Sarah Nurse owns a Silver Medal won at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Now she’s mining for gold.
Nurse, a forward for Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, was named to Team Canada for the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s WorldChampionship April 4-14 in Espoo, Finland.
Sarah Nurse played for Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics and will represent her country for the first time at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Finland next month (Photo/Hockey Canada).
The tournament will be Nurse’s IIHF world championship debut but she’ll be in some familiar company. Fifteen other players from Canada’s 2018 Winter Olympic squad will join her in Finland.
“The players we have selected have had success at various levels of their careers, both nationally and internationally, and we’re excited to get started in Finland,” Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, said.
Canada is seeking its 11th gold medal but its first since 2012. And Nurse has the goal-scoring skill to help them do it.
Nurse comes from a highly competitive sports family. Her brother, Isaac Nurse, is a forward for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. The siblings are cousins of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurseand New York Liberty basketball point guard Kia Nurse, who represented Canada at the 2016Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The jersey that Canadian forward Sarah Nurse wore and the stick that defender Brigette Lacquette used at the 2018 Winter Olympics are in the Hockey Hall of Fame (Photo/Phil Pritchard/HHOF)
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When it comes to covering women’s ice hockey, Erica L. Ayala has it locked down! She traveled to Toronto to cover the 2019 Canadian Women’s Hockey League All-StarGame. Below is the sister’s dispatch from the all-star weekend.Erica will be rocking the mic at the 2019 National Women’s Hockey League All-Star Game in Nashville next month as part of an all-female broadcast crew. You can follow her at https://ericalayala.com/.
TORONTO – Over 30 of the best and brightest stars of the Canadian Women’s HockeyLeague competed at Scotiabank Arena Sunday night at the 2019 All-Star Game. Three players of color – Brigette Lacquette,Sarah Nurse, and Jessica Wong – were among the top CWHL stars.
Wong and Team Gold shutdown Nurse, Lacquetteand the rest of Team Purple to secure an 8-4 win to cap All-Star Weekend. Canadian Olympian Brianne Jenner tallied three goals to lead all scorers and became the third player to record a hat trick in a CWHL All-Star Game (Jessica Jones and Jillian Saulnier, 2017).
Markham Thunder goaltender Liz Knox and Calgary Inferno defender Brigette Lacquette conduct ceremonial face-off at the 2019 CWHL All-Star Game in Toronto (Photo/Chris Tanouye).
Ahead of All-Star Weekend, Lacquette was voted captain of Team Purple by fans, receiving 55% of the vote. “To see the percentages was kind of crazy to me,” Lacquette told the media Saturday.
The Dauphin, Manitoba native played college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth before being drafted to the Calgary Inferno. She won a Clarkson Cupwith the Inferno in her rookie season and returned again to the CWHL Clarkson Cup Final in the 2016-17 season. However, this is her first All-Star appearance in her four-year professional career. Lacquette ranks second among defenders with 17 points (2 goals, 15 assists).
Calgary Inferno defender Brigette Lacquette.
Lacquette was humbled to serve as captain of Team Purple and represent her country and the Indigenous community at center ice Sunday.
“This past year, I’ve been visiting a lot of Indigenous communities and whatnot, sharing my story. I think that helps with [visibility] and shows them they can really achieve anything they set their mind to,” Lacquette shared over the weekend.
Hamilton, Ontario-native Sarah Nurse joined Lacquette on Team Purple for the weekend. Like Brigette, Nurse enjoys being a role model for young players, especially black players. Nurse played NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Wisconsin and was recently named to the WCHA 20th Anniversary Team.
After Wisconsin, Nurse made her first Canadian Olympic team and earned silver at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. She was pre-drafted to the Toronto Furies for the 2018-19 season and is second in scoring (10 goals, 9 assists) behind veteran Natalie Spooner.
Toronto Furies forward Sarah Nurse, who played for Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Being a member of the Toronto Furies, Nurse and her teammates were very busy promoting the All-Star Game leading up to Sunday. From photo shoots to clinics, and TV appearances, it was a whirlwind.
“I follow them on Twitter,” said Nurse of the women’s hockey fan group. “That would be so cool. There are a lot of Canadian cities that have hockey and I think it would be absolutely incredible. I heard they went out to Washington and that actually got a lot of media coverage. It was so cool to hear about that.”
Jessica Wong was drafted as a starting defender by Team Gold captain Liz Knox. She represented both Canada and China in Toronto on Sunday. Wong grew up in Nova Scotia and played two seasons with the Calgary Inferno upon graduating from Minnesota-Duluth.
The CWHL Purple and Gold All-Star Teams (Photo/Chris Tanouye).
She was retired when she heard about the CWHL expansion to China last season. She dusted off the skates to accept the challenge of growing the women’s game in a place close to her heart. Wong has a grandmother originally from Shenzhen, the city that is home to the Shenzhen KRS (Kunlin Red Stars) Vanke Rays expansion team. She jumped at the opportunity to come out of retirement and connect to her familial roots. Wong is a top-five scorer for Shenzhen with three goals and 11 assists.
Shenzhen KRS Vanke Red Stars defender Jessica Wong.
As part of the weekend, CWHL All-Stars participated in community events at the RonaldMcDonald House,MLSE Launchpad, and the Canadian Blood Donation Clinic. Nurse and Furies teammates Renata Fast and Mellisa Channel participated in a special series sponsored by Adidas Canada. The Furies All-Stars hosted clinics, panel discussions and more for two youth teams – the Ancaster Avalanche and Burlington Barracudas. The youth teams were also hooked up with some Adidas gear and the ultimate behind-the-scenes experience at the All-Star Game.
“Yesterday, the Community Day went really well,” commented CWHL Commissioner and recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford Sunday evening. “At the end of the game, seeing the players on the ice, not really wanting to leave the ice, to me that shows that they were having a good time.”
CWHL action resumes as Lacquette and the Calgary Inferno host Wong and the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays tomorrow at 7:45 pm MST. Next week, Nurse and the Furies return to action in China to take on Shenzhen.
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Blake Bolden is back in the National Women’s Hockey League.
After two seasons with the Boston Pride, defenseman Blake Bolden is playing this season with HC Lugano (Photo/NWHL).
The 27-year-old two-time NWHL All-Star defenseman from Ohio signed with the Buffalo Beauts Wednesday after playing last season for HC Lugano in Switzerland.
“My decision was made pretty quickly,” Bolden told The Buffalo News at the city’s HarborCenter Wednesday. “I had been going back and forth on where I wanted to play next season. I had no idea, and it just felt right about Buffalo. I think it’s going to be a great decision, a great move for me.”
Bolden made the move to Switzerland to get a taste of international hockey and cure a case of wanderlust after she didn’t receive an invite from USA Hockey to attend training camp for the U.S. women’s team that competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in February.
Defenseman Blake Bolden is bringing her talents back to the NWHL after playing one season in Switzerland (Photo/Courtesy HC Lugano).
“I just wanted a fresh start, something I’ve never done before, a new experience,” Bolden told me last November before heading to Lugano. “I’ve played in every league I could possibly play in North America. I didn’t think it was time for me to quit and I really wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone and experience new things and be able to travel in a basically different environment.”
From her native Ohio to Boston to Lugano and now to Buffalo. Oh, the places hockey has taken defenseman Blake Bolden (Photo/Courtesy HC Lugano).
The former Boston College team captain responded by tallying 16 goals and 11 assists in 20 regular season games for Lugano in 2017-18. She added a goal and 3 assists in six playoff contests.
Bolden is a trailblazer in women’s hockey. She was the first African-American to play in the NWHL and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She was an All-Star and won the Clarkson Cup in 2014-15 with the CWHL’s Boston Blades.
Editor’s Note: The Color of Hockey is pleased to feature this post written by Erica L. Ayala, a multi-talented New York-based sportswriter, blogger, podcaster, and general media force of nature. She has her own site, ericalayala.com, co-hosts “The Founding Four,” a podcast that focuses on the National Women’s Hockey League, and has written for Excelle Sports, SBNation’s “The Ice Garden,” FanRag Sports, and The Victory Press.
Kim Davis, the NHL’s VP for Social Impact, Growth Initiatives& Legislative Affairs.
Davis brings an extensive amount of experience from the corporate sector to her new role. Previously, she worked on corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts at firms such as the JP Morgan Chase Foundation and, most recently, Teneo, a CEO advisory firm.
She joins Michele Roberts (Executive Director, NBA Players Association), Lisa Borders (President, WNBA), Katrina Adams (President, United States Tennis Association) – to name a few – as women of color in executive roles in professional sports.
In 2012, Davis was profiled with First LadyMichelle Obama in Essence magazine’s 28 Most Influential Black Women in America. She has been named to The Business Journal’s 100 Most Influential Women and Fast Company’s100 Most Creative People in Business.
As an executive, Davis is no doubt a first star. How will that translate to professional hockey? The Color of Hockey caught up with the Spelman College alumna on her second day on the job to discuss the league’s diversity and inclusion efforts such as Hockey is forEveryoneand the Declaration of Principles, as well as the state of professional women’s hockey.
Washington Capitals All Star forward Alex Ovechkin, kneeling, with players from the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, a member of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone program (Photo/Patrick McDermott).
“I have a lot to learn about about the sport and the game,” Davis said. “I hope that we’ll have a chance to follow up in the coming months and hopefully you’ll see us making some progress in many of the areas that you outlined.”
As with many insider terms, CSR is often perceived solely in the light of companies donating money and other resources to a cause or community. However, Davis is eager to blend her corporate experience with the goals of the NHL to expand CSR to something more involved.
“When people typically think about corporate social responsibility they often digress to the notion that CSR is philanthropy,” Davis said in a phone interview last Tuesday.
“While a part of CSR is clearly philanthropy the concept of CSR really refers to business and societal practices that operate together to benefit a company or an organization like the NHL stakeholders,” she added.
Addressing the societal practices and culture surrounding hockey includes stakeholders such as coaches, owners, players, fans and the greater community.
Even one of those groups is likely to have varied opinions, let alone all of them. However, Davis feels that hockey and the culture it has cultivated is uniquely designed with certain fundamentals already embedded.
“I think that hockey is uniquely in a position because of the attributes of the games – the humility of the players, the leadership that comes from the way the sport is organized and played. I’m hoping to continue to contribute in bridging that societal piece and that business piece in a way that allows the game to grow and expand its fan base.”
However, there are times when the hockey community has fallen short of inclusion for some. From homophobic language to microaggressions in the broadcast booth, the NHL has endured a fair share of criticism in the last calendar year alone. Add to that limited exposure and professional opportunities for the women’s game and the job of corporate social responsibility and community engagement seems daunting.
Yet, embracing the diversity of hockey is something the league seems eager to do more effectively. In addition to its Hockey is For Everyone initiative, the league has hosted activities that focus awareness on such areas as LGBTQ, ethnicity and gender equality, socio-economic status and people with disabilities.
One such event was the 2017 Willie O’Ree Skills Weekend. It was there that Davis got her first real exposure to the game. She was working with the league as a consultant for diversity and inclusion at the time.
“I was bowled over with excitement and fascination by the commitment that so many of these coaches and others sponsors and mentors had for the game,” Davis said. “I also have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of kids of color who were exposed to the sport and knowledgeable and fantastic at the sport.”
In addition to the Hockey is For Everyone, the NHL participated in the development of the Declaration of Principles. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and other leaders in hockey unveiled the eight principles in September that state:
Hockey should be an enjoyable family experience; all stakeholders— organizations, players, parents, siblings, coaches, referees, volunteers and rink operators — play a role in this effort.
All hockey organizations – regardless of size or level of competition – bring value to players and families in their ability to deliver a positive family experience.
Hockey programs should be age-appropriate for all players, accounting for each individual’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.
All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Simply put, hockey is for everyone.
Davis is now part of a team that seeks to bring these principles to life.
Part of the conversation over the past several years has been where women in hockey fits into such initiatives.
Both the professional Canadian Women’s HockeyLeague and the National Women’s Hockey League have enjoyed partnerships of some kind with individual NHL markets, including the opportunity for the women to play on NHL ice.
These partnerships are important, but have not trickled down to the salaries of female players quite yet. In October,The Ice Garden released salary detailsfor both women’s hockey leagues. Salaries are said to range from $2,000-$10,000 in the CWHL and $5,000-$7,000 in the NWHL.
When asked about the women’s game, Davis said she was unaware of any specific plans. But she noted that “There is a great deal of support and enthusiasm (within the league) about finding new ways to engage women and women in the sport of hockey…”
For Blake Bolden, it’s a matter of curing a case of wanderlust and fulfilling the desire to keep on keeping on in hockey.
After two seasons with the Boston Pride, Blake Bolden will play in Switzerland in 2017-18 (Photo/NWHL).
The all-star defenseman began thinking last September that she wouldn’t return to the Boston Pride of the National Women’s National Hockey League after two seasons and she started to look for a new team – and a new country – to showcase her skills.
“I was on the women’s hockey profile website that lets you know all the professional teams and where they are,” Bolden told me recently. “I see Lugano, and I Googled it, and I just told myself ‘I’m going there.'”
Bolden, 26, recently signed on to play for the HC Luganowomen’s team in Switzerland. Located in southern Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region, Lugano is the country’s ninth-largest city and is about a 50-mile drive from Milan, Italy.
“I am extremely excited just for a new change, just to be in a different environment,” said Bolden, who’s already started to learn Italian. “I think it will be fun. It will be scary, it will put me out of my comfort zone. So that’s why I wanted to do it: just to get another box checked before I get too old, which isn’t coming anytime soon.”
Former Boston Pride defenseman Blake Bolden says the time is right for her to experience playing hockey overseas (Photo/Meg Linehan courtesy Blake Bolden).
Time and timing were the biggest factors in packing up and heading to Lugano. After four years as a hockey standout at Boston College, two seasons with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey Leagueafter being the first African-American selected in the first round of that league’s draft, and two season’s with the Pride, she feels it’s time to leave Boston.
She admits that the decision to go was made easier when she didn’t receive an invite from USA Hockey to try out for the women’s team that will compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“I had been in the CWHL for two years, I’ve been in the NWHL for two years, and I’ve been in Boston for seven so I wanted to do something else and I didn’t get an invite to the Olympic tryouts, so I figured ‘Why not?'” she told me.
Bolden said she didn’t expect to get an invite because she wasn’t invited to prior pre-Olympics camps, even though “people were saying that I was getting looked at” by USA Hockey.
A Boston Globe article in April questioned why Bolden didn’t appear to be under serious Olympics consideration by USA Hockey.
A Stow, Ohio, native, Boldentallied 2 goals and 13 assists in 35 NWHL games over two seasons. She had 8 goals and 24 assists in 45 games over her CWHL career and 26 goals and 56 assists in 139 NCAA Division I women’s hockey games.
“It’s hard to say why they haven’t given her an opportunity,” Boston College hockey Coach Katie King Crowley told the newspaper. “Blake is awesome in every way. I would always want her on my team if I’m the coach.”
“Yeah, it is frustrating and it’s a big pill to swallow and it seems to come up in almost every conversation I that have with a reporter,” Bolden said to me about the lack of an Olympics look-see. “It’s fine. It’s just something I have to deal with. I can choose to be upset about it or I can choose to take the lemonade that I’m making from the lemons that I have right now, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m happy and I think everything happens for a reason, and I’m on a different path. I really have no regrets or wish that things turned out differently. At first, as a younger adult, it was troublesome for my family, and closest friends, and myself. But it’s okay now. It’s all good.”
Bolden said moving to Lugano will help fulfill her deep desire to compete internationally. She’s only done that twice, playing for the United States at the International IceHockey Federation World Women’s Under-18 Championships in 2008 in Canada and 2009 in Germany.
Bolden said the state of the NWHL’s finances didn’t play a factor in her decision to go overseas. The NWHL, which completed its second season, is the first North American women’s league to offer players a salary, ranging from $10,000 to $26,000.
But league officials informed players in November that their pay would be cut because of money troubles. An anticipated 50 percent pay cut was avertedby a $50,000 contribution by Dunkin’ Donuts.
Bolden said she’ll receive about $3,500 a month playing for Lugano during the 2017-18 season. In addition, the team supplies lodging, health insurance, and access to a vehicle.
“It’s not like I’m making a crazy amount of money in Lugano,” she told me. “My pedigree, I have some great accomplishments as far as firsts, especially being an African–American in these leagues. I just want to keep experiencing new opportunities. So that’s another box that I’m excited to check off. Maybe I’ll go out there for one season and return to the NWHL, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m taking it one season at a time at this moment.”
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The Outdoor Women’s Classicpresented by Scotiabank is part of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic festivities that will culminate on New Year’s day with an Original Six outdoor match between the BostonBruins and Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, home of the National Football League New EnglandPatriots.
“A new year signifies a new chapter and we look forward to sharing the ice for the first time with two professional women’s team’s on the (NHL’s) biggest stage,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.
The women’s game features teams from the first-year, four-team NWHL, which pays its players, and the more-established, five-team, CWHL, which doesn’t offer salaries to its players.
“We are humbled and honored to be part of the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic festivities at Gillette Stadium,” NWHL Commissioner DaniRylan said. “This wonderful stage for women’s hockey wouldn’t be possible without the tireless dedication of (NHL Commissioner) GaryBettman, Bill Daly and many others behind the scenes at the National Hockey League.”
Rylan also thanked CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress and her lieutenants who’ve “been part of this collaborative process since the beginning.”
The women’s game in the Patriots’ stadium has been somewhat of a football involving the NWHL, CWHL and USA Hockey, the governing body for the sport in the United States.
USA Hockey said U.S. women’s national team program members, like Pride players Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker, won’t be available for the Women’s Classic because they will be attending the last day of training for the World Championships.
Still, Pride defenseman Blake Bolden, the first African-American to play in the WNHL and CWHL, said the outdoor showcase is another milestone for women’s professional hockey.
Boston Pride defenseman Blake Bolden, left, calls the Women’s Classic outdoor game between NWHL and CWHL teams a boost for women’s hockey (Photo/NWHL).
“I think it’s really cool that the Boston Bruins and the Canadiens are playing and we’re playing Les Canadiennes,” she told me. “People are starting to respect the women’s game more and more. I just hope that it’s televised on Thursday and the nation can see how much effort we put into this sport that we love to play.”
Shannon Szabados isn’t a member of an NWHL or CWHL team, but she’s a pro hockey player who is ending 2015 in style.