by Kristen Lipscombe and David Standish
They will no longer be the Alberta what-cha-ma-call-its.
Under the bright lights of the Scotiabank Saddledome, surrounded by a sea of red and yellow and thousands of cheering fans, the CWHL’s Alberta Hockey Club became the Calgary Inferno during a special announcement Monday, Sept. 23, just before the start of a pre-season game between the NHL’s Calgary Flames and New York Rangers.
Canadian Women’s Hockey League star players Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Tara Watchorn and Kelsey Webster walked the red carpet onto the ice wearing new jerseys to go with their new team name, which feature the same colours and striping pattern worn by the NHL’s Calgary Flames, who formed a partnership with the local CWHL team last November.
The hometown name “Calgary” adorns the front of the jersey, along with the CWHL and Scotiabank logos, while the Inferno logo with a black and grey mask, hockey stick and flaming long hair reminiscent of the flaming “C” on the NHL team’s jersey, are displayed on the shoulders along with the player’s number. The CWHL players prepared to drop the puck during pre-game ceremonies, while current and future Inferno fans alike hooted and hollered as the name was unveiled, looking up at the Jumbotron in admiration as the Inferno logo splashed across the screens for all Calgary Flames spectators to see.
The general manager of the third-year CWHL Calgary franchise Chantal Champagne said the Inferno are thrilled to work with the NHL Calgary franchise.
“They are as excited as we are to promote our game,” she said during a recent interview at WinSport Athletic & Ice Complex, nestled in Canada Olympic Park, where her team plays its home games. “Having the Flames as true partners is exponential towards bringing the female game and the CWHL to the next level.”
The Flames deal includes even more exposure opportunities to help promote the Inferno and their game schedule, Champagne said. “We are able to reach an audience that we wouldn’t have been able to do without this partnership; we’re very fortunate for that.”
The Flames-Inferno deal is the second of its kind announced last season, as the CWHL’s Toronto Furies and the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs are also working together to help grow the most premier women’s league in existence.
One of Calgary’s returning players, who has traded in the former Alberta Hockey Club’s blue jersey for a Calgary Inferno red this season is Chelsea Purcell, who agreed working with the NHL will help the CWHL develop into a truly professionally league, where one day women will get paid to play the game they love – just like their male counterparts.
“It’s nice to have a name and a logo, so everyone will know who we are,” Purcell said. “That we’re the west coast team, and that we will be making a new statement.”
The team formerly referred to as the Alberta Hockey Club went through a short stint of unofficially being called the Alberta Honeybadgers, and had been searching for just the right identity. So how did the Alberta franchise come up with the cleverly chosen Calgary Inferno name?
Well, with a little help from the fans themselves. The team held a contest asking for fans to submit their best ideas, and Calgary resident Jeff Stevenson was one of several who suggested the Inferno name that so closely mirrors that of the Flames. His name was chosen from a random draw to make him the official contest winner.
“Some of the others … were the Cougars and Cowgirls,” Stevenson said of brainstorming for name ideas. But in the end, he thought Inferno was the right fit, and in the end, so did the team itself.
“It makes them recognizable, for the hockey team to be known that it’s from Calgary,” he said. “It definitely fits in with the city.”
Stevenson said his first thought when the name Inferno comes to his mind is “overwhelming heat.” And Champagne said fans can expect a team on fire when they hit the ice this season.
The Calgary Inferno look to improve on their 3-21 record from last season, and Champagne believes roster additions from the recent 2013 CWHL Draft will help make that happen.
“This year we’ve been able to pick up a few more forwards and have more balance than we did last year,” she said. “We’re going in the right direction.”