As the 2012-13 CWHL season brought with it the retirements of Brampton Thunder legends Lori Dupuis and Cherie Piper, it is time for the growing league to consider introducing a Hall of Fame. The year before, long-time veteran Sommer West (a former Canadian National Team member) made the visceral decision to retire. Like West, Dupuis and Piper were among many former Canadian National Team members that helped stimulate interest while bringing growth to a growing league.
During the next few seasons, many more players (such as Jayna Hefford, Caroline Ouellette, Sami Jo Small and Kim St. Pierre) will reach the twilight of their careers, as retirement will soon follow. As these players were some of the first superstars in the CWHL’s history, recognition in a Hall of Fame would be the most appropriate tribute for their careers.
From the outset, a CWHL Hall of Fame does not need to occupy a physical space (in contrast to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto). The league could borrow a page from World Wrestling Entertainment’s Hall of Fame and just have it virtually.
In addition, its Hall of Fame induction ceremony could be held in the same tradition as the WWE. While the CWHL hosts its awards night during Clarkson Cup week, the induction event could be held on the same night (in similarity to WWE’s Hall of Fame ceremony during WrestleMania weekend).
Oddly, the history of the CWHL and women’s pro hockey runs somewhat parallel to WWE and pro wrestling. Women’s hockey history is scattered through various leagues (COWHL, NWHL, WWHL), while pro wrestling had its territory system. The end result is that some members of the WWE Hall of Fame never actually wrestled for the promotion but were essential to helping the industry grow.
Women’s pro hockey also has a history that stretches across many territories, while many of the greatest builders in the sport (Jenny Potter, Hayley Wickenheiser) having never played in the CWHL. Like WWE, it would only be appropriate to have a Hall of Fame that recognizes other promotions because of the roots that exist.
When considering that the CWHL is a not-for-profit organization and is administered by a Board of Directors (whose names are published on the league’s website for accountability), there must be a group that could be assembled to administer Hall of Fame voting. Said group could include former Board members, media and retired players to avoid conflict of interest, while serving as the foundation towards selecting qualified individuals to be considered Hall of Famers.
The league could have four different categories for a CWHL Hall of Fame—a Players category, a Legends category (which would recognize players that never played in the CWHL), a Coaches category and a Builders Category. Although it would not be obligatory to have every category represented in a given year, it covers a wide-enough territory to accommodate numerous people that have contributed to the growth of the game.
An inaugural Hall of Fame class would likely be a large group but a worthy one. Suggestions would include Jennifer Botterill (first Angela James Bowl winner), Nathalie Dery (part of the first Clarkson Cup team), Lori Dupuis (over 12 years experience), Molly Engstrom (the first American to succeed in the CWHL), Becky Kellar (former captain with Burlington) and Vicky Sunohara (who competed in the COWHL, NWHL and CWHL).
The Legends category could include former NWHL players Geraldine Heaney and Angela James (a multiple scoring champion at the COWHL level). Nancy Drolet (a former player and manager in the Quebec league) deserves consideration as she also served the CWHL in a management capacity while acting as a bridge between French Canadian players and the rest of the league.
Ken Dufton would be a suitable choice for the Coaches category as he brings over 20 years coaching experience and coached the likes of Cassie Campbell, Angela James and Geraldine Heaney.
The Builders Category could include Adrienne Clarkson (founder of the Clarkson Cup), Samantha Holmes (founder of the Strathmore Rockies and Team Alberta), along with Fran Rider (President of the OWHA).
When one considers the high level of quality athletes (and quality people) that have competed in the CWHL, their efforts have helped lay the foundation for the next generation of competitors. With players that made many sacrifices in the early years of the league (and the lack of compensation), a Hall of Fame (even a virtual one online) would be a superlative opportunity to give back and show recognition for the remarkable efforts made.