In a career that spanned over a decade at the NCAA, CWHL and WWHL levels, Bobbi-Jo Slusar is hanging up her skates. Her final season in the CWHL provided two great honors; she served as captain for the Team Alberta franchise, while competing in the first CWHL game held in an NHL arena.
Although she played defense, she brought an offensive flair to the position. Playing for Miracle on Ice member Mark Johnson at the University of Wisconsin, Slusar accumulated 92 points in 140 career games. In her senior season (2006-07), she proudly assumed the captaincy and led the Badgers to their second NCAA Frozen Four title.
Riding the momentum of a glorious NCAA career, she followed it up by competing in the CWHL’s inaugural season in 2007-08. Competing with the Brampton Thunder, she would help the squad capture the first-ever league championship in 2008, helping to add to the growing history of women’s hockey in Canada.
The following season, Slusar, who was raised in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, got in touch with her prairie roots and joined the Strathmore Rockies of the WWHL. Of note, the team had been formed by women’s hockey builder Samantha Holmes. Sharing the ice with Holmes enriched the experience of skating for the young Rockies franchise.
On the same day that Slusar announced her retirement, former teammate Molly Engstrom did the same. While Engstrom was a member of the US National Women’s Team, and Slusar competed with the Canadian contingent (with whom she won three gold medals at the Four Nations Cup), the two were more than rivals.
Common threads ran throughout their distinguished careers. The two played together at the NCAA level with the Wisconsin Badgers. In addition, they would reunite at the CWHL level. Competing together with the Brampton Thunder for two seasons, both appeared in the championship game of the 2010 Clarkson Cup.
After Team Alberta joined the CWHL in autumn 2011, Slusar returned west and helped to build the CWHL brand in Western Canada. Part of the inaugural season, Slusar was one of two defenders (joined by Meaghan Mikkelson) on the roster that had competed with the Canadian National Team.
While Slusar endured the expansion woes that accompany a new franchise, she was an exemplary leader with Team Alberta. Young defenders such as Laura Dostaler and Tara Watchorn (who played on Team Canada with Slusar) benefited from her experience.
Heading into the 2012-13 campaign, she would serve as captain for the second time in her career. Head coach Tim Bothwell, who once played for the St. Louis Blues in the NHL, gave her the privilege of donning the C on her sweater. Sadly, a leg injury cut short her promising 2012-13 season.
In January 2013, she was invited to the Hockey Canada winter camp (which would help decide the roster for the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds). Still struggling with the injury, it prevented her from donning the maple leaf on her sweater again.
While she was held pointless during a frustrating season, her presence helped Team Alberta reach a turning point. Kathy Desjardins provided solid goaltending, while the young defense corps was maturing quickly. With the first pick overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft, the player selected will miss the opportunity to learn from one of the great ambassadors for women’s hockey in Western Canada.
Having not yet reached the age of 30, there is no telling what Slusar was capable of. Had she been healthy, she could have certainly competed for a spot on the Canadian women’s team looking to win gold at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
While Slusar’s career ends without a Clarkson Cup or an IIHF world gold medal, her stoic nature and team-first approach make her a winner among her teammates. One of the finest women’s hockey players to hail from Saskatchewan, she graced the ice with a quiet dignity that exemplified the spirit of hockey.
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