Holly MacInnis emceed the celebration of female hockey on Thursday in Port Hood that included special guests, from left: Kori Cheverie, assistant coach of Canada’s women’s hockey team; head coach Troy Ryan; Colten Ellis, goaltender with the St. Louis Blues AHL affiliate Springfield; Hannah MacDonald, St. F.X. X-Women; and Nick MacNeil, assistant coach with the Cape Breton Eagles.
August 3, 2022
-by Bill Dunphy
Let’s see...a Stanley Cup celebration; a Telus Cup celebration; and on Thursday, a celebration of female hockey that included the coaches of Canada’s world-champion women’s hockey team.
What next, Port Hood? The Atlantic U18 Major hockey championship?
The Quad County Whitecaps Female Hockey Association, in conjunction with the Al MacInnis Sports Centre Golf Classic, hosted the spectacular event.
In attendance were Troy Ryan, head coach of the Canadian national women’s team, and assistant coach Kori Cheverie. The two Nova Scotians helped guide the national team to a world championship in 2021 and a gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Also in attendance were Colton Ellis, Hannah MacDonald, and Nick MacNeil.
Holly MacInnis emceed the event and introduced the special guests to about 80 Whitecaps players of various divisions along with many coaches and parents.
MacNeil is the current assistant coach with the Cape Breton Eagles and was with the Moncton Wildcats last season in the same role.
Born and raised on Route 19, MacNeil played his minor hockey in the local area, drafted and played his years in the QMJHL for Cape Breton, later playing for the University of New Brunswick and capturing two CIS University Cup championships.
He later played in the ECHL. Nick is a very familiar face to all of minor hockey players – running skills and development camps and hockey schools and programs in the area and also coached with the Cape Breton West Islanders Major U18 program. He and his wife Kyle, along with their children Oakley and Ryder live in Creignish.
Hannah MacDonald is a recent graduate of St. F.X. X-Women hockey program, completing her business degree in the spring.
She grew up playing minor hockey in Alberta, but her Cape Breton roots run deep – as she would affectionately be known as one of the Alberts with lots of family on Route 19. Her grandfather, dad (Grant), and all of his brothers including many cousins went to St. F.X. along with her sister, who also played hockey there. In 2017, as a second-year Midget player she won the Esso Cup at the national tournament. Hannah always brings her energy and positive attitude along when it comes to off ice training – and she’s a familiar face to many of the ladies here when it comes to off-ice preparedness and training, sharing her skills and knowledge.
Colten Ellis was born and raised in River Denys and is a local minor hockey player who’s Major Midget years included the 2017 Telus Cup championship with the Islanders.
Colten spent his years in the Q with the Rimouski Oceanic and later with the Charlottetown Islanders, winning the 2021 QMJHL Jaques Plante Memorial trophy – awarded to the goaltender with the best goals-against average. Drafted by St. Louis Blues in 2019, he continues to do his hometown proud as he competed with the Springfield Thunderbirds this season in the AHL.
MacInnis then had the pleasure of introducing coaches Ryan and Cheverie to the audience.
Coach Ryan most recently led Canada to gold medals at the 2021 IIHF Women’s World championship and 2022 Olympic Winter Games as head coach.
He also earned a silver medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, silver at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World championship and bronze at the 2019 IIHF Women’s World championship as an assistant coach.
He has served as the Atlantic Canada female coach mentor with the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic since 2016 and currently serves as the Dalhousie Tigers Women’s Hockey head coach.
A product of Spryfield, he currently spends his time in Hubbards when he’s not on the road for hockey.
Kori Cheverie has won gold medals as an assistant coach at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and 2021 IIHF Women’s World championship.
She became the first woman to serve as a coach with one of Canada’s national men’s teams at the 2022 IIHF U18 World championship and was also the first woman hired as a full-time assistant coach in USPORT, where she was an assistant with the Ryerson University men’s hockey team for five seasons.
Kori just returned from Arizona, where she was a coach at development camp for NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. Hailing from New Glasgow, coach Cheverie played USPORT (AUS) hockey with the Saint Mary’s Huskies, was AUS First Team all-star, Academic All Canadian, AUS Marion Hilliard Award recipient and SMU female athlete of the year and MVP on multiple occasions. She spent six years with the Toronto Furies in the CWHL before her coaching career.
Ryan and Cheverie presented a video chronicling the success of the Canadian women and then spoke on aspects of the journey that led to the team’s success.
“Thank you so much for hosting us. It’s an honour to be sitting next to coaches and players who have impacted the community in a positive way,” said Cheverie.
Looking out at all the young Whitecaps players, she said, “My minor hockey did not look like this. I played with the boys all the way up to Bantam (U15).”
Ryan added, “People will thank us for coming, but honestly, this is an honour for us to come here.”
He said he likes to say he’s from Spryfield (which is actually a suburb of Halifax) because it acknowledges the friends, teachers, and minor hockey coaches who supported him in his youth.
The son of a low-income, single mother, Ryan said it’s our background that makes a difference in our lives.
“With regard to coaching, what separates us is the core values, morals, we get from coming from Nova Scotia. People say I’m so calm on the bench and I say a lot of it is where we’re from, how we were raised, always being humble.
“Treat everything like it’s your Olympics – U14 or Olympics – it’s all the same mentality.”
Ryan said the ability to overcome adversity was a key characteristic of the Canadian women.
“You see the smiles and the celebrations, but you don’t see the work that goes on behind the scenes. Arriving in Beijing, we had to spend 45 days in a hotel (COVID quarantine). We couldn’t leave our room. There would be a knock on the door in the morning and your breakfast would be there. A knock in the afternoon for lunch. For them to go through that for 45 days just to compete in the tournament was amazing.”
Ryan said leading up to the Worlds and Olympics, they were playing U18 Major teams.
“Then we started playing Junior or Major Junior boys and we were losing games badly. So, here was a team that was used to being successful who were now losing. It changed the way they approached the game.”
Added Cheverie, “We encouraged mistakes to happen because that’s where we learn the most.”
Cheverie, who came down with COVID just before the Olympics and wasn’t allowed to travel, still managed to work with the forward lines and special teams (penalty kill) from home.
“It was extremely disappointing to not be able to go, but you try to find the silver lining in everything. Even the Zoom meetings were challenging with the 12-hour time difference.”
However, Cheverie said an unexpected result came from her watching games and practices online.
“When you’re on the bench, you only see the backs of players. Seeing players from the front allowed me to see the facial expressions and I was able to see that one player was troubled. I was able to speak to her and found out that she felt she wasn’t contributing like she should and I was able to work it out with her.”
Ryan Beaton, who along with Holly MacInnis helped organize the event, said that the Whitecaps represented 13 teams in 10 divisions last years, with seven teams advancing to provincial semifinals, five going to provincial championship teams, and four bringing home banners.
“It was amazing to see arenas full of Whitecaps jerseys and caps,” he said.
This year, he expects approximately 260 girls to be registered with the possibility of having 15 or 16 teams in 10 divisions.
Brian MacInnis, speaking on behalf of the Al MacInnis Sports Centre Golf Classic, noted that the tournament has raised over $1 million in the last 20 years.
“I have four granddaughters out there (and) it’s pretty incredible that Canada’s National Women’s team coaches take the time to come here and support female hockey.
“The Whitecaps are a credit to all the executives and all the volunteers. It’s a great development association for the girls,” he said.
There was also a video message from Allan MacInnis that was recorded that morning.
After the presentation by Ryan and Cheverie, the girls broke into five groups where they participated in various activities, including: off-ice fitness with Hannah; stick handling with Nick; shooting with Aaron MacInnis; saucer hockey and passing with Celia MacInnis and Colten Ellis; and meet-and-greets with Troy and Kori.
At the conclusion, the entire group taking part in the Mull River Shuffle before enjoying an outdoor barbecue.
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