11 July, 2012

Catherine Ward in Rarefied Air

As the history of women’s ice hockey is still being forged, Ward has unknowingly left an indelible mark on Canadian hockey history. When Ward was featured in The Globe and Mail in 2009 as one of Canada’s future hopefuls for the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010, no hockey fan could have known the legacy she would quietly build. 

The year 2012 marked Ward’s entry into the Triple Gold Club for Women. With her Clarkson Cup victory and her gold medal from the 2012 IIHF Worlds in Burlington, Vermont (to complement her 2010 Winter Games gold), Ward became the sixth woman to accomplish the feat. What made the accomplishment more remarkable is that she has become the first woman to achieve a Canadian Grand Slam (qualification entails the three criterions for the Triple Gold Club and a CIS National Championship). If Charline Labonte can win the Clarkson Cup, she will join her former McGill teammate as the second woman to accomplish the rare feat. 

Her performance at Boston University enhances her status even further. Ward is the only women’s hockey player to have won those four major titles plus appear in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game. During the 2010-11 campaign (her only season with the Terriers), Ward helped the Boston University appear in their first ever national championship game. Despite losing to a top ranked Wisconsin squad, Ward’s leadership was a key factor in the Terriers overcoming another obstacle in their still young history. An NCAA championship for Ward would have made her one of the most decorated women’s ice hockey players ever (and it would have given BU teammate and fellow Triple Gold member Marie-Philip Poulin an opportunity at the American Grand Slam). 

Her departure from the Terriers after one season had a profound impact on the program. Despite a blueline that was bolstered by superstars such as Kasey Boucher and Tara Watchorn on defense, complemented by the goal scoring prowess of Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenn Wakefield, Ward’s leadership was not replaced. 

As the Terriers battled injuries, and suffered an uncommon four game losing streak, their regular season efforts were diminished as the cross-town Northeastern Huskies claimed the regular season crown. Despite winning the Hockey East postseason title and qualifying for the 2012 NCAA tournament, BU lost a heartbreaking offensive display at the hands of the Cornell Big Red by an 8-7 overtime tally.

While she has always played in the shadow of bigger stars at every level, the elegant Ward has always conducted herself with a quiet dignity. She proves that the athletes that are successful do not attain those levels of elevated success by luck. Ward has employed a silent strength, coupled with great acumen, to assemble a body of work that is the envy of many athletes within the realm of women’s ice hockey. 

Don Rankine says:
13 July, 2012 at 07:44 AM
"...the elegant Ward..." Precisely.

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