Sidney Crosby’s mom decided to become more involved in women’s hockey because of a conversation with her daughter.
Trina Crosby, mother of NHL superstar Sidney, accepted an invitation from former Canadian team captain Cassie Campbell-Pascall to join the board of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League this season.
Sidney’s younger sister Taylor is a goaltender at the prep school Shattuck-St. Mary’s, where Sidney also played before graduating to major junior hockey and then to the NHL.
Taylor, 17, was identified by Hockey Canada as a goaltending prospect and invited to a camp in Calgary earlier this year.
She was at home in Cole Harbour, N.S., on a break from school and having lunch with Trina one day when Taylor lamented she could already see the end of her hockey career.
“She started talking about how much she loved playing hockey,” Trina recalled.
“She said it’s scary to think she’d have to give it up and wouldn’t be part of her life. I said ‘what do you mean?’ and she said she’d go to college and university and then what? What after that?”
Trina realized while Sidney lives his hockey dream playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins and winning a Stanley Cup, Taylor’s prospects of high-level hockey after college depend on the CWHL.
“It stayed with me, so when Cassie asked, I immediately thought of that and thought ‘well, even if I could help in some small way,“’ Trina said.
She joins former Canadian team defenceman Cheryl Pounder, former U.S. forward Caitlin Cahow and Toronto lawyer Jill McCutcheon as the new members elected to the CWHL board.
Campbell-Pascall, who captained the Canadian women’s team to a pair of Olympic gold medals, is vice-chairman of the five-team CWHL with clubs in Toronto, Brampton, Montreal, Boston and Alberta.
Almost 40 players who were in the league last season are now preparing to represent their country at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February.
Among them are Canada’s Caroline Ouellette, Megan Agosta-Marciano, Tessa Bonhomme and Meaghan Mikkelson, as well as American players Hilary Knight, Kelli Stack, Gigi Marvin and Julie Chu and Swiss goalie Florence Schelling.
The CWHL opens its seventh season Nov. 2. The Clarkson Cup, a trophy donated by former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson, is awarded to the victor of the championship tournament in March. The Boston Blades are the defending champions.
Trina Crosby admits not knowing a lot about the CWHL, but expects to get a crash course Wednesday at a board meeting in Toronto.
“I have a son who is living his dream. He’s living a wonderful life too. I’m motivated to ensure that little girls have some place to dream of,” she said. “I’ve been around hockey a lot.
“I’ve been around Sidney being in the NHL for a lot of years now. I just have a perspective. I understand what’s going on at the grassroots level for the girls.”
Trina points out that Jessica Wong, the first overall selection in this year’s CWHL draft by the Alberta Inferno, is from Nova Scotia as was NHL first overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon.
Campbell-Pascall feels Trina Crosby brings a unique perspective to the CWHL as a hockey mom of both Sidney and Taylor.
“I think her passion for the game and the fact she has a daughter that plays . . . she’s connected and we need people like that,” Campbell-Pascall said. “Any time I’ve asked her for help, she’s never hesitated.”
The CWHL is coming off a 2012-2013 season of improved finances and stability after years of expansion and contraction.
The NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs entered into a five-year sponsorship of the Toronto Furies last season worth $30,000 annually to the women’s team.
The Calgary Flames followed with a four-year sponsorship of the Alberta Inferno worth $20,000 per year. The Inferno logo and name were revealed at a Flames pre-season game Monday.
Kraft Foods was among the companies that came on board as a league sponsor. Attendance averaged between 500 and 700 per game last season, according to CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress.
“Last year was absolutely phenomenal for us,” Andress said.
The league’s model is similar to Major League Soccer, meaning the league owns the teams, hires general managers and pays expenses. There are no individual owners of teams.
The CWHL can’t yet afford to pay players, but pays coaches and covers the cost of equipment, ice time and travel. Andress has said a single team’s budget is about $200,000.
Increased sponsorship dollars means the league can afford to pay for players’ meals on the road and purchase more seats for players on flights, Andress said. The league was also able to hold an awards dinner at the 2013 Clarkson Cup to recognize the league’s stars.
“Every decision we make is to make it better for the players,” Campell-Pascall said. “We still need funds. If a major sponsor left, we’d be in trouble.”
Further expansion into the United States is in the league’s plans.
“I think we are in a position to start to look at that opportunity,” Andress said. “Obviously the next expansion we’d have would be in the States. I think the CWHL would look at all opportunities and see where the good grassroots programs are.”
The CWHL will be without many of its stars this winter because they are training full time with their country’s respective Olympic teams. Those players can return to the CWHL for the final month of the season after the Winter Games conclude.
The loss in star power is short-term pain for long-term gain because those players draw attention to the CWHL and the profile of women’s hockey in general is boosted post-Olympics.
“For us, it’s ‘yahoo, our women are going there,“’ Andress said. “Everybody is excited about whatever sport they believe in at that particular time. It’s a great opportunity for us. They’re going to help us build and promote the league when the Olympics are over.”