If you can see it, you can be it.
Young girls see and hear Jennifer Botterill talking hockey with the boys on national TV, so they believe that can be them one day.
Young girls see Kerri Einarson and her gal pals from Gimli wearing shiny gold medals at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, so they believe that can be them one day.
Young girls see Dayna Spiring’s name on the Grey Cup, so they believe that can be them one day.
Yes, seeing is believing is being.
It takes a dream and hard work, of course, and the right role model helps, too. There’s an abundance of inspirational sportswomen who got their start in Good Ol’ Hometown and environs before circumstance dictated they relocate, and there’s just as many still doing their thing on the home front.
Here, then, are the leading role models on the distaff side of the playground in/from Winnipeg/Manitoba…
Jennifer Botterill: If young girls are looking for inspiration, it doesn’t come much better than the three-times Olympic champion, five-times world champion and Harvard grad. Jennifer flits to and fro as a hockey broadcaster—she’s had gigs with Hockey Night In Canada, TBS, NBC, New York Islanders, CBC, Sportsnet, TSN—and she’s also a much-sought keynote speaker and CEO/president of two companies (Excel in Life and Journey to Excel). And, oh, Jennifer is also the first female player to earn induction to the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.
Jennifer Jones: Like a number of women on this list, Jennifer no longer hangs her hat in Good Ol’ Hometown, but she still represents the city and Keystone Province as an elite curler. And what a rep! That Jones girl is the most-decorated curler ever produced on our pebble, and she shows no indication of slacking off. She’s also a mom, a member of the National Speakers Bureau, a lawyer and has dabbled in broadcasting.
Dayna Spiring: She went undefeated as chair of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers board of directors: Three years, two Grey Cup titles (her middle season was rudely interrupted by Covid-19). Dayna’s no longer on the Bombers board, but she had a leading voice in the bid to secure the Canadian Football League’s showcase game for Good Ol’ Hometown in 2025, and she’ll co-chair the Grey Cup festival host committee. Also of note, Dayna became the first female to have her name etched on the Grey Grail.
Kerri Einarson: One of two Metis role models on this list, Kerri’s team out of Gimli has become a juggernaut among Pebble People on Our Frozen Tundra, winning the last four national women’s curling titles. The mother of twins Khloe and Kamryn, she’s fiercely proud of her Metis heritage and was recipient of the Tom Longboat Award in 2021.
Jocelyne Larocque: In a recent quickie poll from Hailey Salvian of The Athletic, Jocelyn was rated by her peers as the hardest defender and most underrated player in Ponytail Puck. A Metis from Ste. Anne, she first wore the Maple Leaf with Canada’s national shinny side in 2008 and was chosen Manitoba Indigenous athlete of decade in February 2021. Jocelyn was also recipient of the Tom Longboat Award in 2018.
Sami Jo Small: A former national team player with Olympic and world bona fides on her resume, Sami Jo earned management chops as GM with the Toronto Furies of the dearly departed Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and is now president of the Premier Hockey Federation champion Toronto Six. A motivational speaker and author, the Stanford grad was last seen as a talking head on TSN coverage of the recent world tournament in Brampton. She’s also a vocal and visible champion of girls’ sports worldwide.
Cathy Gauthier: Chatty Cathy is a rose between two thorns named Vic Rauter and Russ Howard on TSN curling coverage. A three-times Scotties champion (with Connie Laliberte and Jennifer Jones) and a member of the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame, she’s also proof that there can be life after age 50 for women in sports broadcasting, because she’s the sole female natterbug at TSN who’s reached, and passed, that benchmark.
Desiree Scott: Our Olympic champion footballer has been a midfielder with the national soccer side since 2010. The University of Manitoba grad gives back by running an annual soccer camp for KidSports. Now with Kansas City Current of the National Women’s Soccer League, she’s also an ambassador for the Homeless World Cup.
Sharon Gulyas: Giddyup! The ponies keep running out at Assiniboia Downs and Sharon is one of the main reasons. She’s been at the race track since 1978, initially as a cashier in mutuels then climbing her way to the general manager’s office and now VP of financing and gaming. She’s a total delight, a ray of sunshine.
Shelley Brown: A horse whisperer, Shelley’s the first female to lead the trainer standings at the Downs, with 48 winners in 2012. Her ponies made 27 trips to the winner’s circle in the 2022 meet, which placed her third, but that’s a sidebar to the main story. Diagnosed with cancer and informed she had three-to-six months to live in autumn 2020, she’s slowed down some but Shelley’s back in the barns for this year’s racing, which goes to the post on May 22.
Alyssa Cox, Michele Sung, Vanessa Martinez Lagunas: This trio are head coaches (hoops and soccer) at the University of Winnipeg and Manitoba, which means they hold sway with a lot of young women.
Clara Hughes: Long removed from the speed skating and cycling ovals of Good O’ Hometown, the two-sport Olympic champion and medalist with the big smile is a major voice in mental health advocacy. Clara’s the national spokesperson for Bell Let’s Talk and she’s circled the globe to spread the word about mental wellness.
Shannon Birchard: By the time she’s finished, Shannon might be the most-decorated female curler in the history of the roaring game on Our Frozen Tundra. She already has five Scotties titles (plus one world championship), which means one more and she’ll be breathing the same rarefied air as Jennifer Jones, Jill Officer and Colleen Jones. And did I mention there’ll be just 29 candles on her birthday cake in four days? Assuming Shannon doesn’t get bored and finds something better to do, she has plenty of runway in front of her to collect a record-tying sixth Scotties crown and go beyond.
Leah Hextall: A member of the first family of hockey in Western Manitoba, Leah became the first female to work the play-by-play mic on a national NHL broadcast and is now with ESPN. She’s also a noted speaker who isn’t shy about discussing the perils of being a woman in a man’s world.
Sara Orlesky: Once upon a time, Sara had a much higher profile as TSN’s Winnipeg bureau reporter and CFL sideline natterbug, but then she went to the dark side, leaving mainstream media to become host and producer with Winnipeg Jets. We don’t see much of her anymore, but we can assume the Jets gig is going better for her than the actual hockey team, because there have been no reports of anyone being “disgusted” with her work.
Another Rouge Football crusade is nigh and I have to think the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the morning-line favorites to get back to the Grey Cup game and right a wrong. That is, they had no business surrendering the Grey Grail to the Toronto Argos last November, and there are no excuses now that prodigal place-kicker Sergio Castillo has returned. Prepare the fatted calf and plan a parade!
I’ve lost count, but I believe the addition of Castillo means the Bombers now have more kickers than the Radio City Rockettes.
Have I been snoozing since the 20th century? I mean, did I awaken this morning and see an Ed Tait byline in the Winnipeg Sun? Yup, sure did. It’s right there on the sports front, atop an accounting of yesterday’s Valour FC-HFX Wanderers nil-nil football frolic. I could have sworn that young Eddie had defected from the tabloid to the Drab Slab in 1999, then went over the wall to write his good stuff for the Blue Bombers/Valour FC. So what’s his byline doing in the Sun today? Well, it’s a sign of the times. Sun scribes no longer travel and, with only three guys on staff, they need much-deserved time off for life. Thus, the tabloid uses Valour FC handouts. But as long as it’s young Eddie’s stuff, it’s win-win for both the paper and soccer side.
Not long after the Golden Knights had given Winnipeg Jets their walking papers in the Stanley Cup tournament, Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked about the crazy things some club’s have done over the years in an attempt to get into his players’ head?
“They had no hot water at the Fairmont Hotel last week in Winnipeg,” he answered. “I didn’t really like (it) at all. Great hotel, by the way. Great service, nice people, just no damn hot water.”
Hey, man, when in Good Ol’ Hometown you can have working WiFi or hot water, but not both!
Things that make me go hmmm, Vol, 2,152: To recap, here’s the official transcript of what was said in the wake of the Jets’ ouster from the Stanley Cup tournament…
Jets head coach Rick Bowness: “I’m disgusted.”
Various Jets players: “Our coach is a great, big meanie for spanking us in public. Boo-hoo, wah-wah!”
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff: “We have the best players. Ever.”
Jets co-bankroll Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman: “(Crickets.)”
By way of comparison, the New York Rangers bowed out with a 4-0 loss to New Jersey Devils, and here’s what forward Chris Kreider had to say: “I’m one of the veteran leaders, I’m one of the guys who should have set the example and instead I’m on for all four goals against,” he told The New York Post. “That cannot happen and especially in Game 7. It was shameful.”
And, in the Republic of Tranna, Maple Leafs long-in-tooth defenceman Mark Giordano had this to say after going down 0-2 vs. Florida Panthers: “For me, it hasn’t been good enough. No matter what you want to say about goals against and that plus/minus is a bad stat, whoever wins the game scores more goals. You can’t sit there and make excuses and pout and say ‘I have had bad luck.’ You just have to be better.”
Hmmm, accountability. What a concept.
I’d like to say that the boys on the beat did boffo work on year-end nattering from the Whine-ipeg Jets. They asked all the right questions and put the players’ pouting into perspective, at the same time pooh-poohing Chevy for his predictable and tiresome filibustering. Only thing missing was the calling out of reclusive co-bankroll Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman, who was either too busy selling cars or ticking off season ticket holders to talk.
I don’t know about you, but I find it odd that wannabe NHL franchise owners Ryan Reynolds and Snoop Dogg have had more to say about hockey in the past few months than the Puck Pontiff. Just saying.
Things that make me go hmmm, Vol. 2,153: All the huffing and puffing from the Jets camp did not go unnoticed by scribes in the eastern precinct of Our Frozen Tundra. Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette made reference to “that poisonous Jets culture,” and he described the Winnipeg players as “one of the laziest, most entitled groups of overpaid athletes in all of sport.” Ouch.
Meantime, this was Cathal Kelly’s take in the Globe and Mail: “Assuming Bowness is back next season, it makes his players look like drips. They got called out in the crudest possible terms short of actual swear words and the best they could do was, ‘In future, if you’re going to insult us, we’d prefer you insult us in private.’ It makes the Jets executive look feckless. Now they have a mediocre team that doesn’t try hard enough and a coach who feels bad about pointing that out. What’s the net result of this domestic squabble? Apparently, it’s deciding that no one is to blame. For any of it.”
Hmmm. You know you come across as a bunch of jackasses when an opinionist in the Republic of Tranna interrupts his daily homage to the Maple Leafs to acknowledge the existence of an NHL franchise in the colonies and, at the same time, call you a bunch of jackasses.
Another scribe from The ROT, the retired but sometimes not-really-retired Roy Macgregor of the Globe and Mail, also acknowledged the existence of NHL franchises in the colonies, writing this in an essay about the loving and loathing of the Leafs across the land.
“In NHL cities such as Ottawa and Winnipeg, not to forget the four other non-Toronto teams, the Leafs are often deeply resented, as hometown fans in those centres obsess on what seems to them such a television bias that they refer to TSN as the ‘Toronto Sports Network’. Foolish as it may be, they feel that if Connor McDavid scored a triple hat-trick for the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto-based sports networks would still lead with a lower body injury to a Leafs fourth liner. It’s absurd, but it’s out there. And has been for a long, long time.”
Roy’s being foolish and absurd. Everyone knows both TSN and Sportsnet would never lead with the Leafs on a night when McDavid scored “a triple hat-trick.” Unless, of course, Auston Matthews had lunch with Justin Bieber earlier that day.
What’s in a name? Depends on who we’re talking about. If it’s soccer legend Pele, the name has special meaning, because it’s now included in the Portuguese edition of the Michaelis Dictionary. Pele means: “That or someone who is out of the ordinary, who or who by virtue of their quality, value or superiority cannot be equalled to anything or anyone, just like Pele.” In related news, Merriam Webster has announced it will add Maple Leafs to its next revised edition. Definition: “The ability to attract attention to one’s self by never failing to fail for more than 50 consecutive years (see: TSN SportsCentre and Sportnet Central nightly).”
On the subject of TSN, some very strange goings-on with the O’Dog, Jeff O’Neill. One day he’s off their radio air, without any who, what, when, where and why, then O’Dog rises like a phoenix, without any who, what, when, where and why. It’s the most mysterious disappearance since the dish ran away with the spoon. Or at least since D.B. Cooper jumped out of an airplane.
Sticking with the dog theme, vulgar rapper/hip hopster Snoop Dogg is part of a group seeking ownership of the Ottawa Senators. Ya, that’s just what the NHL needs; a guy who’s spent more time in handcuffs than Harry Houdini. Seriously, Snoop Dogg’s rap sheet is longer than a Winnipeg winter and he’s been kicked out of a least four countries. But, hey, if Snoop lands the Senators maybe he can squat in Humpty Harold Ballard’s old cell at Millhaven.
In case you were wondering, I passed on watching the King Charles III coronation yesterday morning. The only king I’m interested in this time of the year is LeBron James.
Charles Barkley cleans his cellphone by licking the screen. Ugh. Reminds me of my long-ago golfing days when certain among our small, select group of duffers would mark their ball on the green, then pick it up and clean it with one or two swipes of the tongue. I always wondered if they went home and licked ash trays for fun.
If you believe hockey players today are faster and more skilled than 10, 20, 30 years ago, then please explain, in 25 words or less, why Milan Lucic is on the Canadian roster for the world men’s championship. I mean, what use is a set of bare knuckles in an event that doesn’t include fisticuffs? It’s like sending Vlad Putin to perform on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
Started watching the ponies gallop at Churchill Downs at 9 a.m. Saturday, and didn’t shut it down until Mage had hit the wire to win the Run for the Roses a few ticks past 4 p.m. That’s a lot of blah, blah, blah for two minutes of giddyup, but the NBC Kentucky Derby crew is very knowledgeable and insightful, and that includes old friend Eddie Olczyk. Not so good was a bit meant to be a feature on the great Secretariat but became a feature on Tom Brady narrated by Tom Brady. Totally lame. The only thing that galloped faster than Mage yesterday was Brady’s ego.
And, finally, like many among the rabble, I was a Gordon Lightfoot fan. Poetic songwriter, wonderful singing voice. My favorite Lightfoot lyrics are from Sundown:
“I can see her lying back in a satin dress
in a room where you do what you don’t confess.”
RIP to a true Canadian legend.