In compiling a list of the 25 greatest women’s hockey players (and eight honorable mentions) that were born and/or raised in the province of Ontario, one of the greatest women’s hockey regions in the world, it is important to remember the contributions of women like Fran Rider (president of the OWHA) and Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion in their roles as builders for the game. The 1986 Supreme Court case involving Toronto resident Justine Blainey (who would one day compete for the Toronto Lady Blues and the Brampton Thunder) and her struggles with the Metro Toronto Hockey League helped to open the doors for prominent girls to play with boys.
The first IIHF women’s world hockey championship was held in Ottawa, Ontario in 1990. The roster for the gold medal-winning team consisted of 14 players from Ontario, the most of any Canadian province. In addition, the game-winning goal to clinch the gold medal was scored by Geraldine Heaney, hailing from Weston, Ontario.
Other women from Ontario were also crucial in helping to build the game today. Samantha Holmes, who staged letter-writing campaigns to Juan Antonio Samaranch, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the Hon. Hazel McCallion, who helped make women’s ice hockey at the winter games a reality, was from Mississauga, Ontario. She would play at the University of New Hampshire and form the Strathmore Rockies.
Another prominent factor is the Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League (COWHL) and its role as the predecessor to the NWHL and the current CWHL. While the COWHL represents a lost generation that is, tragically, an afterthought in the minds of the modern women’s hockey fan, many of its stars helped set the table for today’s stars; Sue Scherer, Margot Verlaan, Marianne Grnak, Colleen Cohen, Sue Harley, Tracy Horton, Leslie Hood, Heather Ginzel, Linda DeAngelis and Robin Brown. Coaches and leaders such as Colin McKenzie, Bob Phillips, Lee Trempe and Ken Dufton were also important in creating a foundation.
While some players of the COWHL made this top 25 list, it is crucial to remember the COWHL’s contributions in helping to build the game and develop many of the stars that would one day compete for Canada at the Nagano Winter Games.