Stouffville’s Liz Knox made some hockey history these past two weeks.
A goaltender with the Markham Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), Knox and her teammates played a series of games in China, becoming one of the first North American hockey teams to cross an ocean to appear in a league game. The Toronto Furies joined them on the trip for a number of games.
On Friday, Knox and her team concluded the four game series in Shenzhen, a city located north of Hong Kong, against local teams Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays.
The two Chinese teams joined the CWHL this year and are scheduled for a number of “home” and “away” games. To say the least, there has been much travelling.
But the sense of history is not lost on Knox, who is currently on route back home.
“I think on a global scale it is important for us to be part of the history that is developing women’s hockey around the world,” said the Stouffville native before Friday’s game. “The ongoing argument that international competition is a two-team story (Canada and the USA) will hopefully be one that we can help silence. We’ve given the Chinese community an opportunity to compete with and against some of the strongest female hockey players in the world; and that is something to be proud of.”
China’s expansion into the CWHL has had an immediate impact on the league. With the sponsorship deals China has brought with it, all the players in the league will receive some payment this year, the first time since its creation in 2007.
As hosts of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Chinese officials sought out the league as way to increase their team’s exposure to international calibre hockey. So far it has been working as Vanke is atop the CWHL standings. Kunlun and Vanke swept Markham and Toronto in the current series. While most of the players on the Chinese teams are home-grown, some are from Canada and other parts of the world.
Knox said she experienced both highs and lows during the China series that was demanding both physically and mentally.
“The Markham medical and operational staff did a great job providing us with information to help prepare our bodies for playing under such stressful travel conditions. Things like when to eat and sleep and how to how adjust.” she told The Review. “But all things considered, it’s very hard to be physically and mentally prepared for something that is so new to many of us.”
Some of the Thunder players pointed out their Chinese counterparts are playing as true professionals and have access to first-class training and facilities, which shows what all teams could achieve if they had the same opportunities.
The Markham Thunder return to local action at Thornhill Community Centre on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. against Les Canadiennes Montreal.
The Thunder are currently in fifth place in the standings with three wins and seven losses.
Photo: Liz Knox (27) turns away a scoring attempt by the Kunlun Red Star in game played in China.