One of Smithers finest athletes, Haleigh Callison, battled it out on the ice this past weekend in Niagara Falls as her team, the Toronto Furies attempted to capture the Clarkson Cup.
Often referred to as the Stanley Cup of women’s hockey the Clarkson Cup, originally awarded to the Canadian National Team, it was named after former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson and has been awarded to the top CWHL women’s hockey club since 2009.
This season Brampton, Boston, Toronto and Montreal duked it out over four days and Smithers’ own Callison was in the thick of things as Toronto tried to pull out their first Clarkson Cup Championship.
“This is my second year in the Clarkson Cup, “Callison said in an email to the Interior News. “But last year I was more of a ‘support’ role, this year has been quite a 360 for me, I’m one of the four assistant captains on the team this year and it’s been an incredible honour with the amazing athletes and people we have in our dressing room.”
Before venturing into the CWHL Callison played women’s pro hockey in Berlin for the German league as well as the European league. Women’s hockey in Europe has continued to grow, in large part due to the international exposure from the Olympics.
Girls hockey here at home has also grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, with the establishment of a full-roster girls team since 2010 Callison, like many of her teammates is an inspiration to the next generation of young female skaters.
“There are so many opportunities in women’s hockey and each year those opportunities are continuing to grow,” Callison said. “My number one piece of advice I’ve been given and try to live by in all aspects of life is, ‘So many people believe in you, make sure you’re one of them.’”
The CWHL incorporates players from both sides of the boarder giving the Clarkson Cup one of the toughest competitor fields in all of women’s hockey. And Callison is proud to be part of that growth in women’s sports.
“Overall I think the Clarkson Cup is a huge step in the right direction for women’s hockey,” she said.
“We are slowly starting to get the recognition I believe our sport deserves and if you look at the rosters in this weeks Championships it really is amazing.”
Callison’s Toronto Furies went into last weeks tournament with high hopes.
Their first game against natural rivals, the Montreal Starts had a less than desirable finish. Although early on in the first period Toronto was keeping up, making key passes and landing a few shots on net. However, in the second Montreal came out flying and dominated Toronto to a 7-0 victory.
Their next match against the Boston Blades looked to be a bit more promising, throwing up two on the board early in the second. But after several losses in possession, Toronto fell once again 5-2.
What would end up being their final game on Saturday, Toronto faced the Brampton Thunder. Out from the gate Toronto looked like they had enough gas left in the tank to keep Brampton in their own territory. With no score at the end of one the Furies seemed to be holding their own. However, less than ten minutes into the second, Brampton scored their first against Toronto netminder Erika Vanderveer, followed by two more unanswered goals before the period was over.
Into the third, Toronto mounted a comeback. Scoring two goals within 40 seconds of each other it looked as though Toronto was still alive.
However, with only 15 seconds left on the board the Brampton Thunder weren’t giving in and scored their fourth of the night, shattering Toronto’s hopes of a victory and leaving them with an 0-3 record for the 2012 Clarkson Cup.
“[The tournament] obviously did not go as we had hoped or planned but the teams in the tournament are extremely talented,” said Callison.
“I don’t believe the scores are indicative to the play of the games. We need to score more goals if we want to win games and that’s an area we need to focus on.”
After playing a number of years in Europe and now finishing out her third year in the CWHL, Callison has some big decisions to make in the off-season.
Faced with continuing on in the CWHL or to start a new chapter in her life, hockey has definitely been an experience she’ll never forget.
“This year’s a little different as well, as I haven’t decided what I will do next year, whether I’ll come back to play or hang em up and stay in Vancouver to work and start the next chapter,” she said. “I don’t like deciding what to have for lunch let alone making a real decision, so needless to say, it’s going to be tough either way.”