After a long and thrilling season around the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the yearly annual awards show took place on Friday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto to recognize the talents and contributions of the game’s best players from all over North America.
Ahead of the Clarkson Cup Final between Les Canadiennes and the Inferno, it was a time to reflect on achievements and a season of firsts at Ryerson University as Caroline Cameron led off the night introducing the rookie of the year nominees.
Standing tall in this category for the Markham Thunder would be 22-year-old forward Victoria Bach receiving the award, beating out Toronto Furies forward Sarah Nurse and Calgary Inferno forward Rebecca Leslie for the win.
The next award up for grabs was coach of the year presented by Scotiabank, recognizing the efforts of those behind the scenes who make it possible for these six teams to perform to their best each and every game.
While Caroline Ouellette was in attendance, joining her Montreal team ahead of Sunday’s game, she was not one of the name’s nominated as a recipient to win this year’s award.
However, after leading his team back to the playoffs for a second consecutive season, Jim Jackson of the Markham Thunder was alongside Ryan Hilderman and Courtney Kessel, Jackson walking away with the victory despite falling in a three game semi-final series to Les Canadiennes de Montreal.
Presenting the third award of this year’s CWHL Awards Show was Canadian legend Angela James, a former member of the NWHL and one of the first two women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame.
The Angela James Bowl Award is a rather significant piece of the CWHL Awards Show. It is handed out annually to the league’s highest scorer for their demonstration of commitment and talent both on and off the ice.
Receiving this year’s award and for the third time in her career was Marie-Philip Poulin, the backbone and captain of Les Canadiennes de Montreal. Poulin finished the regular season with 23 goals and 27 assists, making for 50 points registered in 26 games played.
After Mike Bartlett, head of community affairs at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, received the humanitarian of the year award from Canadian olympian Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Glenn Healy and the NHLPA were introduced to present the next award.
This award recognized the skill and strength between the pipes, one of, if not, the most important pieces to all organizations. Vying in the nomination category was Emerance Maschmeyer, Alex Rigsby and Noora Raty of the KRS Vanke Rays.
With Maschmeyer and Alex Rigsby both leading their teams to the Clarkson Cup, it came down to a single selection from the CWHL to make the difficult call that would be the decider. However, in the end it was Alex Rigsby winning the award in her first season with Calgary.
If you take a look at the CWHL, there are vast differences right off the bat. Where as the men of the NHL are financially secure through the games that they play, this is not the same for the CWHL, nor is it this way in the United States.
As a result of that, the CWHLPA was formed, an organization dedicated to ensuring the overall well-being of all active players that make up the six-team organization that is the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Up for nominations in this prestigious category was Rebecca Johnston of the Calgary Inferno, joined alongside by Natalie Spooner of the Toronto Furies and Marie-Philip Poulin of Les Canadiennes de Montreal. Poulin, who averages nearly two points per game, would receive the award from the interim commissioner, collecting her second of the night from the league after becoming the fourth Canadiennes to reach 50 points in a season.
While this had the Montreal community filled with both pride and sheer excitement, the news only got better for Les Canadiennes as the defensemen of the year award was presented by Cheryl Pounder and Tessa Bonhomme.
While many expected that Laura Fortino from the Markham Thunder would win the award, perhaps to many others, it only made sense that her competition got the best of her to win it.
With the nominees listed as Erin Ambrose, Kacey Bellamy and Laura Fortino, it was Ambrose who took it away in her first season with Les Canadiennes. In her best season to date, Ambrose recorded six goals to go alongside 18 assists, making for 24 points in 26 games played.
This would bring things down to the final two awards of the night left on the table, bringing Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan to the podium alongside Canadian singer and songwriter Shawn Hook.
This would pave the way for the CWHL MVP, a hefty list consisting of all-stars in Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner as well as Rebecca Johnston of the Calgary Inferno.
While all three continued to make names for themselves while putting it all out on the ice, it would be Poulin recording the hat trick, receiving her third and final award of the night. Marie last won this award in 2017 and has led Les Canadiennes to a Clarkson Cup final in every one of the four seasons she has played in the league.
Last, but certainly not least, the CWHL’s chairman’s trophy awarded to the champions of the regular season. With a formation that is stacked with women such as Brianna Decker, Brianne Jenner and Alex Rigsby, there was no telling what kinds of damage could be done by the Calgary Inferno.
Led by Ryan Hilderman behind the bench, the Inferno captured their second Chairman’s trophy in franchise history, finishing the season 25-4-1. With three straight victories over the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, Calgary secured first place on the final weekend of the regular season.
Rebecca Johnston accepted the award on behalf of the Calgary Inferno from Laurel Walzak, a Ryerson professor and chair of the board of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. This would bring the evening to it’s conclusion at Maple Leaf Gardens, sending players on their way with new hardware with many new accomplishments and memories made as well.
When asked at the end of the night what it meant to receive these awards from the league, Marie-Philip Poulin was touched and honoured with such recognition as she said the following, “Very honouring, I think those trophies are, I think a reflection of the work of what we did this year as Les Canadiennes, and obviously I would not be here without the help of my teammates, my coaches and it’s been a great year.”
In closing, Poulin would go on to say, “Those trophies are fun to get, but it’s not the one we want right now. We’re gonna work towards that Clarkson Cup on Sunday and it’s gonna be a great game on Sunday.”
As for the thoughts of fellow teammate Erin Ambrose, she said about Poulin following the 2019 award show, “I think, I mean, Pou is, Pou can explain. Like, everything about Pou is just the best. What she’s done in her career so far is, I can’t even explain how much of an impact she put on the women’s game and she deserves everything that she gets.”
In speaking about Poulin in greater depth and detail, Ambrose would go on to say about Montreal’s captain, “She works her tail off every single day and I honestly don’t think there’s somebody that works harder. There’s not a better leader in the game of women’s hockey or the game of hockey that I’ve ever come across.”
“To have somebody so humble that I get to be around everyday, like, I mean, there’s a reason that I was able to even be up for an award like this and Marie-Philip Poulin is a big reason for that.”
It all comes down to Sunday at Coca-Cola Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario with Alex Rigsby in net for the Inferno and Emerance Maschmeyer for Montreal. The game can be seen on Sportsnet as well as TVA Sports and NHL Network, meanwhile, it is set to get going with puck drop scheduled for 12:00pmET.