In a playing career that has provided many memorable hockey moments, Mandy Cronin was one of the finest goaltenders to establish herself during the game’s growth in the 2000s. As one of the first American-born goaltenders that competed in the former National Women’s Hockey League, she would emerge as an ideal teammate. Cronin’s presence certainly helped ease tensions between Canadian and American players.
Standing between the pipes most notably for the Brampton Thunder, she was just as important a fixture on the roster as the likes of Gillian Apps, Lori Dupuis, Allyson Fox, Jayna Hefford and Vicky Sunohara. The result was a long line of accomplishments for the proud franchise, including the Abby Hoffman Cup and the inaugural Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship in 2008.
Such an opportunity to continue competing for championships would never have occurred without her collaboration. Of note, she was one of seven sensational women that helped co-found the CWHL. Along with Jennifer Botterill, Lisa-Marie Breton, Allyson Fox, Kathleen Kauth, Kim McCullough and Sami Jo Small, Cronin would help redefine the game.
Facing the demise of the NWHL, Cronin’s efforts were part of an initiative to keep the game growing; ensuring women had a place to play after university. In 2007, these seven sensational women set the foundation in place for a new era of competitive women’s hockey. Forming the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, it stood as one of her proudest legacies in the game.
“Absolutely! It is always fun to reflect on the many years of playing elite hockey, and the amazing opportunities that the sport has provided me now that I am in my professional coaching career. Yet, the experience of being part of a group of elite, talented, intelligent female athletes who took a major task into our own hands and created something bigger than ourselves – that is something I will always cherish.”
That first CWHL season was certainly one that Cronin shall always treasure. Cronin was not only one of three players to suit up in every game for Brampton that season, but she led the CWHL in wins with 12. Teammate Cindy Eadie ranked third with 10 wins, providing Brampton with the league’s greatest goaltending duo. As a side note, Cronin would rank fourth in the league with 1022 minutes played, while posting a sparkling 2.29 goals against average, respectively.
Despite no longer guarding the crease in CWHL play, Cronin’s contributions still bear relevance. Recently, Cronin had the opportunity to serve as a presenter at the 2014 CWHL Awards, one of the budding league’s signature events. Presenting DeLayne Brian with the Goaltender of the Year Award would prove to be a historical and meaningful event.
Of note, Brian would be the first player in Calgary Inferno history to win a major award. The chance to be part of such events is of great reward for Cronin. Not only does it give the younger players the chance to meet one of the league’s founders in Cronin, but it supplies her with being able to meet the next generation of goaltenders following in her footsteps, a reciprocal homage.
“I was humbled and honored when I received the request to present the 2014 CWHL Goalie of the Year Award at the Clarkson Cup Gala. I think it is of the utmost importance to keep the CWHL veterans as involved as possible. I must say that I felt a bit old looking around at all the "youngsters" who are in the league now. But that was also the most rewarding part of the night – to see that our hard work in the early years has paid off, and that the league and all of these young ladies are now flourishing in the world’s most premier women’s hockey league.
Of course it was such a privilege to be able to hand the award to DeLayne. I make a living coaching young female goalies all over the world, so to be able to share that moment with her gave me hope for all of the young girls I work with – that someday in the near future, one of them could be up on the stage receiving that award. Who knows, maybe DeLayne will be handing it to them!”
While Cronin is no longer competing on CWHL ice, her love of the game has not been extinguished. Adding a new and exciting dimension to her career, Cronin is now part of the M-Power Hockey School, providing young female players hoping to improve their game with the opportunity to learn in an environment run exclusively by women.
”I love that I have been able to provide an environment where young girls can learn from their Jr/College/CWHL/National Team female hockey role models; where they can train with many other girls and be coached by elite, female instructors who have played and coached at the highest levels. I started M-Power Hockey to focus mostly on the niche industry of female hockey development, because most young female hockey players have always had to go to camps run by men, and usually were one of only a few girls attending these programs.”
Employing the same enthusiasm that made her such a valued teammate, Cronin is finding great reward as an instructor. With experience as a goalie coach at the 2010 USA Hockey National Festival, she would also reunite with former Brampton teammates as part of the coaching staff at the University of Toronto. Under head coach Vicky Sunohara, Cronin served as the goaltending coach. Sharing such expertise at M-Power with a new generation of young girls eager to experience their own glories in the game, it has developed into a true labor of love for Cronin.
“It is great to hear the testimonials from parents who appreciate the connection that their daughters have been able to share with their female instructors. Unlike their male counterparts, our female instructors are able to relate to the young girls and what they may be going through and where they aspire to take their career in the future!
Also, I have always been passionate about working with kids and finding ways to empower them by using sports as a vehicle to develop both character and athletic skills. I love that I get to spend my days networking with other professionals who share my passion, and that I get to coach, mentor and help young female athletes improve their life, and those around them, through sport.”