A key contributor to the mythos of Western Canadian professional women’s ice hockey in the millennial era, revered goaltender Jennifer Price possessed a remarkable versatility that made her a highly valued teammate and admired superstar. Whether it was on the ice with the BC Breakers, or the ball hockey courts, highlighted by the privilege of wearing the Canadian jersey, Price has earned a place among Canada’s most legendary backstops.
One of the first stars of the now defunct Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL), Price gained the respect of fans, teammates and competitors alike. During a winless season in 2005-06, which saw the Breakers log 21 losses and a trio of ties, Price was among the bright lights for the club.
Facing nearly 50 shots per game, while recording a save percentage of nearly .910, Price’s season culminated with well-earned honors as the WWHL’s Defensive Player of the Year. As a side note, 2006 would see Price accumulate more hockey hardware, as she was recognized as the Most Valuable Player of the CBHA Nationals.
“I still have a hard time wrapping my head around receiving the Defensive player of the league that year, when my goals against was similar to an NHL goalie in the 80’s. Yes, it was that high…makes it that more special that the league felt me worthy of this award in a league that hosted Colleen Sostorics, Delaney Collins, and other US and CDN national team players sprinkled throughout.
Guess always trying my hardest on every shot was respected and I appreciate this award more than most because there were so many worthy players in our league to choose from. It’s one of the few awards I still have.”
Even while she competed with the BC Breakers, Price was active on the ball hockey court. In 2006, she logged a shutout as the Vancouver Hawks bested the cross-town rival Vancouver Sharks, winners of the first Women’s World Cup, (contested in Pittsburgh back in 2005) in a captivating 1-0 final. Undoubtedly, such a sterling performance was crucial towards Price obtained MVP honors.
Among the players that she called teammates during 2005-06 included Tamara Pickford and Silvia Traversa, who would go on to enjoy significant runs as members of Canada’s national women’s ball hockey team. Also part of the Breakers in that season was Melissa Anderson, who set the tone on offense with a team-best 15 points in merely 14 games.
Qualifying for the WWHL tournament in the following season, the accolades continued for Price, as she was bestowed the honor of a spot on the league’s All-Star Team. As the only member of the Breakers to gain All-Star status, she was joined on said Team by a who’s who of women’s hockey.
The aforementioned Colleen Sostorics, who donned the jersey of the Calgary Oval X-Treme was one of the two blueliners to gain All-Star honors. Future Clarkson Cup champion Chelsey Brodt of the Minnesota Whitecaps was the other blueliner named. Joining Brodt as the other Whitecaps on the All-Star team included All-World forward Natalie Darwitz plus Kristin King, a member of the US bronze medal team at Torino 2006. Canadian hockey immortal Hayley Wickenheiser, also a member of the X-Treme rounded out the group.
Reflecting on the opportunity to play alongside the likes of Pickford and Traversa represented an illuminating time for Price. As all three would shine internationally in ball hockey, they felt like brethren in both facets of the game. In spite of the dominance of the Whitecaps and the X-Treme, Price is quick to praise the efforts of these venerated teammates, and their admirable efforts in Breakers colors,
“Playing on the Breakers with Tamara and Sylvia was challenging as a team; but great for the players. Tamara was already a long time Vet with loads of experience to help the younger players and Sylvia was just starting to come into her game. We had a really tough struggle competing with the Calgary’s and Minnesota’s of the league, but I cringe to think what we would have been faced with if we had not had the two of them there.”
Taking into account how Pickford and Traversa evolved into ball hockey luminaries, Price staked her own claim in the game, running parallel to their heroics. Following the 2006-07 WWHL season, Price stood between the pipes for Canada’s gold medal winning contingent which participated at the inaugural ISBHF Women’s World Championships, hosted in Ratingen, Germany.
Also suiting up for Canada at the 2009 ISBHF Worlds in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Price shared goaltending duties with Paige Marlow and Melanie Rees in another golden outcome. In between donning the Maple Leaf internationally, she sandwiched in a notable appearance in 2008. With the community of Oshawa, Ontario, located east of Toronto, hosting a national championship event, Price was among the marquee competitors.
Standing between the pipes for the Vancouver Hawks, Price and her teammates were determined to upset the host Stampede, employing physical play and a staid defensive minded approach. Although the Stampede would emerge victorious in a 3-0 final, eventually capturing the national championship, that saw generations collide. Price displayed the kind of resolve that made her a mainstay for the national team.
Worth noting, the host Oshawa Stampede featured a pair of future Winter Games competitors on the roster, Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Wakefield. While both budding stars were still in their teens, history would prove that this game represented a passing of the torch, generations colliding in a tournament that would serve as prologue for two brilliant careers. That theme would continue one year later as Spooner would call Price a teammate in Pilsen.
Certainly, winning world championship gold twice represented a crowning achievement for Price, embodying the thrill of elite competition and the essence of what the game means. Reminiscing on such a pinnacle, the feeling of national pride rises to the surface, as a sense of unity among the players enriched the prestige of international play.
“I had the chance to play for team Canada in 2007 and 2009 and both times the experience was amazing. In Germany for the 2007 championships it was a bit of a culture shock.
We would walk to the rink from our Team Canada hotel and did a lot of team bonding during the walks, but when we got to the rink behind the net ends there were ashtrays set up so people could smoke while watching the games. Putting on that jersey the first time cannot be put into words.
There’s this feeling of joy and excitement that is mixed with a nervous energy. You feel one way when you are playing for your team. a type of pride in yourself to do well, but when you put on the Canada jersey; start wanting to do well because you want to do your country proud. In our case we won gold in both 2007 and 2009 so thankfully I think as a group we did a good job of making the country behind the jersey proud.”
For a goaltender of Price’s ability, the reality was that her staying power translated into peak performances as the next decade followed. As prestigious as the jubilation of winning world championships were, attaining a peak that so few can enjoy, Price’s brushes with glories had not yet reached their apex.
Perhaps Price’s finest hour on home soil took place in 2011, hoisting the Redwood Cup with the Burnaby Hawks. Awarded to the Play On! 4-on-4 national championship team, Price and her teammates battling through torrential rains on the first day, enjoying glimmer and sparkle in the finals. It was another sterling achievement for Price, which served to enhance her already superlative hockey resume, as a pulse-pounding final saw the Hawks best the Edmonton Fusion.
“If I were to rank 2011 Play On! championship in my career it would probably be second behind the 2006 national championship and just before the first world championship in 2007. Why might you ask, would a tournament where it was raining so hard the first day (that) our gear was soaked through to the point I thought my pads would never dry again, rank so high on my list? It is because this was the first major tournament I participated in since I was a kid that my family was able to be there in person to watch.
I loved being able to share this experience with my best friends (my teammates) and my mom, aunt and other family. Only downside was (that) it was a year too late to share it with my father and grandfather; because I know how proud they would have been to be there.”
Although Price managed another five fantastic seasons following the glory of the Redwood Cup, her twilight was filled with many more notable highlights. Among such highlights including a superlative 2013 season in the 2013 Vancouver Women’s Ball Hockey League. Emerging as league’s regular season goaltending champion, she paced all backstops with a sparkling 0.50 goals against average, testament to her durability and reliability.
Fittingly, a series of superlative achievements made 2016 a year to cherish for Price, emphasizing her long-lasting legacy. Starting with a defeat of the archrival BC Benders for the provincial championship, a following Western title served to complement a rather stirring time.
The momentum would continue for Price and her fellow Hawks, as they gained the chance to compete at the 2016 edition of the CBHA Nationals. As Kamloops, British Columbia served as the host city for the event, Price’s presence at Nationals was enhanced by the chance to participate in her home province.
Competing in the Women’s B Division, Price was the leader in shutouts during round robin play. Blanking the Edmonton Whalers by a 6-0 tally, along with a 2-0 win over Pacific rival the West Coast Amazons, as Linda Milani and Sandi Lauzon supplied the goals, Price was just as stupefying in the elimination round. As a side note, Milani is another long-standing player in Hawks lore. In the aftermath of the 2006 CBHA Nationals, Milani and Price were joined by Jennifer Ho as three Hawks on the Tournament All-Star Team.
Topping all backstops in goals against average (0.35) and shutouts (2), while tying with Rebecca Carlson of the Edmonton Assassins in minutes played, the B Division title was merely prologue.
Advancing to Pool A play, the BC Hawks were part of the division named in honor of one of their greatest players, the Linda Milani Division. Competing against the likes of the eventual national champion New Tecumseth Xtreme, Edmonton Red Light and Manitoba Rage, Price contributed towards gaining a win and a tie in the preliminary round.
Statistically, Price ranked fifth in goals against average amongst all goaltenders in preliminary competition. She was part of a very distinguished group of elite goaltending talent, including BC Selects backstop Cassidy Hendricks, Clarkson Cup champion (and 2015 ISBHF gold medalist) Delayne Brian, Ottawa Mooseheads legend Nathalie Girouard, who has also competed in the ISBHF Masters, plus Edmonton’s Kristen Sugiyama, who shared goaltending duties with Girouard at the 2017 ISBHF Worlds.
Reaching the medal round, the Hawks found a familiar rival in the Bronze Medal game. Taking on the BC Selects, a roster filled with notable players from throughout the province, the matchup at Minoru Arena saw the Selects emerge with a 6-2 victory.
Although it may not have been the desired result, the climb of the Hawks from Pool B to the bronze medal game in Pool A represented a fitting denouement to Price’s remarkable run with the Hawks organization. Proud to be part of an amazing group of women whose passion on the hardcourts, complemented by an indomitable spirit in Kamloops which represented perseverance and fair play, embodied the spirit that anything can truly happen in competition.
“I was lucky to play on the Hawks for the better part of 10+ years and we had our share of provincial titles and Nationals appearances; but in 2016 knowing it was probably going to be my last season of ball hockey, I could not picture a much better way to finish.
The Benders were an unbelievably great team and they showed it throughout the last couple years just how great a team they were. To win against them for the Provincial championship is still beyond all expectations…then to win the Western championship as well; how can you put something like that onto paper?
I am still proud of how hard our team competed in Nationals and even though we were beaten to bronze by our other BC team; it was great to say we made it to the bronze game to begin with.”
Worth noting, the calendar year of 2017 proved that Price still packed plenty of punch, experiencing another momentous occasion. Suiting up for the South Fraser TNT, she backstopped the squad to the championship game of the Senior Female AA title in the South Coast Women’s Hockey Championships. With a bevy of fans on-hand at the Richmond Ice Center for the final, they were treated to another compelling chapter in Price’s goaltending legacy.
Taking on the Kamloops Vibe, the first two periods resulted in scoreless play as Price performed valiantly in the effort of providing her team with a chance to win. Although the Kamloops Vibe broke the scoreless deadlock, winning by a very visceral 1-0 final, there was a slight tinge of irony. Alana Parker, who typically suits up as a goaltender for Kamloops, logged the game-winning goal. Suiting up at forward on this day, she provided the Vibe with their sixth provincial championship, although it was one that was certainly hard-earned.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from Facebook
To read Part One, please visit: https://www.womenshockeylife.com/blogs_view_dsp.cfm?BlogId=2332&CatId=10