Last night was a momentous night for Chicago Blackhawks fans. Winning their second Stanley Cup in three years (2010, 2013), in Game 6, was easily one of the most joyous nights of my life.
You have to love our hometown heroes...Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane (though some thought it should be Corey Crawford), heroes like "Captain Serious" Jonathon Toews, Dave Bolland, Marcus Kruger, Marion Hossa and Bryan Bickell...the way they battled back...from concussions, broken bones, leg insomnia. You name it. They suffered to bring the cup home.
"I can't feel anything in my leg," Big Hoss commented to a reporter last night. "Yes, this wrist was broken," said Marcus Krueger.
Don't feel too sorry for the Boston Bruins, people, not just because they lost, fair and square, to the Hawks.
In fact, there's already a Cup with Boston's name on it. And NO, I'm not talking about their 2011 Stanley Cup.
The Bruin's sisters-in-professional hockey, the Boston Blades, already won their version of the Stanley Cup in 2013. On Saturday, March 23, the Blades beat the two-time champion Montreal Stars 5-2, for their first ever Clarkson Cup championship.
Of the six teams in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL,) the Blades are the only American team. And the Blades' roster is comprised of some of the best women's hockey players in the world, including 10 Olympians from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Some of these same players will be seen less than a year from now in Sochi, Russa, at the 2014 Olympic games.
Midwesterners probably haven't heard of the Blades until now. But they are very much a part of Boston sports scene, which includes the Bruins, Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox. Not to mention the hockey powerhouses of Boston College, Boston University, and Harvard.
They made history in an already historical part of America, by becoming the first American women's professional hockey team to capture the Clarkson Cup, the Canadian Women's Hockey League's version of the Stanley Cup.
The team was started, in part, through the efforts of local hockey afficionado Paul Hendrickson, who served as the first general manager of the Blades. Through his efforts, the Boston Blades became a reality, and it gave female players in New England the chance to pursue their hockey dreams.
His daughter, Cherie, was an integral part of the first regular and postseason championships in 2013.
“My Dad worked very hard to bring a pro team here to Boston, and he spent as much time working to make that happen as he did working at his regular job,” Cherie told the CWHL. “He spent countless hours late at night organizing everything from the marketing of the team, to securing ice and referees, to recruiting players. “
“Most admirable is that he spent all that time working with no compensation. He believed in the importance of having a professional league for women, and as he liked to say, he now had adopted an entire team’s worth of ‘daughters,’ Cherie said proudly. “Knowing the hard work that he had put into the team, I was thrilled to be a part of the win this year and bring the championship back to Boston.”
Paul Hendrickson's work helped two other native New Englanders compete in the CWHL: Mandy Cronin, from Maine, helped Brampton to its first Clarkson Cup final appearance that year, while Lily Sargeant, who lives in Vermont, competed with the Stars.
American Kelley Steadman emerged as the hero of the 2013 Clarkson Cup. During the regular season for the Blades, Steadman competed in all 24 games and tallied 14 points on eight goals and six assists.
She became the first Blade in franchise history to record a hat trick in the Clarkson Cup. Steadman was also the first skater to net a hat trick since Hilary Knight did it in the regular season against Brampton on March 3.
For her efforts, she was named the First Star of the Game, as the Blades prevailed by a 5-2 score.
The Blades were tied 2-2 against Montreal before Steadman scored her first goal on a power-play opportunity at 11:09 of the second period. She scored two more goals to complete her hat trick in the third, one on another power-play opportunity and the last into an empty net with less than a minute left in regulation.
Steadman wasn't even on the starting lineup. The Blades began with Genevieve Lacasse, Caitlin Cahow, Gigi Marvin, KateBuesser, Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight.
The Stars lineup included Charline Labonte, Cathy Chartrand, CarlyDupont-Hill, Emmanuelle Blais, Dominique Thibault and Caroline Ouellette.
Blades veteran defender (and Yale Bulldogs assistant coach) Jessica Koizumi summed up the victory: “It’s exciting that we’re making history.”
The Blades were feted by the city of Boston, hailed as heroes, and even threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park to start the season.
But the year of excitement was certainly not over for the Hendrickson family. The younger Hendrickson faced possible death as terrorist bombs blew up the vaunted Boston Marathon:
When (Boston Blades defenseman) Cherie Hendrickson prepared to compete in the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2013, she could never have anticipated what was to come. Like many athletes, Hendrickson wanted to push herself and conquer new obstacles.
CWHL website, April 27, 2013
From the scene, she tweeted:
Unbelievable scene inside the bag/medal pick up area. Volunteers offering water, food, support, and hugs to every runner. We are Boston Strong”
Hendrickson, who works as a paramedic when she isn't running down hapless offenses in the CWHL, ran the marathon on behalf of the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
In a statement on the Boston Blades official website, head coach and general manager Digit Murphy also paid tribute to those who provided comfort and assistance, “This joyous event turned to tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families….The volunteers and first responders of this tragedy are the true heroes--and we can only hope that the good is highlighted at this unfortunate incident.”
Teammate Meghan Duggan (a native of Danvers, Massachusetts), also responded to the heroism on social media:
“So proud to call Boston my home. Saying thank you isn’t enough for all the protective/special forces did this week keeping us safe.”
The great tragedy of the Boston Marathon helped Hendrickson appreciate her life, including friends and family, even more.
“I was lucky enough to be running with fellow Blades player Lindsay Berman for the last five miles of the race," Hendrickson told CWHL.com. "(Berman) was able to contact my Dad almost immediately to be sure they were safe after we first heard about the bombings while we were running.”
“My family has always meant a lot to me, and of course a tragedy like that makes you realize that even more,” Cherie said.
“Even now, almost two months later, I can remember like yesterday what it felt like, every step of the way during the race, once I had heard what had happened. I am so thankful for the safety of my family and friends that day.”
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