Montreal wins first Clarkson Cup

The women’s Stanley Cup off to a flying start

24.03.2009
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Caroline Ouellette won the Clarkson Cup with Montreal. Photo: IIHF/HHoF/Phillip MacCallum

TORONTO – The Montreal Stars won the inaugural Clarkson Cup on Saturday afternoon at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario by defeating the Minnesota Whitecaps, 3-1. The trophy was presented to Stars’ captain Lisa-Marie Breton by Adrienne Clarkson herself, the trophy of which was her idea and bears her name.

The four-team playoffs for the Clarkson Cup this weekend featured the top two teams from both the WWHL (Minnesota Whitecaps and Calgary Oval X-Treme) and CWHL (Montreal Stars and Brampton Canadettes). The Montreal-Minnesota finals was fitting end to the women’s pro hockey season in Canada for several reasons. Montreal’s coach is Marie-Claire Roy, a goaltender for Team Canada at the 1992 World Women’s Championship. One of the two Minnesota goalies this year is Manon Rheaume, trailblazer and now 37-year-old mother of two living in Michigan. She and Roy shared the duties for Canada in 1992.

The Minnesota team was a formidable collection of many of Team USA’s players who will be going to Finland shortly for the 2009 World Women’s Championship, notably veteran Angela Ruggiero, tournament MVP Jenny Potter, Julie Chu, Caitlin Cahow, and Tricia Dunn-Luomo. They also boasted Michaela Lanzl, a German national team member. Coach Jack Brodt had his two daughters in the lineup as well, Chelsey and Winny.

Montreal was led by two-time Olympic gold medalists Caroline Ouellette, MVP of the championship game, and goalie Kim St. Pierre, who was outstanding today.

A tentative first period saw the Whitecaps have the better of play, but they couldn’t beat St. Pierre who was rock solid in net. The game opened up in the second and produced three beautiful goals. Shauna Denis started the scoring at 10:04, beating goalie Sanya Sandahl with a great shot in the slot after a beautiful pass from Sabrina Harbec. Ruggiero, a defenceman with the U.S. national team but a forward here with the Whitecaps, tied the game on a great backhand in close on St. Pierre, but Harbec scooped in a rebound a short time later to give the Stars a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Ouellette scored to make it 3-1 early in the third, and this goal seemed to dishearten the Whitecaps. The Stars played great defence the rest of the way, led by St. Pierre who had to make several big stops in her last game before the WWC next month.

The sterling silver Clarkson Cup is about the same size as the original Stanley Cup bowl and has a band at the bottom for team names to be engraved. It was the brainchild of Adrienne Clarkson in the same vein as Lord Stanley of Preston’s contribution in 1893.

The time was February 2005. The NHL was mired in a lockout that was to cost the league its entire season, and hockey fans across Canada were wondering what was going to happen to its beloved Stanley Cup. Clarkson, governor-general at the time, suggested that the top women’s team in the country be awarded the Cup since the NHLers weren’t going to compete for it.

The NHL rejected the idea, but Clarkson followed up by commissioning a trophy bearing her name which would be given to that champion women’s team. The idea was a brilliant way to connect the two pro leagues in the country, the WWHL (Western Women’s Hockey League) and NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League, later called the Canadian Women’s Hockey League).

The trophy was created by Beth Biggs, a silversmith, and designed by three Inuit artists – Okpik Pitseolak, Therese Ukaliannuk and Pootoogook Qiatsuk. This was important to Clarkson because the Far North has always held a special place in her heart. The trophy’s design includes Arctic animals, masks, and the flowers of the various provinces and territories, but the central image is of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of the sea. Half woman and half fish, Sedna is one of the most powerful figures in Inuit tradition, something vital to the message of Clarkson’s trophy.

Troubles befell the trophy soon after it was struck. The creators demanded, in essence, royalties for the trophy’s perpetual use. They argued that they created a commissioned work of art but not its license for annual usage. For three years the trophy sat around without a purpose until Clarkson finally came to a financial settlement with the artists.

And so, like the Cup of 1893, the first champions come from Montreal, and hopefully the Clarkson Cup is about to begin a long and storied life for women’s hockey as the Stanley Cup has been for the men.

ANDREW PODNIEKS
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