In Erica Kromm’s accomplished career with the Team Alberta/Calgary Inferno franchise, it embodied a proud contribution towards establishing a proud yet pioneering legacy for professional women’s ice hockey in Alberta. Hardworking and humble, Kromm has quietly assembled a solid career built on the values of devotion to her team, while remaining committed to seeing the franchise continue to reach unprecedented heights.
During such an exciting time, the calendar year of 2016 may have represented the most memorable. Part of the experience included the opportunity to grace the ice in a pair of NHL arenas, testament to the game’s growing impact as a major league sport.
From the outset, 2016 saw Kromm enjoy the jubilation of capturing the Clarkson Cup. Held at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre, it was the first Cup final contested in an NHL arena. The sense of historic firsts continued into the following season, when the first half of the 2016-17 CWHL season saw the Inferno take on Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the first-ever regular season game at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
“This year has been amazing and completely not what I’ve ever been used to. I have had the opportunity to practice alongside the best female hockey players in the world and every day they make me a better hockey player. It is amazing to me how you can have not so great seasons for ten consecutive years and then all of a sudden have the most rewarding year of your life. It is quite breathtaking how life and hockey sometimes work.”
Taking into account that during the Team Alberta era, Kromm also skated in the first CWHL games to take place at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome, these events represent a series of cherished moments which are woven into a rich hockey tapestry that has culminated with her reaching the fabled century mark with the franchise.
Making her debut with Team Alberta on October 27, 2012, Kromm would score an unassisted goal in the second period against Liz Knox of the visiting Brampton Thunder. Enjoying the unique milestone of scoring a goal in her first game, she would also find her name on the scoresheet in a December 2 tilt with the Toronto Furies, scoring against CWHL co-founder Sami Jo Small.
Before Kromm’s inaugural season would expire, she would log the first multi-point game of her CWHL career. Taking on the Montreal Stars in a three-game road series, Kromm and fellow blueliner Tara Watchorn would assist on Erin Duggan’s goal, providing the club with the 1-0 lead.
In the third period, with Alberta facing a 3-1 deficit, compounded by the loss of Kathy Desjardins to a collarbone injury, Duggan and Chelsea Purcell would earn the assists on Kromm’s goal, trimming Montreal’s lead by one goal. Scoring on Winter Games gold medalist Charline Labonte, Montreal would hold on for the win, although Kromm’s tireless efforts indiciated that the franchise had a building block for the blueline.
“My fondest memory of the Team Alberta days would have to be going through the grind with my teammates. Back then, we’d play three game weekend series – flying on a Friday, playing that same day, playing Saturday, playing Sunday and flying back home on Sunday to make it in for work on Monday. As much as I don’t miss it, I appreciate how the grind brought us together. We had a very close team my first year and I think we won all of 4 games. We embraced our inner honey badger. Years like that one really help you understand why you play the game.”
On November 26, 2016, Kromm became only the second player in the history of the franchise to appear in 100 career games. In so doing, she joins long-time teammate (and the Inferno’s all-time leading scorer) Jenna Cunningham as members of this exclusive sorority. A pregame ceremony saw Kromm gracing the ice in her current Inferno reds, while the Inferno’s general manager held the Team Alberta navy blue jersey, adorned in gold color. This achievement signified a remarkable hockey legacy while paying tribute to her durability and reliability.
The 100th game held a serendipitous tone as the game was held in conjunction with the seventh annual Hayley Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival. As the stands saw young players garbed in a rainbow of different minor hockey team jerseys, Kromm’s ceremony was a remarkable inspiration that was reciprocated. In addition to the young fans witnessing history, providing them with a role model, but the presence of such promising talents inspired Kromm, validating an amazing career devoted to the franchise.
As the Inferno outshot the visiting Boston Blades by an astounding 52-11 margin, victorious in a 5-1 final, it was only fitting that Kromm was recognized as the First Star of the Game, accentuating an evening already filled with many memorable highlights.
“Playing in my 100th game was definitely a proud moment. My teammates and our staff made that night very special for me and they are the very reason why I made it to 100. Playing in this league has given me a second chance at hockey, as we didn’t win many games at Brown (where I played college NCAA) and there wasn’t a lot of glory! This past year has made it all worth it and my 100th was a part of that.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Dave Holland