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“This is the right thing to do:” Annie Bélanger is #ForTheGame

Former Inferno goaltender talks about her decision, PWHPA

Annie Bélanger
Al Saniuk

Twitter is a funny place. With the site’s purposes, reach, and functionalities fluctuating so wildly based on the whims of individual users, one never quite knows what to expect. Opinions - mine included - are a dime a dozen, as common to every person as a certain physical aperture. Part of the 280-character experience is sharing them, broadcasting them, sending them into the internet abyss.

Occasionally, the abyss very politely answers back in a direct message.

Former Calgary Inferno goaltender and Clarkson Cup champion Annie Bélanger reached out, then graciously took the time to answer some questions over email.

The Ice Garden: How did you find out about #ForTheGame?

Annie Bélanger: I got a call from Blayre Turnbull, one of our player reps on the Calgary Inferno. She explained the movement, its implications and the next steps moving forward, if I were to be a part of it. I remember on that call, Blayre said, ‘’I know and completely understand how big of a sacrifice this would be for you and your career.’’

From day zero, I have had complete confidence and trust in the leaders put in place, whatever their background might be, that they have our best interest at heart. They understand our situation, they’ve been exposed to it in their respective teams and want to help us get what we deserve. To do that, they’re using their platform, voices and resources to advance the movement. So when you hear national team players speak to the media, they’re not just speaking from their perspective, they’re speaking for all of us after taking the time to understand and recognize what each and every one of us go through on a daily basis.

What made you decide to join, and what’s it been like for you to be a part of it?

I decided to join because from the best of my knowledge, this is the right thing to do not only for me and my teammates, but also for the sport. And most importantly, for the future of the sport - and future generations who will come after us. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to be a part of such an empowering movement and it’s been a privilege, really, to be able to say that I am a part of this.

I have been really impressed by how quickly this has come together, and from a structural standpoint, the legal team at Ballard Spahr has been exceptional in giving us their time and resources putting the association together.

Is there a specific group of players who are designated contact points for certain things? How did they get chosen?

There are nine players - nine point guards - who represent different regions. They are our go-to people and where we go with any questions or concerns.

Has the PWHPA given out any media guidelines or talking points to its members?

We do coordinate some of the social media content that goes out. In terms of talking points, I think it’s more so making sure everybody is well-informed and up to date on developments. Everyone is encouraged to be active and vocal about their feelings and opinions about the movement.

We are not robots and don’t want to sound like robots - there’s over 200 of us, which means there’s over 200 reasons why we’re doing this. Those aren’t talking points - those are feelings and experiences that are important to share so people understand what we’re doing and why we are doing it.

Annie Bélanger during her NCAA career at the University of Connecticut.
UConn

How were the nine players on the PWHPA Board chosen? In that same vein, how were the members on the other internal teams (communication, legal, marketing, and media) chosen?

The players chosen really represent everybody; whether you look at it from a geographic point of view or a national team status all the bases are covered. everyone is represented and taken care of.

The legal team that represents us has a lot of experience dealing with women in sports and have been industry leaders over the past several years. They have had great success in helping players and organizations get the support they deserve. It’s a perfect fit for us to have the chance to be represented by that legal team.

The entire team chosen to be a part of this movement is made up of people who believe in women’s hockey and deeply care about the players. They may have different backgrounds, but everyone has one thing in common: a shared purpose.

What measures are being taken to make sure that the concerns and questions of all the players within the PWHPA are being heard and considered?

We have regular conference calls with the association in which everyone is free to speak up and address any concern that they might have.

We also have the contact information of each of the nine reps and they have been tremendous at communicating with us and making sure all of our concerns are addressed.

Will the PWHPA be reaching out to players who sign in North America?

What I can tell you is that players who want to join and be a part of the movement are free to do so. No one is pressured to join in or to stay in. Every player in North America is smart and educated and everyone’s opinion is valid and respected.

How would you feel if any of the more publicly visible PWHPA players decided to sign overseas next season?

I don’t believe this is going to happen but if they did, I am certain that they would continue to be a part of the solution and would still be very involved in advancing the movement, wherever they might do that from.

Do you have any interest in signing overseas for next season? Have any of the European leagues been in contact?

I don’t have any interest; I have a job in Calgary and like it here. Nobody has contacted me from overseas.