1999-2000 University of Alberta Pandas to be inducted into Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame

(Edmonton) Hockey Alberta and the Hockey Alberta Foundation announced the 2011 Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Jan. 25.

Making the list was the 1999-2000 University of Alberta Pandas hockey team. Under the leadership of coach Howie Draper for the past 14 seasons, the Pandas have compiled a remarkable record in Canadian women's varsity hockey.

During the illustrious '99-'00 season, the Pandas became the first team from Western Canada to win the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union championship, now known as Canadian Interuniversity Sport, or CIS..

Draper recalls that season as a very exciting year. "Prior to that, Canada West play consisted of one or two tournaments to decide the eventual conference champion. The 1999-2000 season was the first full regular-season schedule, so it was a major step in the development of the conference and played a huge part in the growth of female hockey at our level."

The talent-rich squad was powered by five league top scorers and five conference all-star selections. Named to the first team were goaltender Stacey McCullough and forwards Krysty Lorenz and Danielle Bourgeois. Second team nods went to defenceman Erin van de Wetering and forward Shelley Reynolds. Draper was also named Conference Coach of the Year and Bourgeois, the Canada West Rookie of the Year.

The Pandas finished with an impressive 11-1 record atop the Canada West standings and, after defeating Manitoba and Calgary, set their sights on nationals.

With an opening game victory over Guelph, the Pandas faced off against the home team and two-time defending champions, the Concordia Stingers, in the semifinal match-up. For many on the team, this was considered the unofficial championship, and the game was a fight to the finish.

Battling to a 2-2 tie and through an overtime period, Pandas captain Sue Huculak scored the winning goal in a shootout and the team advanced to the final game versus the McGill Martlets.

Defeating the Martlets 2-0, the Pandas captured the title and McCullough and Bourgeois were named to the CIAU all-Canadian team.

For Draper and his team, capturing the gold medal was a glorious moment. "The group of players that won that gold medal was pretty good in terms of individual skill, but what made their achievement possible was the amazing collective determination that they displayed as a team, side by side. That win paved the way for much of the success that our program has enjoyed through the last 10 years or so," says Draper.

Since that season, the Pandas have captured an impressive seven CIS/CIAU Championships (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010) built around an unprecedented 110-game winning streak that began in 2003.

The Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame induction is an honour, Draper says. "This is a very proud moment for all of us, and for the Pandas Hockey Program, to be inducted into the building that houses so many great Alberta sports players, teams and builders. We truly appreciate the work done by those that developed and moved our team's nomination forward."

Located within the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Red Deer, the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame gallery is designed to preserve and celebrate Alberta's hockey history.

"We look forward each year to honouring those who have made hockey in Alberta, Canada and around the world what it is today," said Scott Robinson, executive director, Hockey Alberta Foundation. "The Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame is an important showcase of our game's history in Alberta and all of these inductees have made significant contributions."

Inductees are chosen from nominations based on select criteria; nominees must have lived in Alberta for at least five years, must have personal and or professional accomplishments in the game of hockey, must have made an impact in the game beyond a local or regional level and must have received significant other recognitions. Nominations can be made for either an individual or team active or retired.

The 1999-2000 U of A Pandas will be recognized at the Hockey Alberta Awards Gala taking place June 11, 2011.

If you would like to make a tax deductible gift in support of the Pandas hockey team or an individual team player, please click here .