****This was written originally in July, but given issues with laptop I’m only publishing this no

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Every day is arm day

w. The one thing that may have changed is the body fat %, as I’ve been mostly sitting in my underwear eating Haribo. Oh and I’ve started skating.***

So as we are hurtling towards the start of the season, I thought it’d be a good chance to update on the struggles that hockey players go through every summer, otherwise known as off-season problems. Summer is obviously a chance to take some R&R time from the game and kick

 

 

back, but it is also the time when you build the foundations for the year ahead.

I thought that after the season was over I’d give myself a good chance to rest and

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Progress in mid July

recover, both physically and mentally. I had planned on a two week break once the season had wrapped up, but that didn’t really go to plan. I got bored after a couple of days and started doing light workouts and then after a week, I was fully vested into my off season workout plan.

 

In terms of strength and conditioning, I am using a program that I’ve used for the past two summers, so this is the 3rd summer I’m using this particular routine. Last summer I added 3kg of muscle, so I thought that it’s the right program. Plus given the fact that I’m at 100% health and not having to contend with any injuries, I felt I’d be able to push harder at the gym.

 

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I’ve not just been a meat head for the summer. I have spent time with my family too

Additionally to the program I’ve added few layers to it, to improve my grip strength as it supposedly helps with shot velocity (and who doesn’t want bigger fore arms) and speed workout which I’ve been carrying on in parallel to the strength and conditioning workout. Last season I felt that the strength and conditioning side worked well, but I wanted to add another level to training. With the league getting harder, it’s important to respond to the increase in competition in the right way.

 

The speed workouts really work on the ‘engine’ of the hockey player, so it’s focussed on the glutes, hamstrings, quads and core. That is where your speed is generated and given my history with back injuries the last two seasons, I felt that I need to improve this area in my body. Besides, who knows, maybe it will help me look better naked.

 

What has been different about the off season so far is that I’ve not really thought about

Offseason3

I also drove a bunch of fast cars. Didn’t get killed or kill any cars. 

hockey while I’ve been working out. I’ve been doing it because it has been fun and it has been a journey of self-discovery again. I’ve found that I’m able to push myself more and more and I’m actually finding enjoyment out of seeing that puddle of sweat by my feet at the end of the workout. I think, in comparison to last summer, I didn’t go to those levels with training.

 

One philosophy that I’ve carried with me subconsciously, though, is that the off season is still competition. You are building for the season ahead, but you are also competing against your future team mates by wanting to be fitter than any of them and you want to make sure that you claim your spot on the roster. That is one of the reasons that hockey is such a fascinating sport. You compete all year round, in the summer, against your teammates and then you put all of that aside and you compete with those guys to help your team win. It is a never ending competition.

 

So what about the results from the training then?

 

Well, to the end of June, I had slashed my body fat % by 3% to get it sub 10% for the first time since before my back went. I’ve maintained the muscle mass that I had, but I feel quicker, if that makes sense? I’m yet to skate, but whenever I’m doing sprints, my legs feel lighter and I feel like I’m producing more power through my legs. One shall see when I hit the ice whether that feeling is all in my head, or whether it is all results.

 

The next steps are to start skating. Whenever regular training starts, I want to have the cobwebs worked out of the system. Simultaneously to this, I’m going to start working on some stickhandling stuff. I’ve got hands like cement blocks so if I can soften my touch a little bit that should all help. It will be interesting getting back on the ice. I’ve not skated since April, so I’m bound to be rusty as anything. It’s the first four sessions that are the worst and after that it starts getting easier.

 

Until it does, I’m dreading those four sessions.

 


We had an opportunity to try the all new Warrior Alpha QX Stick recently. Similar to the QRL review last year, this is a quick overview of our thoughts on the new top of the line stick. The Alpha QX range replaces the outgoing Dynasty range of sticks. These first impressions are based on about 45 minutes of tinkering with it. The stick was tested in dry land conditions only and for shooting.

 

Upon picking up the stick it feels incredibly light. The stick weighs in at 410 grams, which isn’t the lightest stick on the market but on hands it definitely feels a lot lighter than it actually is. The stick is finely balanced and feels good on the hands. The one thing that we found a bit uncomfortable to begin with was the grip coating. It felt ‘stickier’ than other sticks that we’ve tested in the past, but this again is a matter of preference. Warrior says that this grip is to improve accuracy and control.

 

One of the other things we noticed when we first held the stick is that the contour of the shaft is also new and at first felt a little different to ‘conventional’ hockey sticks. The best way to describe the shaft and the contour is a mash between the old elliptical design on the Easton S19 and CCM’s Octo-Gun sticks. However, it isn’t as radical as those two.

Warrior says that this is to help with stick handling and shooting (we’ll get to that later). The Alpha QX is a low kick point stick and differs from the QRL in that the kick point is slightly higher. The aim has been to make shot release even quicker on the Alpha QX.

The stick that we tested was an 85 flex with W05 (Granlund) blade pattern, which has a 5 lie and a 9/16 heel curve. Normally we would prefer a 75 flex but the 85 flex stick gave us a good enough impression on what the stick is capable of.

 

We only tested the stick on dry land for shooting, but it did impress us quite a bit. One of the first things we look at in any stick is the feel for the puck how well the blade feeds back to the shaft/hands. On the Alpha QX the feel is what you would expect from a top of the range puck. You can stick handle comfortably knowing that the puck is on the blade and not having to spend too much time looking down to the puck.

 

Shooting is where the stick reveals its worth. You can comfortably release slap-shots and wristers and get the feeling that there is more ‘oomph’ behind the shot. We’ve experienced this with the likes of TRUE X-C 9 sticks. The stick is easy to load and especially using it for one timers (using a Hockey Shot Passing kit PRO) you can really unleash some heavy shots with the stick. Wrist shots feel like they come off the stick with ease and you can really tell the improvements made for quickening the release. In shooting, there wasn’t much of a wobble on the puck and it comes off clean from the blade.

 

There is a durable feel to the shaft. Thanks to an all new construction method, the stick is now stronger, which translates into your shooting confidence. You can easily lean into one-timers with the stick without the fear of the stick breaking. For example with the Sher-Wood Rekker EK-15, the stick feels just so light your natural instinct is to hold back a touch. Not so with the Warrior, you can lean into shots with your hearts content.

 

The big downside for the Alpha QX? The price. The stick is set to retail at $300/£200/€240, so it is not the cheapest top-of-the-range stick on the market. Then again, you do get a lot of performance for the money.

 

Conclusion:

Where our time with the stick wasn’t that long, it did provide us with a good idea of what the stick is capable of. The Warrior Alpha QX is a real shooter’s stick and we would love to do an indepth review of one on the ice to really put it through its paces, but just from dry-land shooting experience the stick is impressive piece of engineering.

 

The only things that we found bugged us slightly were the grip and the new shape of the stick, which with more time I’m sure would not be a massive problem. However, as said, at the moment, the only downside that we can see is the price tag of the stick. Yes you do get a high performance stick for that money, but it is a lot of money to invest in a product that is most at risk of breaking in the game of hockey.

 


This is a question that I’ve pondered on and off for a long time. Maybe part of it is that during conversations with family and non-hockey playing friends I often get asked why do I still play, despite my rather lengthy list of injuries and the commitment hockey takes.

 

As a player, I’ve lived by the ethos that I will do anything that the team asks of me and commit myself 100% to the season. Before having kids it was easy to make that commitment and now, where I still make it, I always factor in the desires of the family. As long as they are happy for me to carry on playing and putting that level of commitment in, then I’ll always sign. Additionally I ask myself if I have the spark and the desire to put in that level of commitment. If I can’t give 100% of myself, physically and emotionally, then there’s no point me wasting my coaches time, my teammates time and my time. Yes, during the season there are times when you want to say “fuck it” and give up, but there’s always been a desire to give two fingers to those thoughts and battle on.

 

Hockey is a sport that takes a lot. An awful lot. Not only is there the games and trainings during the season, but there’s also the conditioning work that takes place during the summer, during the season and any functions that the team has for fans and so on (OK I don’t attend many nights out, because I’m old and ugly and need all the beauty sleep I can get). Hockey takes up your weekends from September to April. The season literally consumes you and your free time and mind.

 

But what has hockey actually given back to me?

 

I’ll try and look at this from beyond just winning and friendships, though the first thing hockey has given me are the friendships, but it has given deeper meaning to it as well.

 

There’s nothing quite like sharing the comradery of a team and the fan-base that the team has. During the years I’ve played, I’ve made friends with people I probably wouldn’t have hung-out with and have discovered great personalities through the game. This in turn has opened me to be more accepting of people and has allowed me to in greater or lesser extent let go of some prejudices that I may have subconsciously held.

 

Hockey has also given me a family. Literally. I met my wife on a team night out when I was playing for the Southampton University team. Since meeting her and ultimately marrying her, we have had two wonderful children and she and the kids have added more meaning to life. But in addition, hockey has given me another family in the community that has been built around the team I play for.

 

Hockey has given me work ethic. The game in itself is honest. If you don’t put the work in, you will find the result on the scoreboard and you’ll feel quite shitty about it and yourself. The same applies to work outside of the rink. The game has taught me a lot about how to approach challenges and how to tolerate stress and disappointment. It has taught me that you keep going until you reach the ultimate goal.

 

It has given me resilience and perseverance: I’ve had a fair few injuries and I’ve persevered through them, always wanting to come back better and stronger. At times it has been difficult, sure, but at the end of the day I’ve learnt to rise above the pain and fight my way back into game shape. Hockey has also given me a higher than average pain threshold. Being able to play a game with a severe disc prolapse, playing a whole season with a fully torn labrum and ruptured bicep tendon takes some guts but you push through it, because you want to help the team win.

 

Additionally the game has taught me about health: About 4 years ago I realised that if I didn’t change the way I trained, the way I ate – and more importantly what I ate – I would not last a year. Since then I have discovered a healthier lifestyle and have managed to cut out many habits I had in the past. Because of hockey, I am now more conscious about the dietary choices I make on a daily basis and the way I listen to my body and maintain it – even if at times it seems like I disregard the body’s warning. I’m not an elite athlete, but I would like to think that I approach training and diet from a more athletic point of view.

 

 

 

Yes, hockey does take and demand a lot of you, but if you look beyond, it does give back an awful lot as well. I consider myself fortunate to be able to play and keep learning more.


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Cross Check Clothing has been producing Hockey inspired lifestyle apparel since 2012. Here’s a pic of me at the gym in one of their sleeveless tops

In a new series of posts, we will explore how people make a living out of hockey, not as players, but through various different ways. The saying goes that “hockey gives you a lot”, but how does that extend to those that are not players or work for a team. The aim of the series is to explore the impact hockey has had on people on a personal level and how it has helped them shape a business and a career on the edges of the game.

 

The first look at how Hockey has enabled a business is to look at Cross Check Clothing, a UK based hockey inspired lifestyle apparel brand, set up in 2012. Since inception, Cross Check has garnered a steady following and a loyal fan base from the UK hockey scene as well as abroad.

 

But how did the brand’s owner and creator Pete Weeks get into hockey and what made him start his own apparel company? A company that “does it for the kicks”, as Pete himself puts it, but at the same time churns out quality apparel and contributes to the visibility of hockey on the streets.

 

“I had an early introduction to hockey through family and I picked it up again when my step-son was five years old. He had developed an obsession with the NHL video games and we decided to take him to a game to see what he made of the sport in real life.”

 

Those who have followed Cross Check Clothing from its early days, will know that from those early days of taking his step son to games, it has become a regular occurrence to Pete and his family.

Crosschecklogo

Please visit our sponsors for awesome hockey related swag.

So if hockey served as a way to spend time with family, where did the inspiration for hockey apparel come from? As Pete explains, he saw a niche in the market “I was shopping for hockey wear for my step-son and found that other than a few uninspiring North American brands, or NHL team wear, there was little in terms of what acknowledged hockey in the UK. After the initial idea I sat on it for a few months and decided to take the plunge.”

 

It might be safe to say that setting up a company to serve a niche in a niche sport is a risk, but was it a daunting experience? “I knew a fair bit about setting up businesses and how to go about getting stock and growing the name, it was a case of putting it all in place,” Pete explains. “I wasn’t nervous about the start-up, I was excited about the launch and cracking the whip on the design team and suppliers to get the stock in.”

 

“The first time I really started to panic was after a few weeks. We’d only had an order for about £3 and I started to wonder if we’d sell anything,” Pete explains. “Thankfully, we made some good friends early on who are still big parts of the brand and helped push us forward”.

 

 

But where does the inspiration come from. Pete says that Cross Check Clothing has similar aspirations as Vans and Quicksilver, brands that used to be rooted in skateboarding and surfing respectively, but have in the course of time appealed to a much, much wider audience. Is Cross Check looking to get to a similar level as these brands? “The merchandise we put out is lifestyle wear, so we aim for designs that we see anyone wearing,” Pete explains.

 

But what attracts people to the game? For Pete, the story is familiar to many who come to hockey games. “I think it’s the atmosphere at games, especially after a series of big hits, or a fight,” he explains. “I love the way momentum can shift in a game so quickly when players step up and it means you always have something to cheer for, even if the score of the game isn’t going your way.”

 

Additionally, the physicality and the demands of the game get a lot of respect from Pete. “When you see players throwing themselves in front of pucks and getting smashed into the boards night in, night out, it takes a lot and I have a huge amount of respect for that,”

 

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A sampling of the Cross Check Clothing shirt collection

From working with Cross Check Clothing for the past two seasons, one of the things that appealed to the undersigned was the way the brand operates. It is very down to earth and personable. Everything the company does has a personal touch to it, whether it is the signed card with every delivery or their presence in social media. That is also true in the interactions. You know you are dealing with real people who really care deeply about what they do and the community within the game.

 

“Thankfully we’ve always been supported on everything we’ve done, which has allowed us to work on better products and much wider range. Every penny we make is re-invested back into the company to keep regular and better products coming out.” Pete explains the philosophy of the company.

 

But what of the future? Five years in to the journey of the brand, a fair share of ups and downs, but it is still going strong. What is the future for the company? “Be the headline sponsor of the NHL,” Pete says, laughingly. “To be honest we want to continue to grow with the friends we’ve made. Maybe in the future we will look to take the brand a bit further a field and meet some new exciting people in the process.”

 

 

So, that’s a story of a growing lifestyle brand that has its roots in the game of hockey in a nutshell. The journey Cross Check Clothing has been on has been quite extraordinary in the sense that they have continued to evolve and improve in what is a niche market, reaching people beyond hockey. The genuine attitude of the company towards their products is paramount to its success and the people in the UK hockey community certainly have embraced the brand. 

 

Their story is bound to continue for years to come.  

 Visit the Cross Check Clothing store at: https://shop.crosscheckclothing.co.uk/ 


Today is two years ago since we won the double (league and playoff) titles. What started off as a torrid season and not having won a single game to December, we had a great second half of the year, where we won 11 straight games on our way to the double.

 

It is difficult to put into words what the title felt like at the time when it happened. It had been a personal goal to win it for a number of years, and in the moment when the final buzzer went, the feeling was simply indescribable. However, as strange as it may sound saying it now, in the mixture of jubilation, there was a feeling of emptiness. Having set upon a path to step up from rec-hockey to play in a league again, the single aim was that I want to win a championship. After achieving it, it was weird feeling to have and it took a few weeks to process.

 

What made the title special was that I got to share it with a great bunch of guys. There were several team-mates that I had shared a journey with, from being the punching bags of the league and losing all but one game, to going to win the title. It was a special moment to be able to share. However, what made the title even more special was that we achieved it without a home rink to play out of. We came close the season before finishing 3rd in the league with only two points separating us from the title.

 

I remember the first leg more clearly, but the second one is a bit hazy, mainly because the events of the game were overridden by the realisation that we had finally done it. I remember there was something like 7 seconds left on the clock when there was a face off in our zone, but once the puck was cleared I was hugging Adi on the bench and after that… it was helmet, gloves and stick in the air and get into mobbing Dibble in the net.

 

Not everyone gets to experience it in hockey, or sports, but it was special. Sure it wasn’t the Stanley Cup or anything, but for me, it was a big deal. And I believe it was a big deal to the fans of the team as well.

 

Last season, we weren’t able to defend the title and didn’t make the play-offs and this season just gone, we made it to the semi-finals. Looking back on photos from that day, just re-affirms to me that I still want to win and it is still the reason why I suit up.


t has been almost seven years since I suffered my worst concussion to date. As many have read on the blog about the recovery and the initial trauma of the injury, I thought it would be interesting to do a piece on how life has moved on and find out, whether I was able to assemble a person from the fragments that were left as a result of the blow.

To recap briefly if you haven’t followed this blog long. I suffered a brain injury (which I refer to here as concussion) whilst playing hockey about seven years ago. I can’t remember much from the day it happened or the months following, but what the doctors told me is that I had a bleed in my brain and I was being monitored very closely by medical professionals. Being an idiot that I am, I ignored the doctors’ advice and caused myself more harm, returning to play after a week off (which was WAAAAY too soon). My symptoms were severe. I had to spend days in a darkened room due to intense photophobia, my head was pounding like I’d been on a week long bender, I was iritable, I could not remember what I’d done two minutes prior and I was laughing hysterically one minute, only to break down in tears the next. I felt I lost myself.

The recovery from the concussion took almost a year and a half, mainly because I refused to rest, so I suffered from headaches, dizziness and low mood/irritability for a long time. These symptoms are usually quite persistent in the early phase of concussions and should subside if you follow the appropriate recovery protocols.

In the early phases of the injury, my handwriting changed dramatically and my decision making was impaired. I also did things like try and dry myself after having a shower, whilst still standing underneath the shower. There were also difficulties associated with concentration and anything that required a prolonged period of attention, were difficult to deal with as I got a blistering headache from it.

However, now nearly seven years later, have I and my family managed to assemble a person of the mess that was left from the concussion? Neurologically, speaking I am fine. All my reactions and nervous system work as they should. Also, scans of my brain show no sign of permanent damage. That’s all well and good, however…

Despite getting a “clinical” all clear, I am still left dealing with concentration problems, usually in day to day life and at work. I am good at starting on a task, but then my mind wanders and I’m left thinking, what the hell it was that I was doing. Usually, I have to park the activity for a bit and come back to it once I catch the thread of my thought.

Additionally, some may have noticed in conversations with me that my eyes wander when I’m speaking to them. This again is associated with the concentration problem. Where I am listening to whoever I’m speaking to and paying attention, it is a monumental challenge to maintain eye contact. So, if you are speaking to me, and I’m not looking at you, please don’t be offended.

It is weird as when it comes to game day and the minutes leading up to when we take to the ice, that’s where I find I’m most focussed. Though having said that, it too has been an area where I’ve struggled. I’ve since been seeing a sports psychologist and have been using various techniques from hypnotherapy to NLP to help me achieve a better level of focus before games. I have to do the same in professional life when it is time to give a presentation, for example.

Prior to the concussion I had a pretty good memory. I would be able to recite circulation figures of publications, who the editor of a magazine was, which player played with what number and what sticks they used etc. Today… No chance. I struggle to remember names of people I’ve done business with for a long time and also I get easily confused on how many reps or sets I’ve done at the gym, despite having a workout log in front of me.

I am also maybe a touch more irritable than I was seven years ago. I seem to let little things get to me and eat away at me for days on end. However, I’m not a 100% convinced that my irritability is due to the brain injury, as my close friends and family have often described me as the most wound-up laidback person they know prior to the injury.  

The other aspect which has become more prominent in the wake of the concussion are my depressive cycles. I had been battling depression before the injury, but it seems like it has exasperated the problem, in that my depressive ‘episodes’ are more frequent and tend to be a quick decline, rather than something that happens gradually. Another issue which I remember vividly from the symptoms was that I looked myself in the mirror one day, must’ve been 2-3 months after the initial injury and I broke down in tears. I remember telling my wife that I don’t like the person that is staring back at me in the mirror and that I wanted to change. It was almost like the line in the Springsteen song Dancing in the dark: “I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face”. Body image was never really a big deal to me, but that was a defining moment in my life and I still have the same feeling everytime I see myself in the mirror. And that is despite losing loads of weight and putting on more muscle. With depression, I’ve reached a good place and have become better at identifying when I’m starting to ‘lose it’ and can seek to rectify it. I am likely to eat pills for this for the rest of my life. With the body image thing… who knows.

Coordination is something that has been affected. It may be brash to say that it’s all coordination. I am completely fine and in control when I’m playing, working out, driving etc. I’m absolutely fine, but tell me to do start jumps, I’m boned. I get there eventually, but I have to run through everything in my mind as to how it all comes together.

Those are in the main the areas where I still struggle a bit or that I know that have changed. What of the answer to the question: Am I still the same person as I was before the concussion? The answer is no. And to be truthfully honest, no one would be after 7 years. I feel I’ve grown and evolved as a person since then so it is impossible to say whether or not I am the same as I was back then. To what extent the concussion affected that process, I don’t know. but it definitely had an impact.

However, what I do know is that I am incredibly lucky in that my injury was not as bad as some of the ones I’ve seen while I was recovering. In comparison, I felt like a fraud next to people who are having to re-learn to walk, eat, write etc. The drive these people have is astonishing and I have nothing but the highest levels of admiration and respect for people who are going through that level of arduous recovery. 

 

However, whether or not me and those around me have managed to assemble a person of the fragments that were left: I think we’ve done alright. It hasn’t been easy, particularly in the early weeks and months post injury, but I’m a relatively respectable citizen.

 

A tribute to Hayley Wickenheiser

Posted: January 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

Hayley Wickenheiser announced her retirement from hockey a few days ago and while it is ‘easy’ to admire all of her achievements on the ice, be it in the form of medals, championships, goals, or points, her importance to hockey in general goes far beyond the numbers.

 

Wickenheiser first came to my attention in 2003 as she signed a professional contract to play in the Finnish Division Two. Even before her debut in Finland, Wickenheiser had put up an impressive run of titles from World Championships and Olympic games (four world championship titles and an Olympic Gold from 2002 and silver from 1998). Obviously, with her playing came massive media attention and her every move and stride was covered to great detail in the Finnish press, which gave me, albeit living in the Netherlands at the time, a chance to follow her progress.

 

Wickenheiser was highly touted during the 1998 Winter Olympics where Women’s hockey made its debut and not wishing to take anything away from the game, it really put women’s hockey on the map. I remember that in school the ’98 Nagano Olympics drew such a following, particularly in hockey that on many occasions teachers would just put the games on, whether it was the men or women playing.

 

What makes Wickenheiser’s career extraordinary is that she remained a part of the Canadian team from age 15 (1994) all the way to her retirement. It speaks volumes of Wickenheiser’s talent and leadership, considering how the game has evolved. In fact, such was her talent that Bobby Clarke, team Canada’s GM at the Nagano Olympic games invited Wickenheiser to participate at the Flyers rookie camp in 1998 and 1999, a feat only a handful of players have achieved since.

 

Wickenheiser’s accolades include being named on The Hockey News’ Top-100 influential people in hockey in 2011, but again, her determination and drive should place on a list of top-100 athletes world wide. Her achievements can often be over-looked, but what she has achieved and persevered is truly astonishing and worthy of the recognition.

 

For me, Wickenheiser and her achievements go beyond hockey. She serves as an inspiration to always better yourself and challenge yourself to do more. Her time playing in the men’s leagues shows the commitment needed. Her tenure at the Finnish leagues were not merely a PR stunt, but a legitimate pursuit to compete at a higher level and against (perceived) tougher opponents. Yes, there were the worries of whether she would be able to compete in the more physical men’s game, but Wickenheiser put up 4 points in 12 appearances for HC Salamat at the Suomi-Sarja level and further 7 points in 11 play-off appearances the same year.

Part of her hockey legacy will be that of a pioneer that has placed an ever increasing focus on the women’s game. Whether it was watching Olympics in the UK, Finland or the Netherlands, all the broadcasters always highlighted the importance of Wickenheiser to the Canadian national team, but also to hockey in general.

 

If Nagano Olympics were the international show-case for women’s hockey, it was Wickenheiser who legitimised it, if the women’s game ever needed legitimising. She was the first female player, whose name you could throw into a conversation and people would know about her and her achievements. I do not wish to sound sexist, but Wickenheiser and her drive did the same for women’s hockey that Gretzky did to hockey and the NHL on an international level. Both names are synonymous to hockey and deservedly so. Hayley Wickenheiser’s legacy in hockey will be immortalised by her achievements, but also for serving as an inspiration for generations of both women and men in hockey.