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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: Preparing the next generation

Finland dominates, the NWHL inches towards quorum and Sophie Shirley maintains her eligibility.

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Alexie Guay of the U-18 National Women’s Team
Alexie Guay of the U-18 National Women’s Team
Shanna Martin

Article of the Week

Sarah Vaillancourt and a trio of her players putting Stanstead College in the national spotlight - Eyes On The Prize

This in depth profile by Jared Book of Habs Eyes on the Prize on the three Team Canada U-18 players from Stanstead College and their coach, Olympic gold medalist Sarah Vaillancourt, gave us lots of food for thought this week.

“They know I'm right and they know because I do wear my gear with them on the ice. At least once a week I can show them what it takes to play at the next level and I teach them that on a daily basis.

Representation matters—this is a common theme around women’s hockey. It’s all well and good for coaches to be good at their jobs, and well-qualified, but especially when coaching younger players, it’s important for those coaches to be women. Vaillancourt can command respect not only because she was a successful player but because the game she played was the same game these girls are playing. She doesn’t have to adjust her thinking for different rules—she’s played by those rules.

It doesn't fit everybody and that's why there are so few Olympians. Or else everybody would become Olympians, right?

OK, this is what it takes. Do you still want to do that?’ And for some of them it's ‘yes’ and some of them it's ‘oh my God, no.

This is a valuable lesson for players to learn early. One point that came up near the beginning of the article is that the opportunity for Canadian players to train in Canada at an elite level pre-university is a fairly recent development. It's one that can only be to the players' advantage. Not only are they closer to their support systems and less likely to be dealing with some form of culture shock (including, for some Quebec players, a bit of a language barrier) but it gives them less of an external pressure to hang on too long when they could be refocusing on other goals.

In contrast, we've seen the stories of American players from non-traditional hockey markets like Makenna Newkirk (Arizona) and Brittany Bugalski (Florida) who moved thousands of miles at a young age in order to take their training to the next level. The larger financial risk makes trying and possibly failing both a barrier to entry and an additional source of stress should the investment not work out.

“I think sometimes we're more worried about looking selfish rather than being the one being ‘I am going to be the one scoring that goal,’” Vaillancourt said. “It's definitely a trend in female hockey. But we try to change that here and I try to change how the girls think overall.

Hockey has a problem with public displays of confidence that verges on silliness (Connor McDavid comparing himself to Tyler Bozak, anyone?), but in women’s hockey, it’s compounded by gendered expectations that girls always stay sweet, humble, and unselfish. Teaching teenage girls with exceptional skill that they’re allowed to embrace and take pride in it is important, and it needs to be actively taught, not passively assumed that they’ll figure it out. The importance of having a coach at this stage of their development who understands this cannot be overstated.

‘Alexie, you've done everything you needed to do today, you just didn't score. That doesn't necessarily mean you didn't play a good game.’

Conversely this is also so important. Finding a balance between encouraging players to do more and helping them understand they can’t do everything is vital, again, especially for younger players.

One comment I heard about this article was that Vaillancourt comes off as intense, maybe too intense. Personally she reminded me of this clip from Fame:

Still, from both her own comments and those of her players, it becomes clear that her intensity is focused by some clear positive values, many of which are extremely valuable for players to learn at the young age that they come under her tutelage.


Hilary Knight and her bold, balanced buildup, three years in the works
Hilary Knight enters her first Olympic year since emerging as a revolutionary, nonstop media maestro who blends body positivity with puck publicity.

The next generation of Canada and USA stars face off in Lake Placid - The Ice Garden
USA takes the three-game series 2–1 as the two countries prepare for the World Championship in January

Women 4-Nations |
Standings, scores and stats for the Four Nations tournament this past week.

Finland dominates 4 Nations
European women prepare for Olympics


Jeff Flanagan announced as head coach of the Toronto Furies - Pension Plan Puppets
Jeff Flanagan becomes the fourth head coach in Furies history.

Sophie Shirley to play in CWHL for 2017-18 season, retain NCAA eligibility - The Ice Garden
Offensive standout will suit up for the Calgary Inferno this season, but could still play for the Wisconsin Badgers

A First Look At The Vanke Rays
Today at FanRag Sports, the focus will be on the roster of the Vanke Rays. Like Kunlun Red Star, the Rays will play in Shenzen, China.


NWHL Revises Internship Duties To Be Less Like Multiple Full-Time Jobs
The NWHL has scaled back the responsibilities of their hockey operations interns after the women’s hockey community criticized them for the fact that the positions—which were not initially described as paid—read more like the work of several full-time front office jobs than a single part-time gig.

Hayley Moore Discusses New Role As NWHL Deputy Commissioner
Hayley Moore has made the most of her retirement from competitive hockey.

National Women's Hockey League struggling to add diversity
Only two black players are in the league made up of four teams.

Another RMU Alum Joins the Beauts
Rebecca Vint, one of the greatest players in Robert Morris University history, leaves the CWHL's Thunder and joins the NWHL's reigning champs.

Brittany Ott re-signs with the Boston Pride - The Ice Garden
Ott is back and hungry for a second Isobel Cup.

Pride bring back Isobel Cup Champion Meagan Mangene - The Ice Garden
Versatile skater Mangene is back in Boston.

Connecticut Whale sign FA camp standout Cassie Dunne - The Ice Garden
The Whale add some speed and depth to the blue line.

Yale assistant coach Amanda Boulier signs with Connecticut Whale - The Ice Garden
The Whale add some firepower to the blue line.


Boston College Women’s Hockey Names 2017-2018 Captains - BC Interruption
Two seniors and a junior will lead the squad this season

Boston College Seeking Elusive NCAA Women's Hockey Title
Could this be the season the Eagles take it all the way?

First Czech of the NWHL - Denisa Krizova
THW chats with the very first Czech-born hockey player to be drafted into the National Women's Hockey League, Northeastern University's Denisa Krizova.

Badgers women's hockey: Recruit Sophie Shirley plans to play season in pro league
Shirley intends to keep her collegiate eligibility by accepting only what the NCAA calls "actual and necessary expenses" from the CWHL's Calgary Inferno.


Canada's sledge hockey women on ice at Magna Centre |
National team holds selection camp at Newmarket facility.