by Kristen Lipscombe & Mark Staffieri
Canadian women?۪s hockey pioneer Geraldine Heaney of Weston, Ont., has once again made history ??? but this time it?۪s off the ice.
Widely known as the Bobby Orr of women?۪s hockey, the Irish-born Heaney will become the third female ever to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining the prestigious ranks of fellow Team Canada alumna Angela James and American hockey star Cammi Granato, in the infamous sports shrine nestled in downtown Toronto, Ont.
???It was unbelievable receiving the call today,? Heaney told The Canadian Press during a conference call. ???As a young girl playing hockey, never in my wildest dreams would I ever think I?۪d be going in the hall. It shows you where the women?۪s game has come, and how much further it can go.?
This year?۪s inductees were announced Tuesday, July 9, with Heaney being called to the hall alongside four men, including NHL alumni Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer and Brendan Shanahan, as well as legendary coach and general manager Fred Shero. The Class of 2013 will be officially inducted in a special ceremony Monday, Nov. 11 at the Hockey Hall of Fame itself.
Heaney, James and Granato are also the first three women to have been inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame, receiving the IIHF honour five years ago. James and Granato were inducted into the Hockey Hall of fame three years ago as the first females, and Heaney is the only other woman since to get the HHOF nod.
Heaney?۪s many other honours include being inducted into the Ontario Ball Hockey Association Hall Fame and the Ontario College Athletic Association?۪s Hall of Fame. But the most recent hall of fame recognition is particularly special for Heaney, and represents important momentum in the women?۪s hockey world.
???It was a male game when I played, and going down to the Hall of Fame any time, you never saw any females in there, so you didn?۪t think this would ever happen,? Heaney told The Canadian Press. ???I?۪m so glad that it has (changed).?
Having competed with the Toronto Aeros, also known as the North York Aeros and Beatrice Aeros, of the Central Ontario Women?۪s Hockey League and National Women?۪s Hockey League, Heaney joined the top-ranked club when she was just 13 years old. With the Aeros, she played alongside several women that would one day compete in the Canadian Women?۪s Hockey League, including Gillian Ferrari, Becky Kellar, Cheryl Pounder, Sami Jo Small and Sommer West.
Hockey fans were first introduced to Heaney when she scored the gold medal-winning goal at the inaugural IIHF Women?۪s World Championship in 1990, on the ice at the Ottawa Civic Centre. Later that year, she presented Ray Bourque with the Norris Trophy at the NHL Awards, a fitting gesture. She would go on to win seven consecutive gold medals with Canada?۪s National Women?۪s Team, becoming the first and only woman to achieve that historic feat. She was named the tournament?۪s top defenceman at both the 1992 and 1994 world championships.
Heaney also claimed a silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, at the first-ever tournament to feature women?۪s hockey, and a gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. In total, she recorded 27 goals and 66 assists in 125 career games for Canada?۪s National Women?۪s Team.
From 1987 to 1997, Heaney played for the Abby Hoffman Cup, a national women?۪s hockey trophy that preceded the Clarkson Cup, which is now awarded to the team that wins the CWHL championship. She would win it twice in that time span, both in 1991 and 1993. But of all her Abby Hoffman Cup victories, Heaney?۪s greatest at may have been at the 2004 Esso Women?۪s Nationals, the former annual championship for senior women?۪s hockey in Canada.
Representing the NWHL?۪s Toronto Aeros , Heaney scored the game-winning goal once again. In dramatic fashion, she logged said goal in overtime for the 2-1 victory over the Calgary Oval X-Treme, which featured Team Canada superstar Hayley Wickenheiser on its roster. Before her NWHL career came to a close, Heaney achieved one of the rarest and most unique honours in women?۪s hockey. The Aeros retired No. 91 prior to a game against the Brampton Thunder on February 21, 2006. The 2005-06 season marked Heaney?۪s final year in the NWHL, the culmination of an incredible 27-year career at the forefront of the female game.
Heaney has since brought her acumen to the coaching ranks, leading her daughter Shannon?۪s Ancaster Avalanche novice team on the bench, most recently to the 2013 Ontario Women?۪s Hockey Association provincial championship. Heaney, 45, now lives in Ancaster, Ont., with her husband John and their two children
???It?۪s the people you meet, the experiences and all the memories you create playing the game of hockey,? Heaney told the media of her most cherished hockey memories.
As one of many tireless contributors to the game that helped build the foundation for the modern day CWHL, Heaney is a once-in-a-lifetime talent that continues to help put ??? and keep ??? the female game on the map.
Her induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame is just the latest chapter in Heaney?۪s women?۪s hockey history book.