A look into the progression of women's leadership in hockey
By Shea Johnston
Over the years, hockey has forged many great leaders within its walls. And five days into this year's Mac's Midget AAA Tournament, we'll take a look at the other side of the equation - the women of hockey - and how their game has, and continues, to progress.
Looking at the curve (the natural evolution of a sport like hockey), it only makes sense that as time pushes forward, so does the game.
Because of that, we are seeing progression in both the male and female sides of hockey. So while the men were pushed by greats such as Gretzky and Crosby, the women have had their own set of torchbearers leading the way. Pivots like five-time Olympic medalist, Hayley Wickenheiser, and national captain turned broadcaster, Cassie Campbell-Pascall.
"Tournaments like this will be life long memories for these players," Campbell said, when asked what experiences like the Mac's provide its participants.
"I still remember it as if it were yesterday, playing in the Peterborough tournament in Ontario. These tournaments are at an impressionable age for these girls, so when they're done right, the takeaway for later in life is invaluable."
Born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Campbell, 43, has trod the path of success more than once, competing in three Olympic games and captaining the Canadian Women's National team to gold medal victories in 2002, and again in 2006.
Believing that women's hockey has a ceiling that has yet to be reached, Campbell opened up about her hopes for the future of women's hockey, and how soon we could see those aspirations come to fruition.
"I honestly believe that with the positives within women's hockey in the last few years, that we will have a WNHL, and I do believe that it will happen sooner then later."
The direction Campbell speaks of can be seen locally in the likes of a new expansion team in the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League, the Calgary Chaos; a team new to the AJFHL, and derivative of the Calgary Midget AAA Chaos, who have competed in the Mac's Midget AAA Tournament themselves.
Laura Olsen, 24 years old and a travelled player and leader in her own right, played for the AAA Chaos before making the transition to the University of Regina, where she played three seasons as a member of the Cougars before coming back to Calgary to help build and serve as Assistant Coach to the AJFHL expansion Chaos.
"The Chaos organization is a brand new club dedicated to providing female hockey players with the opportunity to continue to develop as ath- letes and adults playing against their peers in a competitive environment," Olsen explained.
"It is a special team for myself and the other coaches, Derek Loomer and Greg Kozak, as we started it from the ground up."
Olsen's experience in junior hockey, much like Campbell's, provided her a foundation for the success she has found, and the leadership qualities she is now able utilize with the Chaos.
"I think that hockey - and all organized sports - gives kids a great opportunity to learn what traits make a good leader," Olsen continued, "and I truly believe that learning how to face adversity is an imperative skill that I have learned through playing hockey, and it has been a big help to me when I transitioned into coaching."
Both Campbell and Olsen believe that women's hockey is gaining momentum like never before, but also that as exciting a time as it is, that it is going to take a collective effort moving forward to maintain that momentum. Regardless, the bottom line rests in the fact that the intangibles a sport like hockey provides are pivotal in building a competitive, and passionate future for the women of this great game.
"Absorb every experience," Olsen added. "Whether it's good or bad. Absorb it and see what you can learn from it. There are infinite amounts of amazing things you can learn from playing hockey."