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VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my story on Whitecaps FC striker, Kei Kamara.

http://www.rednationonline.ca/Articles2016/KamararelishinggoalscoringrolewithWhitecaps.aspx

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Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Kei Kamara, in Vancouver on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

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The UBC Thunderbirds following practice on Tuesday, January 16 in Vancouver, B.C. 

VANCOUVER, B.C – The fourth annual UBC Thunderbirds Winter Classic will take place on Friday night at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. The UBC men’s hockey team will host the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. and $5 tickets can be purchased at the door.

The UBC Winter Classic is a fantastic event that brings the community, campus, and fans together. It’s a great opportunity to pack ‘The Doug’ and create a tremendous playing atmosphere for athletes on both teams. A spirited crowd of 5,500 spectators is expected.

While the Winter Classic is a spotlight event for the UBC men’s hockey program, there has yet to be a Winter Classic game for the UBC women’s hockey program. There have been preliminary discussions about a possible doubleheader event in the future.

“We’ve got some plans in the works with the department on trying to do some festivals or event next year,” Coach Graham Thomas said, earlier this week. “The winter classic has been a tremendous success. I know that Calgary, Mount Royal have done a men’s and a women’s doubleheader at the Saddledome. The universities get behind it, and they pack it.”

The sixth annual Crowchild Classic features the University of Calgary vs Mount Royal University in a series of varsity sports including hockey, basketball, soccer, and volleyball. On the ice, Calgary and Mount Royal will battle at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday, January 25. Previous editions have drawn crowds of 3,000 – 5,000 for women’s hockey, and 8,000 – 12,000 for men’s hockey.

“The challenge right now,” explained, Coach Thomas, “We did sit down with our events people, and we’re trying with the men to set up and doubleheader for next year. Whether that becomes a Winter Classic or not, that’s out of my pay grade. We still want to do something. The men are wanting to do something, different and exciting around that.”

Hosting a potential joint doubleheader down the line would be a logistical obstacle. UBC is the furthest from any Canada West university. It would be challenging to have both a women’s and a men’s program travel to Vancouver to compete in a potential Winter Classic on opposition ice, with fans cheering against you.

What about the men’s hockey program? Is sharing a Winter Classic with their neighbours down the hall something that would be of interest? Having a marquee event is special, if a doubleheader came to fruition, would the men’s team support it?

“Yeah, that’d be fun,” said Coach Sven Butenschön. “Graham and I have talked a lot about getting a doubleheader going. It would be a really great experience for everybody. It would be really neat.”

Captain, and 5th year defender, Wes Vannieuwenhuizen has watched the women’s team and knows what they’re all about. He, like his coach would be all for a women’s Winter Classic.

“I think that would be great.” Vannieuwenhuizen said. “I think the women’s team deserves a lot of recognition. It would be great for them to be a part of the Winter Classic. I think all the guys would really enjoy that.”

Having the chance to lace up your skates, and play in front of a sold out crowd is an amazing opportunity. Thunderbirds forward, Kathleen Cahoon was at the 2017 UBC Winter Classic. She saw firsthand how terrific, and exciting it was.

Canada West Ice Hockey (CIS): Women -  UBC Thunderbirds host Regina

UBC Thunderbirds forward Kathleen Cahoon. Photo Credit: Rich Lam, UBC Athletics.

“I would love to see one,” said Cahoon. “I actually got to see the men’s one last year, because I was out with injury. It was really exciting and everything. It would be nice to see that kind of hype, and promotion coming up for the women’s side as well. I think any women’s team on campus deserves it. We’ve all proven that we’re all good teams. I think equal support is definitely something we should strive for.”

If success and achievements count for something, the women’s program has consistently been ranked among the top hockey programs in USports. The women’s team has won back to back Canada West Championships, and made a pair of trips to USports Nationals. They won bronze in 2017, and silver in 2016. Having a Winter Classic would promote the team to a never before seen level, and provide more awareness for the sport.

“I think it would definitely validate the program for the school,” Kirsten Toth said. “When you talk to people who don’t have a strong sports background. I think they don’t really even realize that there’s a women’s hockey team on campus, and if they do, they don’t realize the success we’ve had over the last five years.”

UBC does promote women’s sports. There are events, and opportunities for fans on campus to attend all sorts of activities over the course of the year. When it comes to women’s hockey specifically, there has never been a specific event organized, marketed, and planned to shine a light on the women’s hockey team.

What would it feel like to have the stands packed for a Winter Classic game?

“It would be a phenomenal feeling,” said Toth. “A feeling that a lot of these girls on the team, probably haven’t experienced before. I know I sure haven’t experienced a packed arena this size. Part of the reason why I haven’t experienced it, and we as a team haven’t experienced it. It’s because something like that’s never been organized for us. Our games are promoted minuscule compared to the other teams on campus. It’s something that we’re working towards bettering for our program in the future.”

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UBC Thunderbirds defender Kirsten Toth during practice.

Why is there no Winter Classic for the UBC women’s hockey team?

Toth shares her take.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the risk factor involved and kind of the ideas that are stereotypes surrounding women’s hockey, that we can’t get people in the seats. I think if athletics was to put the time, energy, and resources into planning a women’s winter classic, and it didn’t turn out. I think that they’d be shooting themselves in the foot for it. It’s never been attempted before. From my first year, and I’m now in my sixth year, I’ve seen tremendous growth in terms of getting people in the seats, and support for the teams.”

Finding a way to keep fans engaged and entertained throughout the course of two hockey games could be tricky. That’s where beer comes in. The Ryerson Rams lowered beer prices during their version of their Winter Classic.

Gilles Lepine, Senior Athletics Director of UBC Athletics, wants to create a memorable and special event that creates buzz, and gets people excited on campus. The Winter Classic is thought as the winter, UBC Homecoming event.

Would Lepine like to see a women’s Winter Classic at some point down the line?

“That’s definitely a possibility, but right now, we’re not there. We’re just trying to finalize this one.” Lepine said.

Everyone knows that football is the bread and butter university sport, but hockey is Canada’s most beloved and favourite pastime. Hockey is number one, and it puts people in seats.

“I think you’ve got a point there, I think you’ve got a point,” Lepine agreed. “Hockey definitely, because it’s a national Canadian sport, people love the sport, but it’s difficult to bring those people in every game. Definitely, that’s our challenge. If they come, have fun, next time they will come again, and maybe we can have more than one Winter Classic.”

UBC knows how to put on one outstanding Winter Classic, and they’ve done a great job. No challenge is ever easy, that’s why it’s a challenge. It’s 2018, and it’s time to reach for new heights. The UBC women’s hockey program should be in the next Winter Classic.

 

 

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my Vancouver Whitecaps FC Carl Robinson offseason update story.

http://bit.ly/2mxt9EK

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UBC Thunderbirds Hannah Clayton-Carroll (Left), and Kathleen Cahoon (Right).

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are in the think of the second half of the Canada West season. Coming off of back to back shutouts over the Calgary Dinos, the 12-6-0 Thunderbirds will host the 7-11-0 Regina Cougars on Friday and Saturday at Father David Bauer Arena.

It’s going to be a special Friday night, as hockey won’t be on the forefront. The Thunderbirds are hosting their second annual Mental Health Awareness game. The women’s hockey program has made it a priority to raise awareness and help out on campus as much as possible after the loss of goaltender Laura Taylor in 2016.

“It’s obviously a close to home cause for us,” Coach Graham Thomas admitted. “A lot of players played with Laura here, and alumni is coming. It’s an important cause for us, and it’s something we’ve been advocates for the cause. There’s been some good come out of it, some opening up, and support that’s come out of it. That’s happened across the country, and in our league. We’ve had a lot of players, and people reach out to us. It’s a great cause.”

UBC President Santa Ono is expected to take part in a ceremonial puck drop. Ono has been open about his battle with mental health issues. Each team will wear a special sticker on their helmet. Fans are encouraged to wear green, as that is the colour for mental health awareness. There will be fundraising for causes like Bell Let’s Talk, and much more.

“It’s a big thing for our team, obviously with the loss of LT (Laura Taylor), it’s a big thing for us,” Kathleen Cahoon added. “We want to every other team to come out and support it, and get people talking, that’s the biggest thing. We don’t want the stigma to be around it, and not have people talk about it. We’re really trying to hype it up, and get people talking.”

Canada West Ice Hockey (CIS): Women -  UBC Thunderbirds host Regina

UBC Thunderbirds, Kathleen Cahoon. Photo Credit: Rich Lam UBC Athletics.

As with athletes there tends to be an onus, and somewhat of a duty for them to speak up and raise awareness whenever they can, and not just for mental health awareness. Athletes are held in a higher regard, and people look up to them. The UBC Thunderbirds realize that, and want to make sure they are doing their part to lend a hand or an ear.

“With us and our success the last couple of years, and media attention we’ve got, we’re trying to use it as a platform to help raise awareness to do the best thing we can for it. It’s a big thing for us and over the years we have noticed a difference, even in our own dressing room. We have started to speak up about it and girls are opening up. We try and create a safe place for everyone and try and relay that message across campus,” Cahoon said.

 

The Thunderbirds are helping to lead the way, and they are committed to making a change with more initiatives, resources, and dialogue. Mikayla Ogrodniczuk is a great example of how much it means to want to make a difference. The third-year defender, and her dad, Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, Professor and Director of the UBC Psychotherapy Program, helped create a resource called the UBC Athletes Hub.

Modelled after a program at the University of Michigan. The UBC Athletes Hub aims to increase awareness of mental health issues, reduce the stigma of help-seeking, and promote health and wellness among varsity athletes at UBC. The free resource was launched just last month, and is being greatly received.

“My dad and I teamed up with some of his coworkers, as well as a former varsity athlete that works with him, and created something called UBC Athlete Hub,” Mikayla Ogrodniczuk shared. “It’s a mental health resource for all UBC varsity athletes. It’s the first of its kind in Canada. No other Canadian university has this kind of resource. We’re really excited to promote it.”

Adjusting to life at university can be quite challenging for students. Having a Mental Health Awareness game shows that the Thunderbirds stand with those who are struggling and may need help. If more people talked about mental health issues as much as they do about hockey, that would benefit a lot of people. The UBC Thunderbirds are determined to do both.

UBC Athletes Hub – http://ubcathleteshub.ca

Bell Let’s Talk – https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

 

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Canada Soccer Coach John Herdman in Toronto, 2016.

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Please visit Equalizer Soccer for my story on Canada Soccer’s appointment of John Herdman to coach the Canada Men’s National Soccer team.

http://equalizersoccer.com/2018/01/09/johal-could-herdmans-move-to-mens-team-could-leave-both-sides-in-disarray/

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(BEN NELMS for UBC)

UBC Thunderbirds forward, Emily Costales. Photo Credit: Ben Nelms for UBC.

VANCOUVER, B.C – In a season full of new faces the UBC Thunderbirds are a team looking to connect, and find the right chemistry as they gear up for the second half of the Canada West season in January. The 10-6-0 Thunderbirds haven’t quite hit their stride yet, but they are working hard, and building towards what could be a long playoff run.

One of the new faces this season is Emily Costales, a transfer from Syracuse University, the hometown winger is trying to fit in with a UBC team that has been there, and done it before. It has taken time for the Canada West rookie to find a role with the team, but Costales is finally settling in and contributing on and off the ice.

“I’m feeling a little bit better, I feel like coming in as a transfer, it’s kind of hard to find your role on the team,” Costales admitted. “I feel like the past few weeks, I’ve been able to grasp where I’m at on the team. Hopefully it just keeps building from there. I feel like I’ve just got to stay out of the penalty box, and play the role that I’ve developed here.”

When she is staying out of the box, Costales has been a special teams spark plug for UBC. Not only is she an asset when the team is killing a penalty, but she is tied for first overall in Canada West short-handed goals. Costales is always looking to dig out a loose puck along the boards, or battle for possession below the hash-marks. More often than not, she’s winning those battles, and helping UBC in transition.

“I try my hardest to be one of the grittiest players out there,” Costales said. “Just grind, and win every battle I can, just trying to bring a calming presence, and make the right plays, at the right time.”

Her dogged determination, and compete level have helped her rack up 4 goals, and 3 assists this season. UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas, isn’t surprised by what Costales has been able to bring to the team. He first coached her as an assistant coach when Costales was on Team B.C. in grade 12.

“She’s really coming on right now,” Thomas revealed. “She’s finding her game, and she’s playing confident. She plays with a lot of power, and energy. A power forward, but can also be shifty. We’re going to need her to continue to play the way she’s playing, and lead by example.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Emily Costales.

The support network for Costales was a big factor in her decision to move from ‘The Orange’ to the Thunderbirds program. Playing so far away from home was a new experience for Costales. In the end it made more sense to return home to her familiar roots on the west coast.

“I had a great time out in Syracuse, but I got pretty homesick,” Costales revealed. “There was some family issues and stuff. I decided to come back home, and play with some of my close friends, Celine Tardif and Brielle Bellerive. I’m living at home right now so, it’s really nice to settle back home and been with the family.”

Being able to play in her own backyard has helped Costales settle into her new surroundings with Thunderbirds. She has a huge family support network that you can often hear at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre cheering her on, and giving an earful to the referees.

“My mom, and dad are pretty much my biggest fans. I feel like my dad kind of brought me to where I am, he’s such a big support network, just himself. He’s a huge reason why I feel like I’m very succesful in sport. He’s just there whenever I need help. It’s just so nice to play in front of him again. I feel like I get extra hyped, because I know that they’re watching. It means the world to me, I love it so much.”

The Costales family will next have an opportunity to watch UBC on January 5 – 6 when the Thunderbirds host the Calgary Dinos at UBC’s Father David Bauer Arena. UBC will be hoping to start the new year on a positive note as they push towards Canada West playoffs and perhaps another trip to USports nationals.

“We kind of play it day, by day, because there’s so many new faces,” Costales said, when asked about USports nationals. “We’re trying to be true to the Thunderbird mentality, and whatever comes with that. That’s pretty much the end goal, to make it to nationals, but we’ve got to take it step by step.”

Costales and the ‘New Kids’ on the Thunderbird block will indeed be taking it, ‘Stept by Step’ this season.

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Please visit Red Nation Online for my story on newest Whitecap, Kei Kamara.

http://www.rednationonline.ca/Articles2016/WhitecapsfinallylandtheirmanbringinginKei.aspx

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