Known affectionately as the Stanley Cup of women’s hockey, the Clarkson Cup is being contested for the fifth time in 2013. While the Montreal Stars have claimed three of the first four Clarkson Cups, the Cup is not without a unique bit of American history.
In only the Cup’s second year of existence, the Minnesota Whitecaps became the first American-based team to claim it in 2010. Compared to men’s hockey, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first American club to claim Lord Stanley’s Mug in 1917 (24 years after the Cup began).
The presence of the Whitecaps provided remarkable emotion and excitement in the early years of the Cup. In 2009, Montreal would defeat Minnesota (in Kingston, Ontario) to win the first ever Cup, while Minnesota would best the Brampton Thunder a year later (in Richmond Hill, Ontario). While both matches had the intensity of a Canada vs. US match at the Winter Games, a mutual respect was forged between the Whitecaps and the Canadian franchises.
While the Whitecaps would compete for the Cup in Barrie, Ontario in 2011, it would mark their final time competing for it. Wholesale changes in the Western Women’s Hockey League and Canadian Women’s Hockey League radically altered the structure of competitive women’s hockey in North America.
Although the Whitecaps still exist and compete in exhibition games against the Manitoba Maple Leafs and various NCAA schools based in the state of Minnesota, the Clarkson Cup lost a unique competitor. While women’s hockey icons like Winny and Chelsey Brodt, Jenny Potter and Brooke White are the heartbeat of the franchise, over the years, the Whitecaps rosters at the Clarkson featured a venerable who’s who of women's hockey.
Angela Ruggiero and Manon Rheaume (the first woman to compete in an NHL exhibition game) were both part of the Whitecaps roster at the first ever Clarkson Cup. The 2010 edition saw Julie Chu go from the Vancouver Winter Games to contributing to the Whitecaps win. Gigi Marvin, a legendary scorer with the Minnesota Golden Gophers would don the Whitecaps jersey for the 2011 Clarkson Cup.
Over the years, the club has also opened its doors to international players. Having all competed with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs as well, Iya Gavrilova (Russia), Caroline Ouellette (Canada) and Saara Tuominen (Finland) have also graced the ice as Whitecaps. Ironically, Ouellette would play for the Montreal Stars against Minnesota in the first Clarkson.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Whitecaps history in the Clarkson Cup belongs to Julie Chu. As the first player to have won the Clarkson Cup with two different franchises, her mark on women’s hockey history will preserve the Whitecaps historic accomplishment for generations to come.