In an off-season that has seen the Calgary Inferno acquire world class talent such as Brianne Jenner, Jillian Saulnier and Hayley Wickenheiser, one transaction that may have flown under the radar may prove to be just as impactful. Making her CWHL comeback after not competing during the 2014-15 campaign, goaltender Kathy Desjardins solidifies the Inferno’s goaltending situation, quite possibly the finest in the league.
A throwback to the franchise’s Team Alberta days, when its team colors were navy blue and gold, one of the highlights during Desjardins’ first tour with the franchise involved competing in the first CWHL game contested in an NHL arena, a November 2012 tilt with the Toronto Furies at Air Canada Centre. Equally special was the fact that Desjardins was a member of the Inferno when they qualified for their first-ever playoff berth.
While Desjardins is happy to be back on CWHL ice, competing with one of the most popular ice hockey teams in Western Canada, her road back was one that consisted of an emotional and physical recovery. Considering that Desjardins suffered from a concussion, and had once endured a broken collarbone during the 2012-13 Team Alberta season, walking away from the game for one season may have proven to be the most effective remedy.
Finding a new athletic endeavor in the global phenomenon known as Cross Fit, it set the stage for a healthier, stronger and more confident goaltender. As a side note, Desjardins competed out of the Canada West region with Team Cross Fit Okanagan and is able to lift 295 pounds in the deadlift and 195 pounds in the back squat.
“When I decided to retire, I did it because I had to. My brain was not healthy from my concussion and many things were going on in my personal life. I decided to move to Kelowna, which I did not regret neither.
During that year off, I focused more on myself and what I needed as an athlete and a person to be happy. I discovered a new sport at Crossfit Okanagan in Kelowna and felt in love with it. It was not replacing hockey but pretty close. I trained myself harder that I had never done before. During that off season when I was not playing, I knew I was missing something and it was hockey.
My head was fine, I felt in great shape and I was thinking why not try next year for the Inferno? I texted the GM and she told me without any hesitation: “Show up to the training camp and we will see”. However they told me:’’ Make sure you are in shape”.
I just knew I was not done with the sport; I wanted to keep helping the CWHL to grow and help Women’s Hockey to gain popularity in Canada. In this case, I decided to move back in Alberta, where I got a Personal training job at Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.”
Not only did Desjardins qualify for the Inferno’s opening day roster, better moments lay ahead. Making her season debut in an October 25 match against the defending Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades at Winsport Arena in Calgary’s Joan Snyder Centre of Excellence, the result was satisfying. Stopping 23 of 24 shots, as Winter Games gold medalist (and former Team Alberta member) Tara Watchorn would score on the power play, the Inferno prevailed by a convincing 4-1 tally.
With the win, Desjardins experienced her first victory on CWHL ice since March 2, 2014. Coincidentally, the March 2 win also took place against the Boston Blades on home ice as she made 29 saves in a 4-2 final. During her career, Desjardins has won more games against Boston (5) than any other team in her career. Of all the wins, the October 25 outcome may prove to be the most cherished. Not only did the match signify her return to the CWHL, but it had proven that she was still a highly talented goaltender capable of competing with the best in the game, strengthening her confidence and providing further motivation to build on such momentum,
“I think I will remember this game forever. After our win at the opening game on Saturday, Scott the head coach asked me, “Are you ready for tomorrow?” I smiled and said: “YES”. At that moment, I did not realize I was playing my first game after a year off until Sunday morning.
I woke up and felt ready for that game; I was hoping that the first shot of the game would be a save for me, which did happen. I would be lying to say I felt pretty good on the ice. I was so nervous and never had I felt sick to my stomach than my comeback game.
I was happy it was done and especially that I help the team to get their second win. After the game, I called my dad and my mom to announce that we won. I felt the happiness and how proud my parents were. Especially my dad, who told me last summer, “Are you sure you are ready to come back? It won’t be easy”. Then to hear him say, “I’m proud of you” confirmed that I made the right choice to come back with the Inferno.”
Sharing goaltending duties with DeLayne Brian, the recipient of the CWHL’s 2014 Goaltender of the Year Award, both boast undefeated records during the first month of the season. Of all the teams that Desjardins has competed with in the CWHL, she has never been part of such a remarkable roster as the 2015-16 edition of the Calgary Inferno.
Already part of the Clarkson Cup conversation, such a strong start for the Inferno is making believers out of many league aficionados. Although a long journey remains ahead, the strong team culture and collaborative dedication ensures that it will be a worthwhile one. Employing maturity and a love of the game, Desjardins is ready to contribute,
“Playing with such a talented team is a gift for me. I am happy that I play with these girls and not against them. At the training camp, it was a little bit intimidating with all the big name and talent we had in the team. Yet, as soon I was confirm with the Inferno’s roster for 2015-2016, I did not feel that anymore.
On our team, whatever you did or won in the past, it does not matter. We are all leaders and together we are the Inferno. In this case, we have to give our 100% in every practice and game. To make sure we will be playing for the Clarkson Cup game at the end of the year, we all know that talent will not raise the Cup.
It is determination; hard work and discipline that will make us bring the Cup to Calgary. For myself, winning the Clarkson Cup will mean that my hockey career was a success in general.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Facebook