5 things to know about hockey’s Clarkson Cup

Canada's Natalie Spooner (right) is a member of the Toronto Furies. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

The Clarkson Cup—that’s women’s hockey’s equivalent to the Stanley Cup—opens Wednesday at the Markham Centennial Centre, with the final set for Saturday.

In other words, a four-day hockey tournament featuring many of the best female players in the world is about to get underway in the Greater Toronto Area.

Here are five things you should know about the Clarkson Cup (in addition to the fact it’s awarded each season to the winner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League):

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch the Clarkson Cup semifinals Thursday on Sportsnet ONE starting at 5 p.m. EST. The final will be live on Saturday at 2 p.m. EST on all regional channels

*Of the players who thrilled us with what was probably the best women’s hockey game ever, little over a year ago at the Olympics in Sochi, 16 of these same players are facing off in this championship series. This includes fan favourite Natalie Spooner of Canada, and long-time American captain Meghan Duggan. (If you forget what happened in Sochi: Canada came back from a 2-0 deficit with less than five minutes to go. Brianne Jenner scored first, the Americans hit the empty-net post, Marie-Philip Poulin scored to force overtime, and then Poulin struck again with the winner for Canada. And the arena nearly exploded with excitement.)

*The favourite is Boston. The Blades finished the season in first place, two points ahead of the Calgary Inferno. Boston plays the Toronto Furies in a best-of-three series to determine one finalist, while Calgary plays the Montreal Stars to determine the other finalist. Both the semis and Saturday’s final will be broadcast on Sportsnet. The final starts at 2pm ET.

*Rivals are now teammates. Consider Boston’s roster: It includes 2014 Olympic gold medallists Genevieve Lacasse and Tara Watchorn, of Canada. It also includes Team USA’s Kacey Bellamy, Gigi Marvin, Meghan Duggan, Monique Lamoureux and Kelli Stack, who won silver in Sochi. These women really didn’t like each other about a year ago.

*Tickets cost $20, and $25 for the final. You can find ticket and schedule information here.

*The Toronto Furies are the defending champions. The roster includes 2015 Clarkson Cup MVP, goalie Christina Kessler; Olympic gold medallists through the ages in Sami-Jo Small (2002, 2006) and Tessa Bonhomme (2010) and Spooner (2014); and defenceman Shannon Moulson, whose older brother Matt is a Buffalo Sabre.

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