Behind the Bench, Sports

Julie’s hot takes

The PWHL Trophy should have a different name

Fans of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) may have followed the unveiling of the new prize that will crown the team that wins the playoff, the best of the best of that year: The Walter Cup. Designed by renowned jeweler Tiffany & Co, the trophy is named after Mark and Kimbra Walter, the owners of the Mark Walter Group, who played an important financial role in backing the launch of the PWHL. The suggestion to name the trophy after Walter came from sports icon and PWHL advisory board member Billie Jean King. However, many were disappointed by the cup’s name. Despite the good intentions, the Walter Cup enshrines the corporate, financial side of the PWHL instead of honouring previous women’s ice hockey trailblazers who are the real reason for the league’s creation. While there is no doubt that the Mark Walter Group played a massive role in the creation of the PWHL, the decision not to honour women’s hockey players was a missed opportunity. 

This naming also breaks with trophy tradition in professional women’s hockey. In the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), the predecessor of the PWHL, teams competed to win the Isobel Cup, named after Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy—one of the first women known to play ice hockey and daughter of Lord Stanley––the namesake of the National Hockey Leagues’ Stanley Cup. Teams competing in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) fought to win the Clarkson Cup, named after its commissioner, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. Many optimists hope that names paying homage to women’s hockey trailblazers will be given to conference trophies or other awards, but regardless, the Walter Cup is not what we hoped PWHL teams would compete for. While it is understandable to celebrate and pay respect to a family that supported the PWHL’s creation, naming the trophy after them put an abrupt end to custom appreciated by fans and players alike. The Walter family could be honoured with another trophy or prize to celebrate their good deeds or generosity more akin to the Walter Group’s role in the PWHL.

There’s an abundance of outstanding women’s hockey players throughout the sport’s history: Figures such as Manon Rhéaume, Angela James, or even Canada’s beloved Marie-Philip Poulin easily could have inspired the name of the championship cup. After all, there is no reason a women’s hockey team should have to compete for a trophy named after a man. 

Rooting for loser teams

Coming to a new country, and delving into a new sports environment, people are often faced with a unique opportunity—choosing who to root for. While some might take the easy way out by bandwagoning onto the dominant teams at that time or choosing to support their local team; others may take the road less travelled and root for whichever team seems the most pathetic. 

After moving to Montreal from France, I had the unique opportunity to consider the pros and cons of rooting for each NHL team. As a lazy person, I would not want to go the extra mile and root for teams geographically inconvenient—bye-bye Anaheim, Colorado, and Seattle. We could have been a good pairing, but I will not stay up that late to follow games every week. With the Western Conference teams out of the running, I established my preference for Eastern teams—hello Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions. Could I choose to root for the Montreal Canadiens, for not only being in the city I live in, but also the only francophone team in the league––unless you count Ottawa? Yes, but I wanted to feel special and didn’t feel particularly drawn to the team. So, my devotion and support went to the next-best team, with the perfect ratio of competitiveness and charm—the Toronto Maple Leafs. The story of the first-round curse striking yet again the hopeful and passionate team during the 2021-22 season convinced me that this team deserved my devotion. The deep folklore surrounding the franchise sealed the deal for me. Supporting a seemingly hexed and forever unsuccessful team brings a new sense of camaraderie between supporters––having to constantly endure losses, and experiencing the highs and lows of having incredibly talented players yet overwhelmingly disappointing results.  
I encourage others to follow in my footsteps and find community in supporting not the most successful, or local team, but the one that promises to pull on your heartstrings as you tell your similarly deluded friends that this is our year.

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