2013 Order of Hockey Class Should Have Included Geraldine Heaney

Mark StaffieriContributor IIDecember 14, 2012

Image from fanbase.com www.fanbase.com/Geraldine-Heaney
Image from fanbase.com www.fanbase.com/Geraldine-Heaney

While awards and honors (and the people selected to receive them) can augment conversation and stimulate debate, the group selected as recipients for the Order of Hockey in Canada in 2013 is lacking a key individual.

While Mark Messier, Dave King and Paul Henderson are all worthy and highly deserving recipients of the honor, how could a female hockey player not have been included?

Although the inaugural class of 2012 included a deserving female ice hockey hero in Cassie Campbell-Pascall (the first woman to captain a team to back-to-back gold medals at the Winter Games), the problem with the Class of 2013 is one that cannot be repeated. The venue where the recipients shall have their rightful honor bestowed upon them defines how the selection process resulted in a serious error.

The gala shall take place in Ottawa, Ontario, during the city’s hosting of the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships. The exclusion of a female hockey player to the class of 2013 is just wrong.

As the gala is being hosted during the Women’s Worlds, the selection committee missed out on a golden opportunity to bring awareness to the Order, while acknowledging a key aspect of Canadian women’s hockey history.

Ottawa is the city where the first IIHF women’s world championships were held in 1990. Adding a women’s player to the Class of 2013 would have been the perfect way to commemorate what Ottawa meant to the growth of women’s hockey in 1990.

Although Angela James, the first Canadian woman and first female visible minority to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame, would have been a great recipient, this should have been Geraldine Heaney’s time to be named. With the gala being held in Ottawa, this could have brought Heaney’s career full circle.

The goal that clinched the gold medal for Canada at those 1990 championships was scored by Geraldine Heaney. Said goal even appeared on a broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada as one of the 10 best goals of 1990.

Although Manon Rheaume may have been the first female hockey player to become a worldwide celebrity, it was Heaney and that golden goal that first brought women’s hockey to the forefront in Canada.

If the gala would have been held at another time during the year, the exclusion of a women’s hockey player would have been a non-issue. Considering the time and venue, this is an injustice.

When Angela James and Cammi Granato were selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the announcement of their nominations was defined by many who complained that Pat Burns was overlooked for selection (as he was dying of cancer). It is time for the women’s game to no longer be treated as a junior partner, but as an equal.

As the first class (in 2012) had five recipients named to the Order of Hockey, why were there only three in 2013? Could the selection committee have not named at least one woman to the 2013 Class and made it four recipients?

Going forward, there needs to be a precedent set where such exclusion no longer occurs. While the Order of Hockey in Canada is an ideal way to pay tribute to the people that made hockey a part of Canada’s cultural fabric, there should be at least one female individual recognized annually.

It is important to remember that the future of hockey in Canada belongs equally to women as it does to men.