Whether it was the Ottawa Raiders, Ottawa Capital Canucks, Ottawa Senators or Ottawa Lady Senators, the area was a key hub for women’s hockey talent. Canada’s capital city was part of the early days of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and the preceding National Women’s Hockey League.
Robyn Rittmaster, a CWHL All-Star selection stood between the pipes for the CWHL Senators. “Once the (NHL) Senators were involved (with our CWHL team), it was a big help. A great turning point.” Rittmaster acknowledges that recruiting was a key problem, “We could never get the players here. We would have had to invest to get out of town players.”
Of all the players in the history of the franchise, the most recognizable name is Katie Weatherston. A former player with the Dartmouth Big Green, she was a member of the Canadian national team that claimed the gold at the 2006 Torino Winter Games. In the inaugural CWHL season of 2007-08, Weatherston started with Ottawa but finished her season with the Montreal Stars.
With the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships being contested in Ottawa, Rittmaster is very enthusiastic. “I am very excited. I can’t wait to see what happens. We will see how well Ottawa does hosting it!” Rittmaster added, “The national games hosted before shows that women’s hockey is part of Ottawa. We draw fans. The CWHL was another story.”
Former Wisconsin Badgers scoring legend Kendra Antony was a key figure in Ottawa professional women’s hockey. In addition to competing with the CWHL, she was also part of the Ottawa Raiders in the former National Women’s Hockey League.
The dissolving of the franchise was a sad one for Antony, “I am sad. I realize the team was not competitive enough. The number of girls (at the time) was not able to put the time in. Everyone has different priorities.” Antony looks at Ottawa women’s hockey with great optimism, “If a team had the best players in the Ottawa area, it could be competitive.”
“I wish the team would have stuck around. It could have been much stronger. It’s disappointing. We had problems with funding,” mentioned Danika Smith. Of note, Smith was also a captain with the Ottawa Gee Gees of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Another former Gee Gees captain, Mandi Duhamel also played with Smith on the Senators.
Jessica O’Grady, who set a Carleton Ravens team record by scoring three shootout goals in a January 20, 2013 win, was also a member of the Senators. “I was 19. It was fun, a good experience. I played against much older talent.” O’Grady continued, “It was an amazing experience.”
“We have a huge hockey market for women’s ice hockey. I would love to see the CWHL do some neutral site games here. Perhaps they could coincide with the world championship games and have Montreal play Alberta (as an example). The IIHF game would help sell that very well,” commented Rittmaster.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”