From Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson calling it a career to the possibility that legendary players like Hayley Wickenheiser and Charline Labonte may hang up their skates, another loss is felt. Although Kristen Lipscombe may not be a household name, she was a tireless worker whose love of the game and respect for others was complemented by charitable work with Oxfam.
As a member of the communications staff, Lipscombe not only issued press releases and handled interview requests, she would provide mentoring for younger players (such as Under-18) while composing a series of superlative articles
Having worked with all three members of Canada’s women’s hockey programs (Under-18, Under-22/Developmental and Senior) such versatility truly made her a valued team member. It also reflected her quality of being able to relate to players of all ages and backgrounds.
Considering that she was a player herself, competing with the Laurier Golden Hawks more than a decade ago, her experiences in the game provided her with an understanding of the occasional struggle for equality in women’s hockey. It would also make her an ideal mentor for members of the Under-18 and Under-22/development program over the seasons.
Her stories for Hockey Canada, chronicling the exploits of the women who played, were an invaluable archive, a wonderful narrative, preserving a chapter in an era when the game experienced unprecedented growth. During this time, she would even sandwich in time volunteering her services to the CWHL. Similar to Grantland Rice covering college football in the early 20th Century and Red Smith providing superlative reporting on sport in the post World War II era, Lipscombe’s coverage helped create new heroes and made fans feel as if they were actually there to see the action unfold.
Of all the levels that Lipscombe had worked with, her greatest legacy may have been with Canada’s Under-18 team. Having recently emerged as a significant sporting event, the IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds signals a very important first rung in the competitive ladder. Part of the support staff for three consecutive gold medal winning squads (2012 – 2014), Lipscombe was a key figure in helping the Under-18 program establish its relevance in hockey circles.
In addition to the Under-18 Worlds, Lipscombe also worked on other Under-18 events such as the Esso Cup, the Under-18 Canadian nationals and the World School Sport Challenge held in Winnipeg. Tirelessly traveling on the road from one event to another, she had the best seat in the house to see the game at its grass roots level.
Lipscombe was like a big sister to so many of the players on the U18 squads of those years. Providing positive guidance to potential future superstars such as Erin Ambrose, Hanna Bunton, Karly Heffernan, Emerance Maschmeyer and Laura Stacey on how to deal with media, the experiences with the Under-18 squads would serve as a great point of pride in her Hockey Canada sojourn.
Traveling abroad with the Canadian contingent to multiple international events, she had the opportunity to see players such as Melodie Daoust, Brianne Jenner, Genevieve Lacasse and Natalie Spooner blossom through the ranks, becoming Olympic level athletes. Of note, Lipscombe would coin the term “Super Six”, paying tribute to Sochi heroes Laura Fortino, Lauriane Rougeau, Tara Watchorn, Marie-Philip Poulin and the aforementioned Jenner and Spooner (all six played in all three levels of the national team program).
While she returns to her journalistic roots in Atlantic Canada, Lipscombe leaves behind a group of valued colleagues, players and coaches that saw her as more than just an employee or an associate, but as a friend. From her humble beginnings as a volunteer at the Four Nations Cup in Kitchener, Ontario, her time at Hockey Canada was nothing short of a labor of love.
Although Lipscombe never had the opportunity to travel to the Winter Games in Vancouver and Sochi, she racked up a significant number of miles. Making the journey from one end of Canada to another, visiting European hockey hotbeds for the Under-18 Worlds, the Meco Cup and the IIHF Women’s Worlds, Lipscombe made as many personal sacrifices as the players to help ensure that Canada’s reputation as a world hockey power remained golden.