CWHL 2016 All-Star Game

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) is a “premier, professionally-run women’s hockey league … centrally funded, with all participating teams in the CWHL receiving equal access to financial support and given the same opportunities to succeed. The CWHL is a not-for-profit organization, with every dollar going towards building a league that is dedicated to raising the profile of women’s hockey, providing a place for the best female players in the world to compete and inspiring the next generation of female hockey heroines” (cwhl.ca).

On Saturday, January 23, 2016 the league is hosting the annual CWHL All-Star Game! All proceeds from the event go to the development of the league. Game is at 1pm at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto … exciting. To purchase tickets go here.

The Globe and Mail has recently been featuring interviews and profiles of the CWHL, which is unusual for a mainstream paper. Typically there are fringe articles about women in sport tucked in the back pages. So it was a great surprise to see The Globe post “CWHL’s Japanese skaters driven by passion for Olympic hockey podium” front and center on their website this week. The article is very insightful, and highlights the intense sacrifice and class/cultural differences that exist between women’s and men’s hockey, as through the story of Sena Suzuki.

Other interesting reads: Interview with Hayley Wickenheiser, six time Olympian and trailblazer for women’s hockey, and Interview with Brenda Andress, motivational speaker and founder and commissioner of the CWHL. The league is making a concerted effort to grow the sport and make visible the talent of women players. But they can’t do this alone, the public needs to make an effort to support the league … which is where you come in – talk up the league, post on social media: go see games. It’s that simple.

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Women’s World Cup: Finals

The WWC final feels like it occurred ages ago, what with the Pan American Games now happening in the Greater Toronto Area. Yet, the experience is still vivid – it was the most exciting and intense sporting experience I have ever been to. The day of the finals, the streets of Vancouver were littered with soccer supporters – everywhere I looked there were USA jerseys, Japan jerseys and yes, Canada jerseys (I was wearing one myself). There was also a rally outside BC Place, see for yourself***.

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Inside BC Place, the energy was electric. USA fans were an overwhelming majority, although with Vancouver’s large Japanese community, there were many committed Japanese fans in the stadium.

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Over the last few weeks there have been heavy forest fires throughout the western part of Canada. BC is not experiencing the worst of it, however the afternoon of the finals there was smoke that seeped into the air at BC Place and stayed there for the entire match. You’ll notice that many of the photos of the match are covered over with a layer of gray – that’s the smoke.

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The shock of USA scoring not once but FOUR TIMES in the first fifteen minutes was unreal (the crowd was so loud after they scored their first goal, I thought my ears were going to pop). My take was that Japan was caught completely off-guard by the pace and strength of the Americans so early in the game. Coupled with some shaky defense and young, nervous energy – Japan was chasing for the rest of the match. At the beginning of the second half, it looked like they might mount a comeback, however when the USA scored their fifth goal, everyone knew it was done and USA had clinched their third World Cup in the history of the tournament.

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USA played a brilliant game and were the better team in the finals. Their squad is also in its prime, and Japan is going through a transitory period with a bit of a gap between younger and veteran players, much like the Canadian WNT. However, throughout the tournament I was most impressed by Japan’s creativity and technical proficiency. France was my other favourite – they excite me the most with a side that is the best balance of strength and flair. The 2019 WWC will be held in France, and I think this will be France’s tournament to shine.

Kadeisha Buchanan was awarded the Young Player Award at the WWC ceremony – I was beaming! Much deserved and an incredible environment to have her receive it. As an aside, when the FIFA officials were introduced prior to the start of the ceremony, the fans booed them…it was expected and unfortunate.

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After the game, the streets were packed with fans. My buddies and I were hungry and went to Guu Garden after the game, a popular Japanese izakaya in downtown Vancouver, which was the BEST choice. Half hour after we arrived the place became packed with Japanese supporters who were celebrating their team despite the loss. It was incredible. But get this! The whole time we were eating and drinking, the USA WNT arrived at their hotel RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. We only noticed them after they had already arrived, changed and went back out to their bus, which was on route to their local celebration (the bus had an eagle on it with the words “It takes 23”, amazing). I was only able to get pics of them in the bus, not walking onto it. Nonetheless, it was a cool moment that topped off an incredible WWC tournament experience in my home country.

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***All pictures © Cristina Murano

October Soccer: Canada WNT vs Japan

Canada scheduled two exhibition matches with Japan this month, one on October 25 (Video 2) and the other on October 28 (Video 1). Match highlights below!

Video 1: October 28

Video 2: October 25