Oct
13
2018
Volume
6-6

Catch You On The Rebound

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QUESTION:

What do hockey icons Grant Fuhr, Mike Vernon and Ron MacLean and Fort McMurray athletes Suzette Gillingham and Krista Gordonall have in common?

 

ANSWER:

They are members of the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame (AHHF) Class of 2018.

Inducted this past summer at the AHHF Awards Gala held in Canmore, Gillingham and Gordon (Goplin) were teammates on Team Alberta when it captured gold medal status in women’s hockey at the 1991 Canada Winter Games (CWG).

Held in Prince Edward Island, this was the introduction of women’s hockey at the CWG.

Privileged memories were rekindled for Gillingham and Gordon, upon learning of their team’s installment.

“I was actually shocked when I found out about the induction,” said Gillingham, 45. “It was 27 years ago and that’s a long time. I did not expect it at all.”

Gordon, 43, added: “It was crazy. My dad (Rod Goplin) found out before I did and he told me. He probably had a ticket for the event before I knew it. You know what you did and it was so long ago. Then you realize how amazing and important it was. My first thought was that I was really proud and it was very humbling.”

Although they never played on the same team locally due to age difference, both women, who played forward, credit their on-ice development to the fact that they participated on boy’s teams through the ranks of the Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association (FMMHA).

“Playing with the boys made me a better player and it made me stronger,” admits Gillingham, who would later attend a Canadian Olympic women’s hockey evaluation camp in 1997.  “I played against a lot of talented players including Nolan Pratt (future two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Colorado Avalanche, 2000-2001 and Tampa Bay Lightning, 2003-2004) in Pee Wee hockey.”

Gillingham would continue to play in the local men’s hockey leagues before relocating to Edmonton where she would star for the Western Women’s Hockey League’s Edmonton Chimos.

Her professional hockey career was highlighted by an Esso Women’s National Championship in 1992 with the Chimos beating Team Ontario.

“Playing in the (FMMHA) was great,” echoed Gordon. “Fort McMurray was always so great to us. It meant everything. I talk about it to this day. I couldn’t pick a better place to play sports. For two of us, from the same place, a small town, to make it (Canada Winter Games) was cool.”

A multisport athlete, Gordon would go on to play Alberta Colleges Athletic Association women’s soccer for the MacEwan Griffins. 

But it is that golden moment in 1991 that still shines bright.

“That was probably the highlight moment of it all,” recalls Gillingham, who would record three goals and five assists at the CWG tournament. “I think we were ranked fifth and the bigger teams were Ontario and Quebec. We ended up playing Ontario in the semi-finals and we were not expected to win at all. We beat them (4-3).”

In the championship finale it was a 12 year-old by the name of Hayley Wickenheiser scoring the winner 2-1 over British Columbia.

“She was an underage player and she was probably our smallest player,” said Gordon of Wickenheiser, who would go on to represent Canada in women’s hockey at five Winter Olympics, capturing four gold and one silver medal while twice being honoured tournament MVP. “Her skating and commitment was there at a young age. It didn’t surprise me that she would become that great.”

Of the induction ceremony Gillingham concluded: “One of the best nights of my life,” while Gordon surmised: “I had not seen any of my teammate for 27 years and it was like we never missed a beat at all.”

Catch you on the rebound!

 

Photos:
1: Suzette Gillingham (right) and Ron MacLean. Photo supplied
2: Fort McMurray athletes Suzette Gillingham (5th to the right front row) and Krista Gordon (3rd to the right back row) inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame. Photo supplied
3: Fort McMurray athletes Suzette Gillingham (3rd to the right front row) and Krista Gordon (3rd to the right middle row) inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame. Photo supplied
4: Suzette Gillingham.

CURTIS J PHILLIPS

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.

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