Article published locally:
Vermont rinks host elite women’s hockey teams
Aug 30, 2018
College Limilou of Quebec City won last year’s North American Hockey Academy Labor Day Tournament.
Northern Vermont will host many of the world’s best women hockey players during Labor Day weekend, as 72 teams — about 3,000 athletes and families — flood the area for the 17th annual North American Hockey Academy Labor Day Tournament.
Games take place from Friday to Sunday, Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, at the host rinks: Gutterson Field House at UVM, Cairns Arena in South Burlington, Leddy Park in Burlington, Waterbury Ice Center and Stowe Arena.
“The quality of the competition each year at this tournament is second to none for girls at the U14, U16 and U19 levels,” said Bill Driscoll, director of the Stowe-based hockey academy.
“Teams come from across the U.S. and Canada, and alumnae from the tournament included over half of the women on Team USA and Team Canada in last year’s Olympics,” Driscoll said.
Teams come not only for the top competition, Driscoll said, but also are drawn by what Vermont has to offer — Lake Champlain, downtown Burlington, the Stowe-Waterbury area, restaurants and Mount Mansfield. Those, he said, “are all reasons we hear, why teams love to return, year after year.”
“We’re proud of the growth this tournament has had from its humble beginnings 17 years ago, with four teams and some friends looking for a weekend of camaraderie and hockey,” Driscoll said. “We’re looking forward to hosting the best girls’ hockey in the Burlington and Stowe areas this coming weekend, and hope young girls who play the game or are thinking about playing the game drop in and see some exciting female hockey.
“We have an incredible opportunity in the Stowe and Burlington area to grow the game, and become even a bigger hotbed for women’s hockey as NAHA continues to grow its offerings.” Games are all free, and run from 7 or 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in all five rinks Friday and Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. A full schedule is at the NAHA site, winter-hawks.org.
Players and coaches like it Winny Brown — director of last year’s winners in the U14 Division, the Minnesota OS Select—summed up her experiences over the years at the NAHA tournament and why annually the top players in Minnesota attend the event.
“We have been bringing our Minnesota Whitecaps and OS Selects teams to the NAHA Labor Day Tournament for over 10 years,” Brown said. “It’s hands-down one of the best college recruiting venues in North America. All of our games are great competition, located in close vicinity, and provide unparalleled exposure for our players.
“Both Burlington and Stowe locations provide the quintessential hockey and life experience for our players, parents and staff.”
College coaches from the U.S. and Canada — representing well over 150 institutions, with a staff of two to three coaches each — line the glass in each of the arenas from the drop of the first puck on Friday until the finals on Sunday afternoon. They’re looking for recruits.
Ted Wisner, associate head coach at St. Lawrence University, said, “NAHA puts on a tournament with an elite field at three age levels. Every year, top teams from North America meet at this tournament to kick off the recruiting season. I’ve had club coaches tell me their kids treat it like the Daytona 500! They love to open the season with the toughest competition — it’s that big a weekend!”
The presence of virtually every head coach in women’s college hockey, along with the great players and teams, make for an unparalleled weekend.
The tournament is a significant economic engine, said Carrie Nourjian; she and her husband, Bruce, own Commodores Inn in Stowe. “Labor Day weekend is huge for us thanks to NAHA,” Nourjian said. “I wish I could have added on several more wings to the hotel. I had to turn down several teams, and one who had stayed with us before, because I was already full.
“This three-day event has a huge impact on our Labor Day business. We sure do appreciate it,” Nourjian said.
Nick Fisher, sales manager at the Golden Eagle Resort in Stowe, called the NAHA Labor Day Tournament “a wonderful event for hotels in the Stowe and Burlington area. The tournament brings in enough teams to fill the area hotels and provide rooms starting on Thursday of Labor Day weekend. There are no other events that consistently sell out the city and provide rooms on the ‘shoulder’ night as well.
“Without the NAHA tournament, hotels, bars and restaurants would suffer. Labor Day is not a huge draw to the area without a tournament,” Fisher said. “I work for several hotels in Vermont and New Hampshire and Labor Day is soft without a draw like the NAHA tournament. The tournament has filled our hotels in Stowe for many years and hopefully many years to come.”
Jeff Bushey, group sales manager for Best Western Hotels, told Driscoll, “I have enjoyed this tournament since you landed in Burlington with it. I have built many long-lasting relationships with this tournament. I also know the restaurants and hotels, as well as the retailers, enjoy seeing this event year after year. It’s great for the Burlington area.”
March 12, 2018- The North American Hockey Academy (NAHA- Stowe Vermont) captured the Junior Women's Hockey League U19 Division Playoff Championship over the weekend at the season ending JWHL weekend hosted by Detroit Little Caesars and the Detroit Red Wings. The JWHL is the most competitive league in North American, placing more female hockey players in NCAA D1 and D3 colleges per capita than any other league over the past 11 seasons.
The NAHA White team came into the JWHL playoffs as the #1 seed after winning the league's Regular Season banner with a record of 22-2-3. In Playoff round robin play, NAHA went 3-0 with wins over Ridley College (St. Catherine's ON), host Detroit Little Caesars and the Boston Shamrocks. That set up a semi final match-up with the regular season #2 team, the Ottawa 67's. Backstopped by Arielle DeSmet (Charlotte VT), and on goals by Kaleigh Donnelly (Wellesley MA) and Marah Wagner (Woodinville WA), NAHA moved into the finals with a 2-1 win to take on the Pacific Steelers (Richmond BC). In an incredibly well played game by both teams fitting of a great final game, NAHA captured the JWHL Playoff Championship with a 2-1 victory, on goals by Leah Marino (So. Lake Tahoe CA), and the game winner by Kaleigh Donnelly. NAHA goaltending was outstanding in the final game, lead by University of Wisconsin-bound Cami Kronish (NY NY).
At the JWHL Awards Banquet, several NAHA players were recognized with JWHL Awards:
JWHL 'Liz Turgeon Memorial' Player of the Year: Emma Wuthrich (Castle Rock CO)
JWHL Offensive Player of the Year: Emma Wuthrich
JWHL Goaltender of the Year: Cami Kronish
JWHL 1st Team All-Stars:
Sophie Holden (Byron Center MI)
JWHL 2nd Team All Stars:
Sidney Fess (Clifton Park NY)