Change has been the name of the game in the CWHL offseason. Since les Canadiennes de Montreal were awarded the Clarkson Cup, the league has had players retire, coaches leave, new teams added, one team change its home city, and several changes in general managers.
Rebecca Michael stepped down as general manager of the Toronto Furies when she accepted the position of Director of Hockey Operations for the CWHL. During her five-year tenure, Toronto won the only CWHL championship in the team’s history.
Taking her place is Nicole Latrielle. The Sports Business Management post-grad was a part of the bronze-medal-winning University of Guelph Gryphon team in 2006. From there, Latrielle played with the Ottawa Raiders, who were eventually affiliated with the CWHL. The team is no longer a part of the league.
Latrielle has spent the last 10 seasons coaching at various levels, which include international experience. The former forward will have her work cut out for her. With team captain Natalie Spooner absent for centralization prior to the Olympics, Latrielle must also contend with the attraction of two Chinese teams that have joined the league as she navigates the upcoming draft.
Thankfully for the Furies, consistency reigns supreme behind the bench. Head coach Sommer West returns for her fifth season. The last time the Olympics rolled around, West lead the Furies to the Clarkson Cup.
Though Toronto has struggled to move into the coveted third-place spot the last two seasons, the Furies did set a good foundation for success in the fall last year. With a renewed management team, a broader talent pool spreading to China and the thinning of the league’s numbers due to Olympic responsibilities, the Furies may find success for the second time in five seasons.
Similarly, the Markham (nee Brampton) Thunder have had some turnover at the top. Early in the summer, the team announced a coaching change, bringing in Jim Jackson as bench boss.
Then interim-GM Chelsea Purcell stated, “Jim’s biggest assets are his knowledge of the game, communication abilities and overall character. We believe Jim has a skill set that will take our program to the next level. His professionalism, demeanor and knowledge of the game are hard to find in a coach. We are very lucky to have Jim join the Thunder organization and are very excited for the 2017-2018 season.”
— CWHL (@TheCWHL) August 9, 2017
Purcell eventually accepted a position as the assistant general manager, when it was announced Olympic gold and silver medalist Lori Dupuis would take the reins. Purcell and Dupuis worked side-by-side to complete the move from Brampton to Markham, securing the new home for the Thunder, and it was announced last week that Purcell had fulfilled her ultimate destiny. Dupuis had stepped down and Purcell was named the first general manager of the Markham Thunder.
Discipline and efficiency will be the key for Markham this season, so it is fortunate that Johnson and Purcell excel at both. The team will need to minimize the extraneous penalties the Thunder have become infamous for, and maximize the opportunities on the power play. Having two former elite players leading the team will certainly be helpful in the 2017-18 season.
With league-wide turnover being a major story for the CWHL, neither Markham nor Toronto have had to battle through adversity more than any of the remaining five teams. Each has seen its fair share of change, so the playing field is perhaps more level than it has been in a long time. There may be a lot of surprises in the upcoming season, and the success of the two Ontario rivals may be the biggest surprise of them all.
On Aug 4, the league announced via twitter that Sommer West would not return. At this time, the team’s website has not been updated to reflect this change.
— CWHL (@TheCWHL) August 4, 2017