Skip to main content

Heaney 'greatest defenseman' in women's history

by Cassie Campbell-Pascall

Cassie Campbell-Pascall played for Canada at three Olympics and captained Canada to gold medals at the 2002 and 2006 Olympics. She is regarded as one of the finest female hockey players ever. However, she credits 2013 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Geraldine Heaney for helping her become the player and person she became.

I never saw the 1990 IIHF World Women’s Championship live. That's where Geraldine Heaney became famous for scoring what is still considered the greatest goal in the history of women's hockey.

But I remember when I was at a tournament in Canada when I was 16 years old some members of Canada's national team came and all the young kids got a chance to meet them. That was the first time I met her. Then, of course, we played together on the national team starting in 1994. I played club hockey with her as well.

Considering all the great experiences I've had with Geraldine, there's no question in my mind that she's earned her place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

There is no drama with Geraldine Heaney. She just kind of came to the rink and played. She was always consistent but she was always remembered for trying something new in practice and in games. She was an offensive defenseman, the Bobby Orr of women's hockey without question. She is the defenseman that all defensemen on the national team will be compared to for the rest of time. We became friends despite our age difference. I never admitted it to her at the time, but she was someone I looked up to and she was a role model of mine.

I listened to everything she said to me like it was gospel. It was a thrill to me to be her defensive partner. In 1997 I made the All-Star team at the IIHF Women's World Championship and she didn't, but the only reason I made the All-Star team was because I was playing with her. I became a better player just because I got to play with her on the Toronto Aeros and Canadian national team for such a long time.

I always appreciated her honesty with me. She was someone I went to for advice, someone whose opinion I trusted.

I remember when I was first named captain of the Canadian national team. She and I were roommates in Calgary that year. She took me aside and said, "Cass, make sure you talk to Therese Brisson," who was the captain before me and was still on the team.

Therese was older than me so I never even thought about going to talk to her and making sure she was OK. I was a younger player and just kind of assumed she was. I just appreciated that honest advice from Geraldine, that moment when she told me to talk to Therese to make sure we were on the same page.

I think she's the greatest defenseman to ever play women's hockey. She's a true pioneer. A lot of people look at my generation as the pioneers, but my generation's hero is Geraldine Heaney.

Now you look at all the young kids dipsy-doing and flipping the puck around and making all these fancy moves. But Geraldine did that before her time. She would flip the puck over someone's stick and make a pass to herself. She would bat the puck out of the air. She tried these little offensive tricks really before even the guys’ game was starting to do that. I don't know where she learned it but she was always looking to be creative. She was always good defensively too, but that offensive flair she had was really before her time.

Because of that I truly think every offensive defenseman who has played and will play the female game will be compared to Geraldine Heaney. It's kind of like every offensive defenseman on the men's side is compared to Bobby Orr or Paul Coffey or Ray Bourque. She is like those guys for us.

Perhaps the thing that most impressed me about Geraldine Heaney was how she never complained about anything. In the year leading up to the 2002 Olympics she lost her uncle and her mom got really sick at Christmas time and nearly lost her life. That January she tore her MCL and almost wasn't able to go to the Olympics. But she never complained about it. She was all business. She could have the worst day in her life going on and nobody would ever know. She was private that way and all business when it came to the sport.

She made that Olympic team and played great despite being injured and having to wear a brace and being at the tail end of her career. She was just amazing. I think that was one of the most amazing moments in my career, just watching her get her gold medal. Someone of that generation getting an opportunity to experience it was pretty cool.

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.