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Devon Skeats Part of Special Championship Sorority

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With the existence of two major championships in professional women’s ice hockey, the Clarkson Cup and the Isobel Cup, history takes on an exciting new dimension. As players’ paths in their professional careers have sent a growing number of women competing in both leagues, achievements extend beyond the chance to be All-Stars in both leagues. It allows them a chance to have their names engraved on both trophies. 

When the first Isobel Cup was contested in 2016, the Buffalo Beauts, headlined by Brianne McLaughlin and Meghan Duggan, the captain of the US national women’s team, challenged the Boston Pride, a club that also competed in the inaugural Women’s Winter Classic.

The final score, 3-2 in favor of the Pride, resulted in eleven women becoming part of a unique chapter in the game’s legacy. Becoming the first women to win the Clarkson Cup and the Isobel Cup in back-to-back years, such an elated eleven included Kacey Bellamy, Blake Bolden (the first black woman to win either Cup) Corinne Buie, Brianna Decker, Jillian Dempsey, Alyssa Gagliardi, Hilary Knight, Denna Laing (who was understandably, on injured reserve), Rachel Llanes, Brittany Ott (the winning goaltender), and Alaska’s Jordan Smelker.

Having all won the Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades in 2015, it made Boston the first city in women’s hockey history to win such prestigious titles. As a side note, the WWHL’s Calgary Oval X-Treme and the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno have both won respective championships.

Although they were not part of the Blades’ 2015 roster, Gigi Marvin and Cherie Hendrickson, both members of the Pride’s championship team in 2016 had experienced the jubilation of a Clarkson Cup. Both were part of the Blades’ first-ever championship team, defeating the Montreal Stars in 2013.

Among a number of Canadians who suited up for the Buffalo Beauts roster in the 2017 edition of the Isobel Cup final, Devon Skeats would be part of an event that served as a bridge towards creating more history. From the outset, Buffalo redeemed itself, defeating the favored Pride in the Cup rematch, as Buie became the first woman to win consecutive Isobel Cups with different teams.

Such a memorable run with the Beauts also included an appearance in the NWHL All-Star Game for Skeats, also an alum of the prestigious Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks program, was part of the first group of Canadians to have won the Isobel Cup, which included the likes of Harrison Browne and Amanda Leveille, among others. Although it may have been unforeseen at the time, the historic path would not end there for Skeats.

Making the jump to the CWHL’s Thunder franchise in 2017, their first in Markham, Ontario, it allowed Skeats’ career to come full circle. Among the members of the Thunder franchise included a pair of other wondrous women who have contributed to the lore of Golden Hawks hockey.

Part of the Thunder’s roster that appeared in the 2012 Clarkson Cup finals, goaltender Liz Knox was the recipient of the Brodrick Trophy in 2010 as a member of the Golden Hawks. Having first suited up for the Thunder in 2012, Laura MacIntosh also juggled an admirable coaching career during her remarkable run as a professional player. Serving as a member of Golden Hawks’ head coach Rick Osborne’s staff, there was an element of serendipity as one of the players she coached included Skeats, who would graduate from the program in 2014 with three OUA conference titles.

Making her debut with the Thunder in an October 14 match against the Toronto Furies, Skeats’ first point in the green jersey held an element of foreshadowing. Logging an assist on October 22, she collaborted with Karolina Urban on the game-winning goal scored by Taylor Woods, part of a 3-0 home win against the Kunlun Red Star, the same team that the Thunder would challenge for the Clarkson Cup. 

Skeats’ first CWHL goal would also take place against one of China’s expansion teams. Taking place on home ice once again, as the Thunder hosted the Vanke Rays, she scored in the first period of a 5-4 win. Adding to the feeling of foreshadowing was the fact that Nicole Kosta, who gained the assist on Laura Stacey’s Cup clinching goal, logged her first career assist on Skeats’ goal. Worth noting, Skeats would be recognized as the Second Star of the Game.

Becoming the twelfth woman to have won both major championships in consecutive years, Skeats made history twice. Of note, she had captured the championships in reverse order to the other ten recipients, capturing the Isobel Cup first, followed by the Clarkson. While each of these historic women has a character of their own, Skeats shines as she becomes the first Canadian to have achieved this unique feat, becoming an iconic symbol in the game.

Considering that this was achieved during an Olympic year, Skeats’ brush with history demonstrates how the successes of women in hockey are possible in all of the game’s facets.

Photo credit: Jess Bazal-Ritchotte

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