Sami Jo Small was a co-founding member of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, a former Olympian and current CWHL goaltender. She was recently able to find time in her busy schedule to have a question and answer session with Bleacher Report with topics ranging from personal successes, the current and future state of the CWH, and the future of Women's Hockey at the Olympics.
Before we begin, I would like to take this chance to personally thank Sami Jo Small for taking the time to make this interview possible. Without further introduction, please see the questions below in regular text and the answers in bolded text.
1) This is a big year for the CWHL with General Managers and Coaches being hired full time and the first draft. How does it feel to watch the league grow from what it was when you help to co-found it?
It's amazing how far it's come, however, at the foundation are still the core values. The board of directors and the players have worked hard together to ensure the league's success and to ensure that the league continues to take necessary steps to provide the foundation for a professional women's hockey league.
2) On the CWHL website, it is noted that there will be five teams comprising the CWHL next season. With franchises shown as Montreal, Boston, and GTA 1,2,3. Any clues as to where the GTA clubs will be located? Will the Brampton Thunder, Burlington Barracudas, Mississauga Chiefs, and Vaughan Flames be returning this season?
The GTA teams are Brampton, Burlington, and Toronto. None of the teams have names as of yet. There's no rush, and it may not happen this season. The board decided on locations rather than teams. The draft was then done to ensure parity on all three new teams.
3) It appears sponsorship of the CWHL now includes Scotiabank and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Are we likely to see more exposure for the league on television and radio this season?
We're certainly trying!
4) What is a typical "week-in-the-life" of a CWHL player?
Most players in the league work full time. The league provides for two hour and a half practices during the week for the club teams and two league games on weekends. Each player then has to fit in workouts as well as managing their family and social life.
5) Fellow CWHL player Sabrina Harbec has been tearing up Women's Hockey. This past season, she was awarded the Angela James Bowl for leading the league with 55 points. While she is still fairly young at the age of 25, do you believe she can continue her current scoring pace and become one of the top Women's Hockey players in the world?
Sabrina is a great player, and she definitely deserves all the accolades she gets. Not only will she be a player to watch this season, but we also welcome back all the Canadian and US Olympians into the fold. Sabrina's Montreal team now boasts four Olympians including Kim St-Pierre, Caroline Ouellette, Sarah Vaillaincourt, and US Olympian Julie Chu. They also have several former National Junior team members, and they will certainly be one of the top teams this season.
6) I have read articles on meetings and discussions that Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, OWHA Executive Director Brenda Andress, and you have had with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in regards to support for the CWHL. Has this led to funding that will allow the players to be paid to play this year? Or is that still something that is pending for future seasons?
We are working on every avenue possible to secure sponsorship for the CWHL. Currently, we have our founding sponsor Scotiabank as well an equipment sponsor in Bauer Hockey. As the season approaches, we are trying to secure deals in order to provide the best playing environment for our athletes.
7) As a three-time Olympian for the Canadian Women's National Hockey Team and two-time gold medallist, will we see Sami Jo Small competing for Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia?
I was cut from the team in 2008 and was told I was too old. So no, not because of my choice, but because they are looking much younger.
8) It is interesting to note that you are the only Women's Hockey goaltender to score a goal. You achieved the feat in 1999 in the then National Women's Hockey League. Is it something you practiced prior to scoring the goal? Also, how did it feel to score the goal for you?
I had always worked on my passing, but never anticipated scoring a goal! I was just trying to clear the zone. Our team was up 5-3 and they had pulled their goalie. Once in a lifetime chance and the puck went in, I still don't feel like it was real!
9) You are now into the 12th year of running your annual hockey day school for girls. On your website, it shows that the school has 400 students annually. With the school running for more than a decade, can you recall any former students that have furthered their hockey careers to the National Team or the CWHL?
I have a list on my website (www.samijosmall.ca) on all the places the girls I have coached have gone on to play. The most notable student was Jocelyn Laroque, who is now currently a member of Canada's National Team travelling to the Four Nations Cup this year.
10) You are not only a great hockey player, but you also have a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. I also found interesting information about a special upper-body padding that you designed for your senior project.
The description I found is as follows: "Rather than recreating the standard one-piece protector, Small's consists of two pieces - one like an extended shoulder pad for the chest, and one an elasticized abdominal piece underneath. When she bends, it collapses like armour, offering more flexibility and a greater range of motion."
Is this something that you have worn during games? If so, does it work as anticipated and is it something we will see in sports stores any time soon?
I did wear it at the time, however, I designed it nearly 12 years ago! I moved on to better equipment, however, I still have a fascination with gear in general and love tinkering with all my equipment.
11) When you heard the IOC President Jacques Rogge's comments on Women's Hockey's future at the Olympics, what was your reaction?
His quote was taken out of context. He indicated that women's hockey needed to improve in the next two Olympics, which is 12 years and he's right, we do need to improve globally, however, I don't fear it will be taken out of the Olympics unless men's hockey is.
12) Last question, how much are tickets to an average CWHL game, and where is the best pace to find information to purchase tickets for the upcoming 2010-2011 season?
You can buy Season Passes for $50, which gets you into every game at all rinks all season, or tickets are $5 at the door. Tickets and Passes are available at all games or by going to the website www.cwhl.ca