Isobel Cup winners recognized — A memorable night for women’s hockey

The IX: Hockey Friday with The Ice Garden, Feb. 23, 2024

It was a bittersweet night in Etobicoke, Ontario, as the final Isobel Cup-winning team received its championship rings. The night started with beautiful remarks from three-time Olympian and Toronto Six president Sami Jo Small welcoming those from all across the women’s hockey world. With the ring ceremony as the main event, the night quickly turned into an incredible representation of how women’s hockey has come to be today. I, Alyssa Turner with the Ice Garden, was there and am here to provide you with an inside look at the evening.

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Attendees at an event for the final Isobel Cup winning team received their championship rings. (Photo Credit | Lori Bolliger)

“You all had a part to play, and today we want you to know how much your role is valued — so many steps had to happen to get where we are today,” Sami Jo acknowledged to a crowd full of women’s hockey trailblazers. 

As the event went on, the Toronto Six paid tribute to individuals from the COWHL, NHWL, CWHL, PHF, Hockey Canada, The Hockey Hall of Fame and the newly established PWHL. As the room was captivated by Sami Jo Small’s in-depth women’s hockey history lessons, you couldn’t help but notice the heavy feelings of pride, grief and deep-rooted hockey legacies at the Weston Golf and Country Club. 

John and Johanna Boynton came into the NWHL back in 2019 to create the Toronto Six and help the league expand into its first Canadian hockey market. From then they would go on to help rebrand the league to the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), promoting inclusivity by removing the gender marker, and then expanded to Canada with their Montreal franchise. As the Boyntons spoke in front of the packed room, they mentioned they did it all with “one goal in mind” — to unify women’s hockey.

John Boynton described the decision to eventually sell the PHF to the now owners of the PWHL as “a move in the right direction for the sport.”

For the last time in its history, the Isobel Cup has new names on it and this time around it’s extra special. Sami Jo Small decided to put not only every single player on the trophy, but also every single staff member. Taking up not not only one plate for the players, but a second plate for the staff. The first of its kind on the iconic trophy. 

The Isobel Cup is pictured with player and staff names engraved. (Photo Credit | Alyssa Turner)

The Isobel Cup takes its name from Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley’s daughter, Isobel, who shared his love of the game and is known to be one of the first female hockey players in Canada. Isobel, along with her brothers, encouraged her father to purchase a silver cup to award to the best amateur hockey team in Canada. The Stanley Cup, as it was later named, became the championship trophy of the National Hockey League (NHL). The front of the Isobel Cup reads: “The Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Cup 1875-1963. This Cup shall be awarded annually to the greatest professional women’s hockey team in North America. All who pursue this Cup, pursue a dream; a dream born with Isobel, that shall never die.

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Following the Toronto Six final celebrations with the Isobel Cup, the historic trophy will be heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario where it will find a place forever in hockey history. 

The night celebrating the past, present and future of the sport was certainly an end of an era but also was a beacon of hope for what’s to come in the sport with the rise of the record-breaking PWHL. 

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Written by The Ice Garden