Alberta?۪s Chelsea Purcell elevates her game to the international

The first captain in the history of the CWHL?۪s Alberta Hockey Club franchise, Chelsea Purcell extols all the qualities of leadership.

Hardworking, humble and mature, the Hudson Bay, Sask., native now has the opportunity to compete at an international level.

Purcell reflects on her time as the Alberta team?۪s captain with humility; it is a cherished part of her athletic career.

???I appreciated it,?۝ she said. ???I feel it was given to me more because I had played with the coach. We could work well as a team and be successful.?۝

Yet Purcell was also a captain in her university years, when she competed for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West conference of CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport).

Another cherished memory in the early years of helping to establish CWHL hockey in Alberta was competing at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary this past season, as part of the team?۪s newly formed partnership with the Calgary Flames organization.

???To experience ??_ being on NHL ice was fun,?۝ Purcell said. ???It was interesting to see how (the) ice crew works with us during a game.?۝

Purcell has always been reputed as friendly, and as a team player. She is hoping to carry that over while representing Canada at the 2013 ISBHF World Women Ball Hockey Championships, taking place in St. John?۪s, Nfld. This year marks the first time Canada has hosted the prestigious event, and Purcell has the opportunity to contribute to a club looking to win gold.

The chance to claim gold on home soil is one that may inject an attitude of confidence for the growing Alberta franchise.

Purcell is one of four current CWHL players heading to ???the rock,?۝ suiting up for Canada?۪s National Women?۪s Ball Hockey Team alongside Mallory Johnston of the Brampton Thunder, and both Jenny Brine and Britni Smith of the Toronto Furies.

This fantastic foursome shall join former CWHL referee Chris Pellerin, who will serve as Team Canada?۪s head coach at the event. Purcell is the only one competing in this world championship for the first time.

While she was not part of the heartbreaking loss in the gold medal game at the 2011 tournament, Purcell understands the importance of a strong performance, especially playing in her own country.

Although she has not been part of competitive ball hockey for a long time, the opportunity to don the maple leaf and win a gold medal is important to Purcell.

???It would be huge for us to win at home,?۝ she said. ???I just started playing two years ago. I picked it up because of ice hockey.?۝

In the autumn of 2012, Purcell met a unique individual that would help provide her with inspiration. It may prove to be the type of inspiration that results in Purcell helping Canada claim gold.

She had the opportunity to meet Ashley Gilbank, who had stopped by Canada?۪s National Women?۪s Team training camp at Hockey Canada?۪s home arena, the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary. Gilbank was rollerblading across Canada to raise money for mental health research. Purcell presented her with an autographed jersey from the CWHL?۪s Alberta team, which plays out of the same ice hockey facility at Canada Olympic Park.

???Meeting her was inspiring,?۝ Purcell said. ???To meet her and learn about her life was great. When she was not skating, she was sleeping in her van. In meeting the crew that was with her (including her husband), it was quite inspiring to know what they were going through.?۝

Heading into Newfoundland, Purcell may be a rookie for the Canadian contingent, but her leadership experience and motivation make her a valued asset. Should she emerge with a gold medal around her neck, it would signify a worthy honour for a player as friendly, as she is competitive.

by Mark Staffieri