There are ten teams going to the NRL Championships, and I am pretty sure that if I think one thing about each of them, that will add up to ten. Convenient! I thought I would also pay tribute to the great Tony Kornheiser and his "old guy radio". So, in geographic order (east to west), and with a song for each team, here they are:
1. I think that the Atlantic Sixers had a tough road to get here. Their best of five series against the New Brunswick team went the distance, so they know from pressure. With several members of Team Canada (both the senior team and the East U19 Team), the Sixers will have players that can make some noise. It is also worth noting that the Sixers will be led by two of the most experienced coaches in Canada in Liz O’Hanley and Dan MacIssac. The Sixers song? Well, the Sixers are looking for attention. This makes me think of the Nova Scotia band Sloan’s chorus in Money City Maniacs.
2. I think that the Montreal Mission know how to score. The Mission’s top three scorers (Catherine Cartier, Julie Blanchette and Stephanie Seguin) combined for 165 goals this season. Only the Cambridge Turbos scored more goals (as an entire team) than the Missions top trio did this year. Wow. As for a song – I am going to give up already on being original and go with "Saskatchewan" by Les Trois Accords.
3. I think that the Gloucester Devils are back at the NRL Championship after missing out out on qualifying last year. I also think that Colleen Hagan made it clear to her teammates that they were going to the big dance and she did not lie. In their last regular season games, the Devils alternated wins and losses before sweeping Quebec in the playoffs. The Devils are going to need to string some wins together in Saskatoon if they are to make some noise in the medal round. The song? Well, the Devils need to get hot, and they are from the Ottawa area. And Ottawa + Hot = Cheese…"Never Too Hot" by Alanis (not yet known as Morisette).
4. I think the Ottawa Ice kind of limped into the playoffs with a couple of tough losses in the last weekend of the regular season – and then came up huge once the playoffs started against Richmond Hill. It looks like the Ice will be on a roll when they take to the ice in their first game against the Atlantic Sixers. The Ice will be in the first NRL game in Aberdeen, so in honour of that: "Small Town" by John Cougar Mellencamp.
5. I think the Cambridge Turbos have nothing to prove, but still have a lot to prove. The Turbos are the two-time defending national champions and the defending world club champions. When you are the champions of everything you don’t really need to prove anything. But this year, the Turbos will be trying to do it all again without Jenn Wakefield or Nicki Madsen. The Turbos have a lot of weapons still on the roster and their 29-2 record indicates that they have more than enough left in the tank, but the pressure cooker that is the national championship will ultimately tell the tale for this Turbos team. The Turbos will be trying to win a third straight title, so for them, "Three is a Magic Number" (from Schoolhouse Rock).
6. I think that the Waterloo Wildfire are looking to break through this year. After making to the NRL Championship last year, the Wildfire will be looking to get to the medal round and make some noise once they get there. In short, the Wildfire are looking for "Respect" (if you don’t know who the Queen of Soul is you may be reading the wrong article!) and they have the chance at the NRL Championship to more than earn some respect!
7. I think that the Prairie Fire made it to the medal round last year and finished up their season on a roll. The Fire have won four in a row, including a surprising three game sweep of the Calgary RATH in Calgary. I am not really sure that there is a very good connection between "Tournament of Hearts" by the Weakerthans and the Prairie Fire. But, there is a song about a women’s sporting event and I need to get it in there somehow. Do you know of another song about women’s sports? Is there a WNBA or an LPGA song out there? Until Tegan and Sara write an NRL song (I can hope) this song will have to do.
8. I think that the Saskatoon Wild have no worse than a puncher’s chance at the event. With a home crowd behind them, the Wild will have all the motivation they need to get through to the medal round. However, the Wild are the only team team with a below .500 record and this year got fully 52% of their goals from only two players – Salla Kyhalla and Erin Cumpstone. The Wild will need to get scoring from more sources and they will need to fully capitalize on their home ice advantage – but if they do, they can really make some noise. Saskatoon will be outstanding hosts for this event, but the Wild will not be "Ready to Make Nice" this week against their NRL guests.
9. I think that the Calgary RATH have all kinds of weapons. Size and strength up front – Check! (Victoria Russell and Kailee Dundas). Shutdown D – Check! (Jacqueline Ho and Dallas Robbins). Team Canada level goaltending – Check! (Stacey McNichol and Bobbi Mattson). Scoring…….well that is a bit of a challenge. The RATH have averaged 4.2 goals this year and have had a hard time scoring at times during the season. They will need to find scoring from all over the place and match that up with their existing great defensive play – but if they do, they can beat anyone at any time. For a song? The RATH need to get their offensive swagger going, meaning they have to believe. Meaning I get to put a Glee reference in here: "Don’t Stop Believing" by the Glee cast!
10. I think that the Edmonton WAM! can beat you in all kinds of ways. Despite leading the Western Conference in team scoring, the WAM! have only one player (Jenn Hartley) in the top 20 in league scoring. They can score on you, they can defend you and they can rely on their considerable experience. But, despite this recipe, the WAM! fell short last year in the championship game and will look to seal the deal this time around. The WAM! are not going to be able to heed Sarah Harmer’s advice this week. She said "Don’t Get Your Back Up" and that may be exactly what the WAM! will need to do in Saskatoon.