For fans of the Brampton franchise in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the thought of Molly Engstrom in a Boston Blades uniform is something that will take time to get used to. Like Peyton Manning in a Denver Broncos uniform, or Albert Pujols donning the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim uniform—it is extremely different.
The first true American superstar in the history of the CWHL, Engstrom was a key factor in Brampton qualifying for two Clarkson Cup finals. She first played for Brampton during the CWHL’s inaugural season of 2007-08. During that season, she would be the first American born player to be named a CWHL All-Star.
A member of the United States national team, the image of Engstrom crying on the ice after the gold medal game of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games is as powerful and emotional as the image of a bloodied Y.A. Tittle during the 1964 New York Giants season.
Despite that painful loss, Engstrom played for Brampton and was a key factor in the club eliminating the defending Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars during the 2010 Clarkson Cup playoffs. Although Brampton lost to the Minnesota Whitecaps in the finals, she was named the Most Outstanding Defender of the playoffs (a feat that she would repeat in 2012).
While Engstrom was the only American born player on the Brampton squad, Canadian fans appreciated her skills and truly adopted her as one of their own. The presence of Engstrom in Brampton, coupled with Canadian superstars Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Lori Dupuis made the squad a team to be reckoned with.
Engstrom was also a big part of the community. With Hefford and Apps, the three went to Brantford, Ontario (birthplace of Wayne Gretzky) to participate in the ceremonial face-off of the 31st Annual Walter Gretzky Girls Hockey Tournament.
Heading into the 2011-12 season, the All-World blueliner was an alternate captain for Brampton. With Allyson Fox as her defensive partner, she helped Brampton return to the Clarkson Cup finals. With young Canadian defender Courtney Birchard on the squad, Engstrom was a great teacher for her. By season’s end, Birchard was named CWHL Rookie of the Year.
As the 2012-13 CWHL season represents a rebuilding for many franchises (coupled by the contraction of the Burlington Barracudas), it came as a surprise to many when Engstrom signed with the Boston Blades. Brampton had drafted the articulate Charissa Stadnyk from Princeton. She would have been a great beneficiary from Engstrom’s superlative knowledge of the game.
With the Blades looking for strong leadership following the retirement of Angela Ruggiero, the acquisition of Engstrom has helped to ease the pain of that loss. With Gigi Marvin also playing the occasional game on defense, Engstrom’s arrival in Boston is perfectly timed for Marvin. New Boston head coach Digit Murphy (the first woman to win 200 and 300 games at the NCAA level) is another in a long list of accomplished coaches that Engstrom has played for.
Engstrom played for Mark Johnson at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, along with Jackie Barto and Katey Stone at various IIHF tournaments. While Murphy is the next to benefit from Engstrom’s great talents, all of her new teammates in Boston are hoping that her experience can accomplish the franchise’s Clarkson Cup dreams.