Monday, August 5, 2019

Jayna Hefford Autographed Card

A few days ago, in the wake of the CWHL's demise, Mike Murphy from SB Nation's The Ice Garden compiled a list of the league's greatest players by position - a.k.a. the First Team All-Stars - and for perhaps the first time ever, I agreed 100% with someone else's list.

In the next few days, I'll feature a few of the outstanding athletes I was fortunate enough to see play in the few years I had season tickets to Montréal Stars / Les Canadiennes games. Today's spotlight shines on Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, whose 20-year career includes 12 World Championships (seven gold medals, five silvers) to go with four Olympic gold medals (and one silver). As a matter of fact, she, Hayley Wickenheiser and Caroline Ouellette are the only women to win four consecutive Olympic gold medals in hockey, a feat that will become increasingly difficult to match, particularly now that there are three superpowers in the women's game (Canada, the U.S. and Sweden) and that other countries are improving as well.

Just about a year ago, the retired player and then-current University of Toronto assistant-coach took on the reins as CWHL interim commissioner (following the sudden departure of Brenda Andress after a ten-year tenure in the position) and had hoped to "increase the (league)'s visibility and popularity" via her own profile but also marketing its stars better, and showcasing their talent.

It wasn't to be, as her reign ended abruptly - she dissolved the league earlier this summer when she saw that despite Andress' best efforts to expand from four to six teams, into the U.S. and China, and having a TV deal in place with Sportsnet, none of it meant added revenue streams. In fact, the league's finances were so dire that not only did it have to fold, but it asked its players to send back the jerseys they wore and trophies they'd won so they could be sold at auction; many of the players' families as to re-buy the cherished memorabilia so the player could keep what would technically - ethically - been rightfully theirs.

The Hall of Fame would wind up buying out the rest so it wouldn't get thrown away. We are still in the infancy of the women's game, and there was no way having two separate professional leagues was ever going to work. The players have now formed a union, so that last-minute surprises like the league shutting down should never happen again, as the next league's finances should be more accessible to those trying to bring the game to the next level. And maybe Hefford's wife, former U.S. Olympian and CWHL co-founder Kathleen Kauth will have her say in the next step forward as well.

Hefford was the league's first scoring champion and points leader, and three years after she retired, became the namesake for the award handed to its most outstanding player as voted by the players.

That kind of respect doesn't come undeserved.

Here she is sporting Team Canada's red uniform, on card #72 from Upper Deck's 2014 Team Canada Women set:
She signed it in black sharpie three or four years ago at a league benefit, adding her jersey number (16) at the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment