Among the most admirable traits of the Calgary Inferno is the captivating culture that sets the tone for a strong sense of teamwork and friendship. An impressive collection of world class talent and compassionate individuals whose impact is just as noticeable off the ice, the Inferno are among the gold standard for hockey humanitarians.
Sandwiched in between Jacquie Pierri’s efforts for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Jessica Campbell’s second straight fundraiser for the Do It For Daron Foundation, the You Can Play (YCP) event was a cause close to Erica Kromm’s heart. Familiar with the objective of YCP and its goals of eradicating homophobia from sport, Kromm’s commitment to the cause stemmed from a role as an Athlete Ambassador. Kromm’s efforts yielded positive results, which were highlighted by student athletes from Mount Royal University, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and the University of Calgary participating in Take a Stand pictures, helping raise awareness about the presence of YCP.
“The idea of a YCP game came from my participation as a YCP Western Ambassador last Spring to present. YCP was a perfect tool to use as a way of getting into the Calgary athletic community and spreading the message of inclusion and acceptance.”
In an era when many prominent female athletes, including the likes of Elena Delle Donne (basketball), Sami Grisafe (tackle football) and Abby Wambach (soccer), have the confidence and the encouragement to proudly proclaim their same sex preference, Erica Kromm courageously builds on their legacies. Considering that the roster of the Inferno is a gathering of players from four different countries and multiple provinces, it weaves a tapestry of both cooperation and unity.”
With the Inferno hosting the Boston Blades, all players showed solidarity with rainbow colored tape on their sticks and/or socks. Adding to the strong sense of teamwork was the Inferno’s fanbase, as many in attendance showed their support, with rainbow stickers adorning their cheeks.
Recording 12 saves in a convincing 9-2 victory against the Blades, the victory served as a season highlight for Clarkson Cup MVP Delayne Brian. Calling Kromm a teammate since the 2013-14 campaign, she found tremendous inspiration in her hard work and dedication towards this notable cause,
“Absolutely, I was proud of all the time and effort Krommer put into this game. This is a cause close to her (and mine as well) heart, so to see such a great turn out after all the time she put into it was amazing.”
Known for solid forechecking and selfless efforts which prove that key contributions in a game extend beyond scoring, Bailey Bram is a key contributor towards the Calgary Inferno’s success over recent seasons. In the 9-2 win, Bram would score a first period goal, her team-best 11th of season, with Jessica Campbell and Meaghan Mikkelson logging the assists. Bram would reciprocate, as she logged an assists on Mikkelson’s goal in the second stanza. As a side note, nine different members of the Inferno would register at least one point in the game.
Having established herself as both hardworking and gracious, Bram’s career in Calgary has been enriched by the presence of an individual such as Kromm. Akin to Brian, since Bram has first donned the Inferno’s colors, she has also enjoyed the opportunity to call Kromm a teammate, while finding a positive influence in her work ethic.
“I can’t say enough good things about Krommer, she comes to the rink everyday and works her tail off, but not only that, she brings so much heart and passion to our team that I couldn’t imagine what the Inferno would be like without her. She is a special teammate and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to play alongside her for the last couple years!”
Earlier this season, Kromm joined former teammate Jenna Cunningham as only the second player to appear in 100 games for the franchise. Kromm is more than just a throwback to the Team Alberta days, which includes current teammates Laura Dostaler and Meaghan Mikkelson, she is an ambassador for the team and a great example of the athletes that represent YCP’s outstanding mission and core values.
The outcome of the Inferno’s YCP event fostered a sense of achievement and fulfillment, one that Kromm is quick to share among her peers. Recognizing the unified effort on the part of her Inferno teammates, there was also a cherished encouragement attributed to the student athletes from Southern Alberta’s post secondary institutions. Regardless of their school affiliations, any rivalries were dissolved in the name of an important initiative,
“I thought the event went well. Our main goal was to spread the message to as many people as we could and we did everything in our power to achieve that. Without a doubt, it was a great base to start with. My favourite moment(s) happened outside of the event itself.
Every time I received a student athlete picture (Take a Stand pictures) from my SAIT, Mount Royal, or U of C contact(s) I got really excited. The pictures are an important visual. They show who you are, what you do, and what you’re standing for.
It makes people accountable for what they believe in. It is one thing to say you support the LGBTQ community in private and a completely other thing to prove it in public the way these athletes did. It’s not easy to put your hand up and stand for something that can be controversial. It proves such an important point when not two or three, but 70 plus student athletes take a stand to create a safe space for their teammates, opponents, etc.”
Throughout the 2016-17 season, one that saw the Inferno clinch first overall in the CWHL standings for the first time in franchise history, an integral component to such success has involved a strong sense of team chemistry and the ability to come together. The result extends beyond strengthening the bonds of friendship among the team, forging a powerful culture, but the greater reward is the ability to help make the community that much stronger. It is among the values that makes Brian proud to wear the Inferno jersey,
“We are having a DIFD (Start the Spark) game again this year in a couple weeks when Montreal comes here. We also had a Heart and a Stroke game earlier in the year headed by Jacquie Pierri. I think things like this really show how much time and dedication we put into our league and some of the causes that we support. Hopefully when fans come out in big numbers to these games they realize how great of a product we have here and come out more regularly.”
From the multiple fundraisers that have taken place, to the Inferno’s Heritage Game, along with an exciting exhibition series in Japan, the bigger victory is the team building derived, forming a foundation that has transformed the Inferno into one of the model sports franchises in Western Canada, along with professional female sport throughout North America. To see the individuals on the Inferno coalesce in such endeavors is a strong point of pride for Bram, who believes strongly in the positive characteristics of teamwork.
“I do believe our many road trips as a team and our special games like the Heart&Stroke, You Can Play and our Start the Spark game that is coming up really do bring the girls together. We are all here working towards a common goal, and knowing how much work and planning goes into each game really makes us want to rally behind it and have the best outcome possible.
I find in those unique games, we all find that extra gear and want to win it not only for Jacqui, Erica or Jess, but because it is for a cause so much bigger than ourselves and I find that really special.”
Reflecting on the You Can Play fundraiser, there was another facet that presented Kromm with a strong sense of dignified gratification. On the same day that the Inferno held their event, a bantam team also hosted a You Can Play fundraiser, paying homage to Kromm’s admirable initiative.
In receiving a message from the bantam player who decided to organize this event, Kromm was humbled yet honoured. Seeing a young member of the community display so much maturity and leadership sent an inspiring message about freedom of choice and respect for diversity. Undoubtedly, this youngster’s resourcefulness definitely made a fan out of Kromm and a role model to those who call her a teammate,
“The neat thing about this bantam team taking a stand with the Inferno and YCP is that it was initiated by a 13 year old, Emily. Kids understand what’s going on and it’s not a bad thing.
If a group of young female hockey players can wear Pride Tape on their sticks and support their teammates whole heartedly, so can the rest of us. I personally knew I was gay before the age of 12. I thought I was weird. I thought it was just me. If I had had a teammate do what Emily did, it would have changed my whole life for the better between the ages of 12 and 18.
To know you are not alone, that you have support, and that who you are is exactly who you should be is half of the battle. It’s not always easy to be out and be who you truly are, but it makes it a whole lot easier when one of your peers says to everyone that they will not stand for homophobia.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Dave Holland