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Clarkson Cup's namesake ready to honour winning women's team

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The Canadian Press
3/19/2009 6:57:59 PM
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Adrienne Clarkson expects to feel as triumphant as the victorious hockey players she hands her trophy to Saturday.

After a delay of almost three years, Canada's former governor general will give the Clarkson Cup for the first time to the winner of the Scotiabank National Canadian Women's Championship on Saturday in Kingston, Ont.

"I will be there with bells on," Clarkson declared Thursday from Toronto.

The Montreal Stars, Brampton Canadette Thunder, Calgary Oval X-Treme and Minnesota Whitecaps opened the tournament Thursday at the K-Rock Centre. Minnesota edged Montreal 4-3 in the first game.

Montreal and Brampton represent the Canadian Women's Hockey League. The Minneapolis-based Whitecaps and Calgary play out of the Western Women's Hockey League.

Clarkson's ceremonial duties in Saturday's final (TSN, 1 p.m. ET) also include dropping the puck.

"I've never dropped a puck at a hockey game before," she said. "I've always been a little nervous that I would fall down and get run over."

But Clarkson, who served as Canada's governor general from 1999 to 2005, has long been a hockey aficionado. She created a stir during the NHL lockout of 2004-05 when she said women should play for the Stanley Cup, since men were not.

At that time, it was suggested to her that she create a trophy in her name for women's hockey, which she did.

After dedicating her trophy to an annual national women's championship in Toronto in 2006, the Cup got caught in a licensing dispute with the artists she'd commissioned to create it. They wanted royalties from any revenue the trophy generated in the future.

Clarkson reached a financial settlement with the artists earlier this month.

"I always knew there would be a Clarkson Cup," she said. "I'm happy to give it to Hockey Canada and they've been great about this process."

She hopes the Clarkson Cup will become as iconic to women's hockey as the Stanley Cup is to men's hockey.

"Women really believe in their right to play hockey," she said. "I'm part of the second wave of feminism. The first was the suffragettes.

"You don't know what it was like growing up in the 1940s and 1950s and not being able to do these things."

Clarkson commissioned silversmith Beth Biggs to create the cup. Biggs collaborated with Inuit artists Pootoogook Qiatsuk, Okpik Pitseolak and Therese Ukaliannuk from Nunavut Arctic College in its design.

Clarkson declined to say how much money the trophy has cost her in its creation and legal fees.

"That would be rude and bad to discuss those things," she said.

The trophy, which has handles on both sides, is adorned with the flowers of the provinces and territories of Canada, ancient masks and the Inuit deity Sedna, who is holding a puck and a hockey stick.

Clarkson felt it was important her trophy reflect northern Canada "because that's where ice comes from" and also that it bear the likeness of a female goddess.

The national women's championship for senior clubs has a fractious history as current WWHL teams broke away from the National Women's Hockey League in 2004. The two leagues merged again in 2006, but couldn't agree on a playoff structure.

The NWHL announced it was suspending operations in 2007 and a new player-driven league called the Canadian Women's Hockey League rose from its ashes.

"I'm happy we've finally reached an agreement on the Cup," said Canadian team captain Hayley Wickenheiser. "The men have the Stanley Cup and now the women can play for the Clarkson Cup in club women's hockey.

"The club women's system is always been what's driven Canadian women's hockey and it will be extremely important coming out of 2010 to keep that strong."

Former Canadian team captain and Oval X-Treme player Cassie Campbell, who will call the championship game for TSN, said the Clarkson Cup could give the tournament longevity and credibility.

"The tie-in with the NHL and how they have their Stanley Cup, I think it's really important," Campbell said. "For the first time this year, it looks like the leagues really want to work together now.

"This will be some of the best club hockey that we've ever seen and to add the Clarkson Cup to that, it's like we can't go backwards again. We have to continue to move forward with the league."

The national championships features Canadian team players Jayna Hefford and Gillian Apps (Brampton), Caroline Ouellette and Kim St. Pierre (Montreal) and Carla MacLeod, Gina Kingsbury, Cherie Piper, Tessa Bonhomme and Gillian Ferrari (Calgary).

Former Canadian Olympian Manon Rheaume, the first woman to play in an NHL game, is Minnesota's netminder. 

Hockey Canada jersey (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
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