Adding a new dimension to the growing history of women’s sport in Canada, the four teams of LFL Canada have captured the hearts and minds of its loyal fans. Featuring players with backgrounds as diverse as teaching, motherhood and personal trainers, the league has helped transform these fearless females into gridiron heroes.
The league has quickly made national and worldwide news. Prior to the beginning of the season, Alicia Bell and her Toronto Triumph teammates braving the December weather at Yonge and Dundas Square in downtown Toronto for their PETA cause made international headlines. A brawl between Saskatoon and Regina fans has gone viral on the internet.
The Saskatchewan Bowl promises to make the rivalry between Regina and Saskatchewan as intense as the collegiate rivalries between Michigan vs. Michigan State (for the Paul Bunyan Trophy) or USC vs. Notre Dame (where the winner gets the Jeweled Shillelagh). Another match that promises to raise the stakes in the level of competition of LFL is the first annual Border War between the Seattle Mist and the BC Angels.
Players from the U.S. league like Heather Furr, Anne Erler and Jessica Hopkins have brought great leadership to the franchises. Home-grown talent like Stephanie Manou, Kylie Rossler and Casey Simpson have become hometown heroes in their respective markets, while helping provide a cornerstone of franchise players for the league to build upon.
Aiming to be one of the fastest growing sports in Canada, the following are 10 reasons why you should watch.
Nothing displays the character and empowerment that comes with competing in the league than an athlete that juggles a career, household and an athletic endeavor. It takes a very special and dedicated woman. These are highly conditioned athletes with great strength inside and outside.
Some of the moms that compete in the league include Donna Paul (with the Toronto Triumph) and Alyssa Cecchini (from the Regina Rage). The BC Angels might lead the league in most moms on their roster. Along with U.S. import Jessica Hopkins who won the Mortazza Award in the U.S. division of the LFL, the Angels moms include: QB Mary Anne-Hanson, RB Nadege St. Felix and WR Darnelle Bernemann.
In all seriousness, there are many women that do not feel sexy after having children. If LFL Canada does not make a woman feel strong and powerful, yet sexy and desired, no other opportunity will. The opportunity to compete in LFL shows these dedicated moms that it is possible to have it all while serving as inspirations for working moms everywhere.
The pregame autograph sessions are an invaluable component in promoting the total package that is LFL Canada. Meeting players adds to the experience, and to be a sports fan is to identify with experiences. Making athletes accessible not only gives fans a vested, personal ownership in the performance of the team, but an autographed photo is always a highly cherished piece of sports memorabilia.
With the public tryouts that LFL Canada held in the spring, women from all walks of life displayed interest. From university students to personal trainers, from prominent athletes in other sports (hockey and softball) to school teachers, the league has a universal appeal to it. This league is for all women to celebrate their beauty, athleticism and character. Women suddenly have the opportunity to become athletic heroes in a male-dominated sporting landscape.
While cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver hold so much attention in Canadian culture, it can be hard to forget that there is more to discover in the rest of the country. Not only have the Saskatoon Sirens and Regina Rage reinforced Saskatchewan’s reputation as the home of the most dedicated, hardcore Canadian football fans, it may prove to be home to some of Canada’s most attractive women. If one accomplishment emanated from the inaugural LFL Canada season, it is that the women of Saskatchewan are definitely worth watching.
Alicia Bell of the Toronto Triumph is not only one of the most attractive women in LFL Canada, but has displayed her dedication to charitable causes. PETA is a cause that several Triumph players (and athletes in LFL U.S.) gave their time too. Bell and her teammates holding a demonstration in December, while in their uniforms, is a testament to their dedication. The Bench Fur campaign was worldwide news.
A generation ago, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan were two-sport stars in baseball and football, respectively. The title of two-sport star now applies to female athletes. LFL Canada can proudly boast its own two-sport stars.
Donna Paul, Kylie Rossler and Ashley Richter all had hockey backgrounds. Paul competed for the Toronto Lady Blues in CIS. Rossler and Richter both competed in the NCAA (Rossler with Robert Morris and Mercyhurst in CHA, Richter with the Vermont Catamounts in Hockey East).
Sirens backup quarterback Carrie Britton represented Saskatchewan in national softball tournaments. Furr (also with the Sirens) was a highly competitive collegiate basketball player in the state of Illinois. LFL Canada has created a generation of multi-talented women that can show young female athletes that anything is possible.
The key aspect of the LFL U.S. athletes that are competing with the Canadian franchises is that they are serving as leaders and mentors. Furr (from the Chicago Bliss) and Erler (from the Green Bay Chill) have been a strong reason that the Saskatoon Sirens have enjoyed a strong start to their season.
In addition, it is helping to give many promising players from the U.S. division the chance to improve their game. Ogom Chijindu of Saskatoon has seen her game rise dramatically since coming north of the border. A fan favorite, the confidence that she has obtained will offer her the opportunity to become a big star in LFL U.S..
In an era where exorbitant salaries have ruined the sporting experience for many fans, the women of LFL Canada manage careers along with their athletic dreams. Sylvie Manaigre of the Toronto Triumph is a bartender, Bell graduated from the prestigious Dalhousie University and Whitney Paronish once worked in insurance. These are athletes that the common sports fan can relate to because they are in a similar income bracket, and have to juggle more than one career. The old school fan can respect these athletes because it harks back to a time when athletes from the '50s and '60s had to work jobs in the offseason in order to finance their athletic endeavors.
Any woman that can wear the sports bra and shorts while risking a wardrobe malfunction has more courage than the toughest linebacker in men’s football. One would never see men play basketball in speedos. The Chicago White Sox played one game in Bermuda shorts during the 1977 season, and stopped the practice thereafter.
The LFL uniform represents a great bravery and courage that these women of the gridiron undertake every game. When being tackled, the rug burn that occurs, along with the possible bruises and bleeding are a badge of courage. With the Philadelphia Passion of LFL U.S., Paronish (currently with the Toronto Triumph) suffered a very horrible case of rug burn, but remained in the game. The sign of a true athlete.
All sports have the same element in common: the drama of winning and great athletic competition. While LFL Canada celebrates the beauty of its athletes, while recognizing their athletic skills (and the discipline and character that cultivates that skill), the most exciting factor is the outcome of the games themselves.
The level of parity in the league ensures that anyone can win at any time. So far in the season, two significant upsets occurred. The first was when the Sirens defeated the top-ranked BC Angels, while the other was the Regina Rage upending the undefeated Sirens.
The Saskatchewan Bowl series has created a rivalry between the Rage and Sirens that is in the same league as Edmonton vs. Calgary or Toronto vs. Ottawa in men’s hockey. Next year’s contest between the Seattle Mist and BC Angels will promise to add a new chapter to the Canada vs. U.S. sporting rivalries.