To borrow a phrase from the legendary Badger Bob Johnson, “It’s a great day for hockey.” The Markham Civic Centre was the backdrop to a January 27 ceremony that helped to officially launch the 2013 Clarkson Cup. It was a celebration of women’s hockey and all the superstars that embody the spirit of dedication and perseverance.
Along with CWHL leaders, comprised of Commissioner Brenda Andress and CWHL Chairman Brad Morris, the event featured other hockey figures. Fran Rider, one of the great builders of the sport and the current president of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association was one of the honoured guests. Joining Rider was Dianne White, the president of the Markham-Stouffville Stars Girls Hockey Association.
A venerable who’s who of CWHL hockey players were also part of the event. Having grown up in Stouffville, Liz Knox was one of the Brampton hockey club players on hand. Joining Knox was teammate Gillian Apps. A gold medalist in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games, Apps grew up in nearby Unionville.
Three players from the Toronto Furies were also on hand for the ceremony. Tessa Bonhomme, the Furies team captain and franchise player proudly represented the blue and white. One of the most popular players in the CWHL, Bonhomme was also on the cover of The Hockey News.
Joining Bonhomme were the Zamora sisters, Kelly and Kristy. Of note, they are the only pair of sisters in the league. Kelly was a former member of the Mississauga Chiefs and participated in the Clarkson Cup playoffs from 2010 to 2012, respectively.
Starting at 3 p.m., the festivities kicked off with Mr. Morris introducing all the honoured guests and providing an opening speech that helped set the tone for the happiness that the fans felt. The District Vice-President of Scotiabank (the presenting sponsor of the Clarkson Cup), Eiji Doi followed with words of support and encouragement.
The Mayor of Markham, the honourable Frank Scarpitti officially welcomed the Clarkson Cup to the city. Markham is the third city in the Greater Toronto Area (following Richmond Hill – 2010 and Barrie – 2011) to have hosted the Clarkson Cup. Following Mayor Scarpitti was Commissioner Andress, who participated in the official flag raising.
Of all the aspects of the event, the most fun for the fans was the opportunity to grace the ice with their heroes in a Mix and Mingle event. Along with an autograph session and hot chocolate courtesy of Tim Horton’s, fans had the opportunity to examine the treasured Clarkson Cup.
While the parity in the CWHL means that any team is capable of capturing the upcoming Clarkson Cup, the true winners on this day were the fans. Such a ceremony encompasses more than speeches and presentations, but it is an opportunity to give back to the community. By acknowledging the fans and providing them with the opportunity to meet and skate with their hockey heroes, the ceremony is more than a celebration of the league’s most prized trophy. It becomes a celebration of the true heartbeat of the CWHL, its loyal fans.