson Cup begins, Brian’s presence

“The All-Star game is a weird atmosphere in the sense that you make so many friends with people who are supposed to be your enemies. Aside from the actual game and being aired on Sportsnet, the thing I will remember most would be the friendships made. That being said, we’re back to business this weekend!”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credit: Jess Bazal 

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