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Catch You On The Rebound: The Big Four

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MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL have combined annual revenues of more than $35 billion.

Average player salaries are in the millions; basketball $5.8, baseball $3.3, hockey $2.4 and football $1.9.

That’s a lot of money for these men.

But wait...women also strive and thrive in these sports...sometimes for money and sometimes just the challenge.

Let’s take a look at a few Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo females who have made their mark in the Big Four.

In 2017 pitcher Brianna Aguilar-Beaucage was part of the Canadian Women’s National Softball Team that claimed bronze at the World Cup of Softball XII in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

“It was a great experience,” recalled Aguilar-Beaucage. “I learned a lot about the game and about being a good teammate and being able to support and watch. It’s different for sure. Here there are all stars everywhere. I learned what I needed to improve and to help my team.”

Born in Fort McMurray, she has spent the majority of her life in Arizona and is currently on the mound for the NCAA Division I Grand Canyon College Antelopes.

Also showcasing her talents down Arizona way was Pam Willier, when she was named 1985 All-ACCAC playing softball for Messa Community College Thunderbirds.

Janet Hatfield, a Father Patrick Mercredi Community High School Trappers grad, played post-secondary hoops at University of Victoria (2005-2008) and has followed that up with a stellar professional career in Germany where at age 34 she is still using her 6-foot-2 frame to windex the boards.

I once wrote in YMM that Annik Naylor was a ‘firefighter, boxing coach, Occupational Health and Safety Officer, extreme sports TV show host, fisherman, multi-sport athlete, fitness champion, bikini model, moose caller...”

Add to that professional football player.

Bleacher Report website ranked her No. 16 of the “Top 30 Tough and Sexy Sports Hotties” in the world of women’s professional sports.

The former Merc grad had played defensive end for the Miami Caliente in the Lingerie Football League during the 2009-2010 season.

“It was real football,” reminisced Nayler,  who at 5-foot-6 and weighing in at 130 pounds was the smallest defensive end in the then 10-team league. ”People had this misconception that it was just a bunch of hot chicks running around in lingerie. We had more than 135 girls try out and the practices were crazy. One of the girls trying out had run in the Olympics. It was rough and hard.”

Suzette Gillingham was a star hockey player from the 1980s’ and 1990s’.

Women’s hockey was not big-time back then and I honestly believe, that in her prime,  she would have become a household name across Canada.

Gillingham and Krista Gordonall (Goplin) were inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

They were teammates on the 1991 Canada Winter Games gold medal winning team from Alberta.

Catch you on the rebound!


Curtis J. Phillips has been a sports journalist in print/electronic mediums since 1976. A strong advocate of volunteerism, he is a founding father of numerous local events and organizations including the Challenge Cup and Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Phillips is also recognized internationally as a sports historian.