Friday, September 17, 2010

Farewell to the founders: Celebrating Team Canada's Kellar, Kingsbury, MacLeod, and Sostorics

Proud champion and mom Becky Kellar, with Colleen Sostorics to her right
“While the success that they have all achieved on the ice will stand the test of time, we must also recognize the role that they have played and will continue to play in growing women's hockey in Canada and around the world, as great role models and ambassadors.” - Bob Nicholson
The end of another Olympic year means changes are once again on the horizon for the Canadian National Women's Hockey team.  This week Hockey Canada annouced the retirements of Becky Kellar, Gina Kingsbury, Carla MacLeod, and Colleen Sostorics - all members of our Vancouver 2010 gold medal winning women's hockey team.  As more players from their generation start to retire it signifys the end of an era.

In the same way that hockey fans of the mid-50's to late-70's will always think of legends such as Jean and Henri Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Doug Harvey, Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, Jacques Plante, Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Peter Mahovlich, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, and Larry Robinson as being "THE Montreal Canadiens" I will always think of players like Kellar, Kingsbury, MacLeod, and Sostorics as being "THE Canadian women's hockey team."  You see, I'm sure that when young boys used to sit in front of the TV back in the days of the Montreal dynasty teams it was through watching those games that a love of hockey was kindled.  It was during those moments of listening to the legendary Danny Gallivan call the games that these young boys would have closed their eyes and pictured themselves out there with their heroes.  And that is how the spirit of hockey was born and maintained in the next generation of young Canadians.

For me and for so many other young girls all over the country, Cassie Campbell, Danielle Goyette, Vicky Sunohara, Geraldine Heaney, Sami Jo Small, and the four newest retirees of the national team are our Richards, our Beliveaus, our Lafleurs, and our Drydens.  Even though these players are not the first women to don skates and a helmet, to me they will always be the "founding mothers" of my sport.  It was them who I watched on TV at the Olympics, them who made me realize that women can play this male-dominated sport at a high level, and them who kindled my love for the game and my belief in my own passion.  It is with a great deal of pride that we bid them farewell.

Becky Kellar leaves the national team after being a member for 13 years.  She is one of four players to have participated in all four Olympics Games thus far (1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010).  Along with her four Olympic medals (three gold and one silver), Kellar also won four World Championship gold medals in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2004.  While Kellar is leaving the national team she will continue to play for her club team - the Burlington Barracudas of the CWHL.  A former Brown University student, Kellar is the mom of two sons Owen and Zach, not to mention all the players she parented and mentored during her career!

Gina Kingsbury joined the national team in 2000.  Since then she has won two Olympic gold medals (2006 and 2010) and three World Championship golds (2001, 2004, and 2007).  In 116 international games, Kingsbury tallied 75 points (30 goals, 45 assists), which puts her at 13th on the list of all time Canadian point getters.  Kingsbury will continue to be involved in hockey, specifically as an assistant coach with the female hockey program at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, B.C.  This will be a fantastic addition to the program as the province of B.C is still looking for it's first player to make the national team!

Carla MacLeod spent 7 years with the national program from 2003-2010.  She was cut from both the '03 and '04 World Championships roster but showed incredible resiliency and made the team in 2005.  Like Kingsbury, MacLeod was a proud member of both the 2006 and 2010 gold medal winning Olympic teams.  She also won gold at the Worlds in 2007.  MacLeod has been named to the media all-star team twice in international hockey - at the 2006 Olympics and 2007 Worlds.    She is already serving as an assistant coach with the Mount Royal University female hockey program and she may even try her hand at broadcasting in the future!

Colleen Sostorics has patrolled the Team Canada blue line since 2001.  In addition to her three Olympic gold medals (2002, 2006, and 2010) and her three Worlds gold medals (2001, 2004, and 2007), Sostorics leaves the game as one of the highest scoring defenceman in Canadian history.  With 14 goals and 43 assists in 119 games played, she trails only Canadian legends Geraldine Heaney and Therese Brisson on the all time list.  At the young age of 30, Sostorics still has a lot to offer the sport and will continue to be involved in various capacities in the future.

Becky Kellar, Gina Kingsbury, Carla MacLeod, and Colleen Sostorics leave the national team with more gold than an East Indian bride!  Their accomplishments will leave behind some very large shoes to fill and their legacies will live on forever.  But, despite this, it is not without a heavy heart that I bid farewell to the women who, as the Vancouver 2010 theme song says, stood tall and made the world proud.  Farewell ladies.  On behalf of a proud country, I wish each of you all the luck, success, and happiness in the future.  Thank you for representing the red and white with pride.