Part of a tremendous decade in women’s ice hockey, one defined by unprecedented growth, Jordanna Peroff was at the pulse of the game in Eastern Canada. Starring in both Montreal and Toronto, Peroff, raised in the York Region community of Keswick, Ontario, where Erin Ambrose also grew up, enjoyed the opportunity to be part of a remarkable hockey dynasty, while experiencing a series of fascinating milestones in her latter chapter as a professional.
Capturing three Canadian Interuniversity Sport (now U SPORTS) national championships during five fantastic years at McGill University, complemented by the National Championship MVP Award in 2011, Peroff was selected 22nd overall in the 2012 CWHL Draft by the Toronto Furies. Of note, she was sandwiched in between another pair of U SPORTS stars in the Draft, as Alberta Pandas forward Leah Copeland went 21st to Alberta, while St Francis Xavier stalwart Suzanne Fenerty, who competed against Peroff and McGill in the 2011 CIS Gold Medal Game, went 23rd to Brampton
Belonging to a dazzling Furies draft class, which included Rebecca Johnston, Natalie Spooner, Karolina Urban, Jennifer Wakefield, and Catherine White, among others, Peroff made her CWHL debut on October 20, 2012, on the road against the Brampton Thunder, renewing rivalries in the Battle of Toronto.
Logging 20 regular season appearances, Peroff showed a remarkably disciplined style of play, with only two penalty minutes all season. Qualifying for the 2013 Clarkson Cup playoffs, as the Furies defeated the Thunder in the third place game, bringing Peroff’s first season of pro hockey full circle, the most notable date from said season was November 17, 2012. The Furies took to the ice of the Air Canada Centre against Team Alberta, for the first-ever CWHL match in an NHL arena. Prevailing in a 3-0 final, the experience affirmed her standing as both professional athlete and role model.
Statistically, Peroff would have to wait until her second season to record the elusive milestone of her first CWHL goal. Achieving the feat on November 9, 2013 against the Calgary Inferno, finding the back of the net at the 11:51 mark of the third period, there was a theme of coincidence. Scoring against goaltender Kathy Desjardins, she was also between the pipes for Team Alberta during the historic match at Air Canada Centre. With assists on Peroff’s goal credited to Holly Carrie-Mattimoe and Lexie Hoffmeyer, the two were also teammates on the Toronto Shamrocks team that captured the 2015 CBHA National Championship. Although the Inferno mounted a comeback, scoring twice in the third, it was not enough to defeat the Furies, as Peroff’s goal stood as the game-winning tally, allowing her a second milestone in the same game.
By season’s end, the theme of coincidence continued to be an integral part of Peroff’s journey. Reaching the 2014 Clarkson Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history, the venue allowed Peroff the opportunity to tap into her competitive roots. Contested in the city of Markham, also based in York Region, she also competed there during her PWHL years for the Markham-Stouffville Stars before committing to McGill University. Among her teammates were Samantha DeLenardo, who would go on to skate for McGill rival University of Ottawa, and later play for Team Italia at the ISBHF Worlds, along with Katie Wilson, who stood between the pipes at the NCAA for the Cornell Big Red.
Defeating the defending Cup champion Boston Blades in a highly thrilling 1-0 final that saw Britni Smith score the overtime winner, it provided Peroff the rare achievement of winning championships at the university and professional levels. Providing the city of Toronto with another momentous hockey championship, complementing the Toronto Marlboros’ 1973 and 1975 Memorial Cup wins, who were led by head coach George Armstrong, while the 1984 University of Toronto Varsity Blues, with Mike Keenan at the helm, captured the men’s hockey championship. In addition, it also marked the second women’s hockey championship since the Millennium, joining an undefeated University of Toronto Lady Blues squad captured the 2001 CIS women’s nationals.
Looking back on two seasons spent garbed in the blue and white of the Furies, the element that Peroff enjoyed most was the fact that her teammates shared the same joie-de-vivre, creating the foundation for a pleasant environment and amicable team culture. Although there was a collaborative effort to provide the best on-ice performance, all unified in the goal of contributing towards team triumphs, the game was not perceived with the kind of intensity that dampens the overall feeling of enjoyment,
“What I loved most about playing with the Furies was the camaraderie that existed on the team. The friendships that I formed over just two seasons playing there have already proven to last. We were serious about hockey but also serious about not taking life too seriously.
There is a time to focus and a time to relax and enjoy everything you are experiencing. Our visions aligned in this way and my memories with my teammates there and the friendships we still have remind me of that. Every team is different but the common ground that makes a team great is off-ice chemistry which I was lucky enough to have on all my teams from midget to pro.”
Following the glory of the Clarkson Cup triumph, Peroff decided to compose an exciting new chapter, following her dream of seeing another side of the world. Venturing to Europe, the dream pursued quickly complemented a return to the ice. Skating for an Italian club in the Alpine city of Bolzano, also the capital of the Italian province South Tyrol, and located 120 km south of Innsbruck, Austria, Peroff, the first Canadian to ever skate for the club, made an immediate impact.
Dubbed the EV Bozen Eagles, skating in the Elite Women’s Hockey League, Peroff ranked third on the club with a solid 23 points in 21 games played. One of only three players to amass at least 20 points during the 2014-15 season, the others included Eleonora Dalpra, a longtime veteran of the Italian national team and Chelsea Furlani, an American-born player who spent two seasons as captain at the University of Vermont.
In what proved to be Peroff’s only season in Italy, her biggest highlight was the opportunity to participate with her fellow Eagles in the 2014-15 IIHF European Women’s Championship Cup. Competing in Group D play in the preliminary round, Bolzano served as host city. Enjoying an undefeated mark, the Eagles scored 21 goals for, while allowing only one. Advancing to the second round, contested in Linkoping, Sweden, the quality of competition and level of play was definitely on par with the Clarkson Cup.
Following Peroff would be a remarkable number of Canadian skaters, gradually building a unique legacy for the Bozen Eagles. During the 2017-18 season, the Eagles featured Samantha Sutherland, who grew up in Newmarket, also a community in York Region, which actually borders Keswick. In addition, said season saw Alex Gowie, who played U SPORTS hockey for the University of Alberta suit up for the club. Both graduates of Colgate University, Kalia Pinkney plus Kingston native Shelby Perry continued the Canadian content in 2018-19. Heading into 2019-20, Jamie Fox, who hails from Unionville, also a York Region community, and graduate of the University of Connecticut, signed with the club.
“After two years of playing with the Furies, my ever-present desire for travel, adventure and new experiences was strong. I was settling in to my career in Toronto but wanted to follow some dreams I had first. It was time for me to try a new culture, meet new people and immerse myself in something I had not before.
My original plan was to aimlessly travel through Europe for a year but my pull towards hockey never loosened its grip and before I knew it, I was signing a contract to play in Italy for the Bolzano Eagles in the Italian Championship and EWHL. It was still hockey, yes, but it was definitely a new experience. Though I loved my year in Europe, I made the move back to Montreal to live with my partner and play for the Montreal Stars. It was a seamless decision that I am glad I made to this day.”
Seeing action in 22 games during her inaugural season with Les Canadiennes, Peroff would log a career-high nine points, 11th on the team, on the strength of six assists, while logging a miniscule four penalty minutes. Making her debut with the club on October 17, 2015, coincidentally, it was against the Thunder once again, mirroring her Furies debut.
Six weeks later, Peroff would enjoy her first goal with Les Canadiennes. Taking place on home ice at Arena Etienne-Desmarteau, Les Canadiennes hosted Peroff’s former team, the Furies. With a 2-2 tie after two periods, Montreal erupted for a four-goal outburst in the final frame. Slightly two minutes after Ann-Sophie Bettez scored at the 8:46 mark, Peroff found the back of the net against Sonja van der Bliek, played brilliantly in a valiant 48-save effort. Kim Deschenes and McGill alum Chelsey Saunders earned the assists. Once again, coincidence was a key theme for Peroff, the experience of her first goal for Montreal was the game-winning tally, akin to her first goal in Furies blue.
As the season progressed, there were further opportunities for Peroff to rekindle fond memories of her years with the McGill Martltes. Taking into account that almost half of Montreal’s roster consisted of McGill alumnae, they would continue to be involved when Peroff found her name on the stat sheet. On January 3, 2016, a 7-0 dismantling of the Boston Blades saw Peroff participated in the last two goals of the game. Assisting with Emmanuelle Blais on a goal by Leslie Oles, a teammate from the 2011 Martlets national championship team. Elite blueliner Cathy Chartrand, another McGill alum who earned the National Championship MVP Award, assisted on Peroff’s goal at 16:18 of the third. Scored against Genevieve Lacasse, a Winter Games gold medalist, said goal was not only the last of the game, it provided Peroff with the first multi-point effort in her CWHL career.
To close out the season, Peroff would assemble a two-game scoring streak. Enjoying the opportunity to play the Blades, the February 20 affair saw Peroff record a pair of assists in a 14-0 whitewash, while a 10-1 trouncing the following day saw Peroff score at 5:22 of the first period. With assists credited to Blais and former McGill Carly Dupont-Hill, Peroff’s goal was the game-winner, providing her with another proud highlight in her inaugural season of Canadiennes hockey. Undoubtedly, such a season was made so much better due to the privilege of playing alongside numerous Martlets, a legacy that has extended into the recreational venue,
“It was a great feeling to be back on the ice with my Martlet teammates. We shared common values, I knew what to expect with them and we gelled well on and off the ice. It was great to see how far we had each come and how we had grown over the few years apart. We picked up where we left off. Even now that I am retired, there is a large group of us who play our garage league hockey together.”
Enjoying a pair of seasons in the tri-colore of Les Canadiennes, the highlight involved consecutive trips to the Clarkson Cup Finals. Both contested at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre, marking the first time the Finals were contested in an NHL venue, both saw Les Canadiennes take to the ice against the Calgary Inferno.
Fittingly, the McGill influence was a key factor in Les Canadiennes capturing their fourth Clarkson Cup title. Katia Clement-Heydra, a former Brodrick Trophy winner, scored the game’s opening goal, quickly putting the tide in Montreal’s favour. Prevailing in a 3-1 final, goaltender Charline Labonte, who set the U SPORTS (then CIS) record for most career shutouts, was named Clarkson Cup Most Valuable Player. Undeniably, the chance to be both a U SPORTS national champion, and Clarkson Cup champion, achieving both in the same city represents an illustrious accomplishment, one that makes Peroff beam with pride,
“Winning a championship at any level is an amazing feeling. You are so tightly bonded with your teammates, you have worked so hard together towards a common goal, you have stuck up for one another and fought for the team, and to have it pay off is an experience that you will not ever forget. To have won the Clarkson Cup for my second time with the Montreal Canadiennes was just like this. It was special with the Furies, and special with Montreal. And it meant a lot to be able to play on an NHL ice, with a devout crowd of fans filling the Bowl.”
With the Clarkson Cup triumph of 2017, it marked the second win of Peroff’s career, establishing herself as an integral part of the Cup’s lore. Becoming the first Canadian player to have won the Clarkson Cup with two different teams, this remarkable brush with history has placed Peroff in a unique place in sporting Canadiana. Reflecting on her own journey, one that has made a compelling statement about sporting equality, her greatest achievement as a player may be supplying encouragement for younger female players to believe that any obstacles can be overcome, gaining the confidence to follow their own dreams,
“It was a while after the fact that I found out that this was the case, but I was proud. I have always felt proud to be a woman playing hockey and even more so when I joined the CWHL and saw first-hand the impact we could have on young children aspiring in sports and other interests. How they look up to us. How they see us. How amazing we are in their eyes.
It puts things into perspective, the role we can all play in inspiring others. I remember being a little girl and looking up to national team players in the same way, thinking they were just the coolest people ever and hoping and striving to be like them. I would go home and shoot in the driveway for hours, and set up obstacle courses with my plastic mats and cones. I would rollerblade down my street and run laps around my house. This was the impact they had on me and it was powerful.
When I found out that I was a part of this same history, one of the players that I would have looked up to when I was young, it was a shock. How did I get here? It made me reflect on all the hard work and passion it took to get to where I was. You do not fully realize how far you have come until big moments like this. It means a lot to me to play even a small role in this important story.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Featured image by: Shanna Martin