Category Archives: Hockey

Returning for season two with the Calgary Inferno

Last year,  I embarked on new and unfamiliar territory when I put on a headset to be the play-by-play voice of the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Calgary Inferno - 2016/2017 season

WinSport – Arena A of the Markin MacPhail Centre during warm-up ahead of an Inferno game. (Sandra Prusina)

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to call hockey games. It seemed like a pipe dream though. Everyone in Canada wanted to do hockey play-by-play and combine that with being a woman, reality set in that it would never happen.

I’ve been in broadcasting and journalism for nearly a decade and while I greatly enjoy my radio career and the travels I’ve had to three Olympics, the yearning for being the voice of a hockey team was always in the back of my mind. It was an honour to receive a message from the CWHL asking if I wanted to be involved with the Inferno.

I studied the players and the teams, but that wasn’t enough preparation for the task at hand. Even though hockey is a fast game, I had to learn that trying to speak all the time wasn’t doing me or the viewers any favours. Many years ago, a journalism instructor taught me that when communicating, make what you say poignant and make it count. It took me awhile to adapt that to my play-by-play style. Oh, and if I had a nickel for every time I said “the ice” or “the zone” in my first few broadcasts, I’d be a rich girl.

I’ll also be the first to admit that I struggled with some name pronunciations. In particular, I feel bad for then-rookie Iya Gavrilova, whose last name I must’ve said differently each time. Her family watching back home in Russia likely cringed.

It took me the whole season to figure out what was easiest for me in terms of numbers and names. While I knew the Calgary players, I had to quickly adapt to the other teams. Holding my roster sheet during calling the game was a guide, almost a safety blanket, and I was okay with that. It made me feel comfortable.

While I did receive mostly positive feedback at season’s end, I wondered what was in the cards for the future. There were on-air blunders, many of which I recall vividly. Would the Inferno call me back? How did the CWHL feel? The summer rolled on and I came to the realization that this was likely going to be a ‘one and done’ situation. Even if it was, I was grateful to live out a dream I had since I was a little girl: I was the voice of a professional hockey team playing out of an incredible facility at WinSport’s Markin McPhail Centre – home of Hockey Canada.

It was a thrill last week to receive an email from the new general manager of the Inferno asking if I wanted to come back for the 2017-2018 season. With it being an Olympic year, there will be a lot to learn and I’m ready to embrace that challenge.

Calgary Inferno - 2016/2017 season

My first season as the voice of the Calgary Inferno of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. (Sandra Prusina)

 

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How the Canadian Sochi roster would look if only stats are considered

500px-05_NHL_ShieldAs the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted, it looks like we’re just days away from an official announcement NHL players will be able to participate in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley has been in talks with the IIHF and had intense meetings late this week. A number of details were released from the meetings, including a couple of major ones:

– There will be a break in the NHL during the Olympics. The last day of games would be February 8 and play would resume two days after the gold medal game.
– There will be roster changes for Sochi. Each team will be allotted two extra players (22 players, 3 goalies), compared to the roster at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver (20 players, 3 goalies) .

So, out of curiosity, how would Canada’s forward group look if Hockey Canada only selected the statistically best players from the condensed 2012-13 NHL season?

Chris Kunitz: 52 points (LW) – Steven Stamkos: 57 points (C) – Martin St. Louis: 60 points (RW)

Taylor Hall: 50 points (LW) – Sidney Crosby: 56 points (C) – P.A. Parenteau: 43 points (RW)

Andrew Ladd: 46 points (LW) – Eric Staal: 53 points (C) – Blake Wheeler: 41 points (RW)

Matt Moulson: 44 points (LW) – Ryan Getzlaf: 49 points (C) – Jordan Eberle: 37 points (RW)

Statistically next in line –  Jonathan Toews: 48 points (C), Claude Giroux: 48 points (C), John Tavares: 47 points (C), Joe Thornton: 40 points (C), Rick Nash: 42 points (LW), Evander Kane: 33 points (LW), Patrick Marleau: 31 points (LW), Corey Perry: 36 points (RW), Jeff Carter: 33 points (RW), Jordan Eberle: 37 points (RW)

This certainly speaks to the immense depth of the centre position in Canada.

Most of the wingers are able to switch sides in a pinch and most often than not, centres can adjust to playing on the wings to allow the coaching staff a plethora of line combinations.

sochi-2014-logoAs the 2014 Olympic Winter Games near (272 days to go), there will be countless potential rosters and line combinations dished out by both the fans and media. Those lists will likely include a number of the players listed above, but those rosters definitely won’t be based solely on stats. Experience, chemistry, coach-ability, and clutch play will all be factors in determining the final roster selected by Hockey Canada. Stats don’t always show the true picture and a number of notable Canadian-born players, like Jason Speeza, struggled with injuries this short regular season.

A camp with potential Olympic players will likely take place late this summer. The 2009 camp, which was in Calgary, happened over a period of four days in August with 46 players hitting the ice.

The final roster will have to be submitted five to six weeks before the start of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

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Unforgettable memories as Kim St-Pierre calls it a career

After three Olympic gold medals, five world hockey championship first place finishes and a lifetime of memories, goalie Kim St-Pierre is hanging up her skates for good.

And what a career she’s had. St-Pierre ends her Hockey Canada tenure with a 1.17 GAA, .939 save percentage, record 29 shutouts and a remarkable 64 wins.

Kim St-Pierre (WikiCommons/Jeff)
Kim St-Pierre (WikiCommons/Jeff)

She backstopped Canada to Olympic gold medals in 2002, 2006 and most recently, 2010. Although she didn’t see much playing time in Vancouver, she proved to be a mentor and leader for the emerging Shannon Szabados. It’s a role that helped St-Pierre’s career come full circle, because she herself was taken under the wing of Manon Rheaume and other veterans in 1998 when she joined the national program. Some of St-Pierre’s most dazzling saves came at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The unforgettable 3-2 victory over the USA was marred by controversial reffing, as St-Pierre and the Canadians wouldn’t let being nearly shorthanded for the entire game prevent them from capturing our country’s first ever gold medal in women’s hockey.

She put together an amazing 25 save performance in that final. Many of them came in the first period, when Canada survived two lengthy 5 on 3s by the USA. They were resilient and showed the nearly 10,000 spectators on hand the true meaning of playing with heart.

Wayne Gretzky and the Canadian men’s team were on hand to watch the tenacity of that squad. Truthfully, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say the women’s performance was motivation for them, as they too went on to capture gold versus the USA in 2002.

Although she’s now moving on from international play, no one will ever forget the impact she’s had on women’s hockey not only in Canada, but across the world.

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Goodbye is never easy. Thank you, Jarome.

Sixteen years at any place of employment is a long time, but 16 years as the face of a franchise and having a nickname synonymous with a Canadian, hockey-loving city feels like a lifetime. Young or old, everyone knows “Iggy” and what he means to Calgary.

Jarome Iginla (WikiCommons/Resolute)

Jarome Iginla (WikiCommons/Resolute)

Even when he arrived in 1996, you were drawn to baby-faced Jarome Iginla and his infectious, beaming smile. He had been traded for Joe Nieuwendyk in December of 1995, a tremendously popular player, who had also done amazing things for both the city and Flames organization during his tenure. Jarome had some big shoes to fill, but he did that and then some. There’s not enough room on this page to list all of Jarome’s accolades. To say he exceeded people’s expectations would be an understatement. Hockey fans knew he was good on the ice, but he also gave the city a humble leader and a philanthropist who always had time for everyone. He went to war for his teammates on a nightly basis and proudly displayed the Flaming C on his chest.

Jarome Iginla is presented with a gold stick by Lanny McDonald in recognition of scoring his 500th career NHL goal. (WikiCommons/Resolute)

Flames legends: Jarome Iginla is presented with a gold stick by Lanny McDonald in recognition of scoring his 500th career NHL goal. (WikiCommons/Resolute)

Although I had met Jarome as a fan on a number of occasions throughout the years, I never knew how truly special he was until the winter of 2008 when I was trying to start my career. I was doing a job shadow assignment at the Saddledome. As we all converged in the dressing room after the team’s practice, I squeezed in to take part in my first ever media scrum. Everyone wanted to talk to Jarome. The team was coming off a successful January, going 7-3-1 and were impressive at home with a record of 4-1-1. He talked about the team battling hard every night and how each line was doing their respective job. As the scrum wrapped up, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff entered the room and everyone scurried over to talk to him. I didn’t really understand the protocol and stood there confused. Jarome immediately noticed and introduced himself to me. “Hi, I’m Jarome. Nice to meet you. Are you new?,” he asked. I told him I was an aspiring journalist on a job shadowing assignment for a course. He asked some more questions about my schooling and my goals in the profession. As I began to pack up my things, Jarome stopped me in the hallway. He handed me an autographed picture and said, “Good luck in your career. I hope to see you around here real soon.”

That was just a regular day for the captain. He liked everyone and everyone liked him. That mutual relationship of admiration and loyalty is what makes letting go so hard.

On March 28, 2013, the city of Calgary said goodbye to Jarome for a final time. The Ed Whalen media lounge was packed. There wasn’t an inch to move. #12 kept his emotions in check and beamed his unforgettable smile at us. He admitted he didn’t really have a speech prepared because he wasn’t retiring. He told jokes and chuckled his way through the nearly 30 minute availability. One of the most poignant moments though was when he looked over at longtime friends and teammates Craig Conroy and Michael Cammalleri. They were devastated. The looks on their faces told the story: this was actually happening and he was leaving us for good.

At the end of the media conference. Mr. Peter Maher, the man who has called all of Jarome’s goals, gave him a heartfelt thank you. You could tell how much it meant to Jarome.

On a final note, it’s hard to refer to him as just “Iginla” when you’re talking about him professionally. He always makes everyone feel like a friend. Simply, he’s one of a kind.

Thank you, Jarome.

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What 2012 in Canadian sports means to me

Canadian Olympic Committee logo

Canadian Olympic Committee logo

What a year. It’s almost hard to put into words how 2012 has impacted my view on sports and my feelings as a Canadian. I’ve never been more proud of my nationality. The performances, results and actions of our athletes personified everything it means to come from this country.

One of the first people I look at is Milos Raonic. He immigrated from Montenegro to Canada when he was a little boy. His parents came here so he could have a great childhood. They gave him every opportunity to thrive in tennis and when you look at all he accomplished this year, you can say his family and coaching staff did a wonderful job. Although he captured two ATP titles in 2012, I think he was most impressive at the US Open when he advanced to the fourth round. He was turning heads in New York and a lot of the mainstream media was noticing “the tall kid from Canada” with a blistering serve. Roger Federer was even quoted saying he sees Milos as a top ten player. He finishes the year ranked 13th in the world and coming up in February, he’ll once again be Canada’s main weapon when they host Spain in Davis Cup action.

When I think back this on year, another athlete that sticks out in my mind is sprinter Jared Connaughton. His humility and heartache at the Olympics was felt by all. After his 4X100 team was denied the bronze due to a lane violation, he apologized to us. He didn’t point fingers and he didn’t make excuses. Jared, you showed us class and grace. Thank you! We are all proud to have you representing Canada.

Switching over to the world of hockey, Steven Stamkos had a 2011-2012 campaign for the ages. His spectacular 60 goal season will be remembered for a very long time. He’s the 20th player in NHL history to hit that mark and it comes during an era where goals are hard to come by. Hopefully this work stoppage gets ironed out sooner than later, so we can see Steven on the ice again.

And saving the best for last, our very special Canadian women’s soccer team. As someone who has covered and followed this core of players for over a decade, I felt like a proud sister, beaming with pride when they stood on the podium with their bronze medals in London.

How fantastic is it to finally see Christine Sinclair getting the recognition she deserves? And how equally amazing is it to hear Christine always crediting her teammates for helping her along the way. What a leader. The beaming smile on her face as she carried the flag at the closing ceremony will be etched in our minds forever.

All of these girls and their families have given up a lot to play for our country. They are humble, kind and fantastic role models. The time is now to embrace them. My words don’t do this team any justice and if you ask me in person, I’ll talk your ear off about their journey over the last 10 years. One of my greatest wishes is that Canada continues to support women’s soccer with such fervor as the last six months. These ladies deserve it.

Thanks to everyone for an unforgettable 2012! I’m tremendously proud to be a broadcaster in this country, but more than anything, I’m so proud to be Canadian.

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Dear NHL, Calgary misses you.

About two weeks ago, I had an “I don’t care” attitude about the NHL lockout. I’d get started on lengthy tangents about how everyone was greedy and if they ever came back it would be too soon. I lied. It was just a way of masking disappointment.

It’s now early October and although the two sides are talking, there’s no end of the lockout in sight.

Calgary’s always a special place this time of year: the leaves have changed color, people are putting on their winter tires and everyone’s waiting to see what the new hockey season will bring the Flames. Sure, the team’s been frustrating to watch over the last three playoff-less years, but that doesn’t take away how much love Calgary has for its team.

A fall without Flames hockey is just weird. Think back to the previous lockout. The team had such momentum after a heartbreaker in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals versus Tampa Bay. So many things can be said about that series and while there’s no point rehashing it, the team was expected to have a special aura going into the fall. It never happened because the lockout happened. The team lost a year of players in their prime including Jarome Iginla, who was playing some of the best hockey of his career. It was like Calgary’s improbable and magical run was for not. Okay, maybe not nothing, but the team had a hard time recovering from that lost year, never advancing past the first round of the playoffs since 2004.

We are now in the fall of 2012 and the Scotiabank Saddledome feels so empty without the Flames. The team was ready to embark on a season of change thanks to new coach Bob Hartley, a number of new faces including Roman Cervenka, Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman, and perhaps a full season of Sven Baertschi. Flames fans were ready to pack the stands during training camp to see what the new additions looked like. Who would have chemistry with whom? What line combinations would Hartley try? How would Martin Gelinas adapt behind the bench? Instead, the players are dispersed around the world. Some of them are playing in Europe, while others are still training here in Calgary in hopes the lockout will end soon.

With all that said, do you want to know what frightens me most? Iginla may have played his last game wearing the Flaming C. Let’s say the lockout does go the full season, that means the captain’s final contract year is a wash out. Come July 1st 2013, also Iginla’s birthday, he’ll be able to sign wherever he wants. Scary isn’t it? Miikka Kiprusoff is reaching the end of his contract. Who’s to say he’ll want to play in North America for the final year of his deal? The next time the Calgary Flames actually suit up, the team could look very different. I’m not sure fans in this city are prepared for a lineup without those two, but it could be a reality.

The two sides meet against Wednesday. Let’s hope there’s progress because this lockout could really hurt the Calgary Flames, in more ways than one.

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