While the theme for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2012 was change, the year 2013 may be defined from a completely different perspective. Whereas the league found a new generation of stars in the 2012 CWHL Draft, and a landmark agreement with the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs which ensures that the CWHL is here to stay, the upcoming year may be defined by the word "patience."
From the players to the coaching staff to the management, 2013 will present with it many different and challenging aspects. The remarkable partnerships with the Flames and Maple Leafs are part of the puzzle that shall be completed when the remaining clubs in the CWHL can reach similar agreements.
As the third pro hockey lockout in 18 years continues to drag, the CWHL is forced to be patient because of factors beyond their own control. While there are still possibilities to reach various agreements, the drama of the lockout is an unfortunate obstacle.
As the league’s new crop of superstars hope to make their respective clubs' championship dreams come true, only one club can claim the prestigious Clarkson Cup. The painful lessons of learning how to lose will present harsh realities for many of the league’s promising young players. The humility that comes with losing will represent the patience that the new generation will have to cultivate in order to savour the glories of tomorrow.
Although the summer season is defined by the CWHL Draft, the 2013 edition may prove to be the most unique yet.
In the nascent history of the draft, the excitement generated has been a great source of offseason interest for fans and players alike. While many of the draft-eligible players in 2013 (Laura Fortino, Lauriane Rougeau, Brianna Decker, Megan Bozek, Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux) promise to bring remarkable return, the challenge for GMs and fans will be waiting.
The elite prospects of the next draft are all worthy of consideration for the 2014 Sochi Games, meaning that franchises may be forced to wait up to one year before many of their top picks grace the frozen perimeters of the CWHL rinks.
With the specter of Sochi looming, the challenge of patience will be a key in the success for any CWHL coach. As some teams risk losing up to ten players to national training camps (in anticipation of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games), the chemistry and composition of every team in the CWHL shall be usurped.
Compared to the disruption that the CWHL endured as elite players (like Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford and Caroline Ouellette) prepared for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, the CWHL has grown by a quantum leap in that time. An upcoming season without over two dozen superstars including Meghan Agosta, Tessa Bonhomme, Meaghan Mikkelson and Kelli Stack means that every CWHL franchise is truly on equal footing. Teams that were used to dominating may suddenly find themselves losing in 2013-14.
For every coach in the league, the newfound parity will give their respective franchises the feel of an expansion team. Those that play best together may find themselves among the league’s most successful.
Despite the challenges that may present themselves, the obstacles of 2013 and its lessons learned may represent the great victories of 2014. From adversity comes character and strength, traits that not only define elite athletes, but will help to shape the teams and the league that they compete in.