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Ottawa @ CWG Day 1: Let The Games Begin!

(This article was first sent to subscribers of the free Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it below!)

By Dan Plouffe & Mark Colley

Here we go! Welcome to Day 1 of our Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games coverage. The Ottawa Sports Pages is excited to bring you coverage on our local athletes over the course of the 17-day national youth multi-sport competition in Prince Edward Island.

This morning, the first sports events of PEI 2023 will get underway following last night’s Opening Ceremony at Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown.

Of course, the Opening Ceremony featured the usual cast you’d expect – government representatives, performers and athletes (among them Catriona Le May Doan, Heather Moyse, Billy Bridges and Mark Arendz, who ignited the PEI 2023 lighthouse with the Canada Games flame).

But the biggest star of the PEI 2023 show had to be Anne of Green Gables, who told everyone in the arena that they were all adopted as Islanders, while her friends, the Children of Avonlea, handed out chocolate-covered PEI potato chips to welcome them.

We’ll be focused mostly on the sports action, but PEI 2023’s Illumination Festival that runs throughout the Games and throughout the province features a pretty impressive lineup of acts even the Ottawa Sports Pages’ pop culture-illiterate executive director has heard of, such as Serena Ryder, The Trews and Classified.

Ottawa overload on the Island

PEI 2023 marks the 15th edition of the Canada Winter Games. The first ones took place in Quebec City in 1967 as a centennial project to unite the provinces and territories.

The Games have since doubled in size to 3,600 participants (counting athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers) taking part in more than 150 events across 20 sports.

Age categories vary by sport, but most athletes are generally in their late teens. The Games can serve as a training ground for many future Olympic hopefuls. The list of Canada Winter Games alumni is dizzying, including Sydney Crosby, Marie-Philip Poulin and Cindy Klassen.

This year’s edition features several sports making their debut: karate, mixed doubles curling and female boxing.

There are no local athletes involved in those first-time competitions, but you’ll find them in 12 of the 20 sports on the programme: alpine skiing, archery, biathlon, cross-country skiing, curling, freestyle skiing, gymnastics, hockey, ringette, speed skating, squash and wheelchair basketball.

Ottawa’s contingent is huge. We’ve got 2.5 times as many representatives on Team Ontario as you’d expect. Based on population, we should have 18 members of the 252-athlete delegation, but instead we’ve got a whopping 46 (plus one on Team Quebec).

Way to go Team Ottawa, and thanks for keeping us busy!

Day 2 preview: Ringette pals ready for pinnacle stage

When it comes to over-representation, Ottawa ringette leads the way. They’ve got eight times as many Team Ontario players as the analytics would predict, occupying 10 of 18 roster spots.

Team Ontario’s quest for gold begins today with their first test against Team Saskatchewan at the Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre in Montague, PEI. Game time is 3 p.m. local – one hour ahead of us in Ottawa (so 2 p.m. ET).

The local members of Team Ontario share a long history together as teammates and rivals – most having played since age four or so.

Many of them celebrated a very happy conclusion to their interrupted 2021-2022 season with the Gloucester Devils under-19 ‘AA’ team, which enjoyed a wild ride to an Ontario title after only facing regional opponents before the provincials.

The Devils twice overcame two-goal deficits in the championship game against Waterloo to force overtime, where they played shorthanded for the first eight minutes before Julia Wilson scored the golden goal.

Danika Osborne, who has now moved on to play for the Gatineau Fusion of the National Ringette League, and team captain Taylor Forrest also scored in the big game.

Cyndii Chestnut earned defensive MVP honours with the Devils, while Laiya Evraire was among the top-3 scorers at the provincial tournament.

The Gloucester Devils played as Team Ontario in last year’s national championships. Photo: Omar Nalley

Evraire now competes for the NRL’s Nepean Ravens along with first-year Carleton University student Brooke Wasylyshyn, a Waterloo native who was on the losing side of that championship final.

Jalena Marelic is a member of the Ravens NRL squad as well. Currently training to be a firefighter, Marelic also competed for Team Canada at last year’s World Junior Championships – about the only stage bigger than the Canada Games for the sport of ringette.

The youngest member of Team Ontario is 17-year-old Geneviève Robichaud, who enjoyed a similar comeback story with her U16 ‘AA’ Devils at last year’s provincials. She scored a goal and two assists as they overcame a 3-0 deficit to the West Ottawa Wild in the Ontario final.

Kate Babineau plays for the Wild U19 ‘AA’ team that qualified to play in the Ontario Winter Games earlier this month, though she kept her focus on the national event instead of participating in back-to-back February Games.

Rachel Steckly. Photo: Darryl Gershman

Rachel Steckly, who was featured in the Ottawa Sports Pages‘ pre-Games profile series, has frequently been an opponent of the champion Gloucester group. Her U19 Nepean Ravens were Devils victims in the semi-final of their championship run.

“It’s not fun playing against them, because they always win, but now that we’re on the same team, we can cheer each other on,” smiled Steckly. “When you get on Team Ontario, we’re such a close-knit group now, so I’ll have these relationships forever.”

Team Ontario assistant coach Jessica Crouch of Ottawa believes team unity will be a big weapon as Ontario shoots for a return to the top of the podium at the Canada Games. Ontario earned silver medals in the two most recent Games on the heels of four consecutive gold.

“What’s most special about these girls is that their bond is so close that all 18 of them are best friends,” underlined Crouch, who also coached Evraire to U16 provincial gold and national bronze with the Ravens in 2018. “They’re gonna have each other’s backs throughout this whole process. Even if something goes wrong, they’re gonna be able to bounce back and support each other to get us to play in those medal round games.”

The path to the podium in ringette requires seven games in seven days, with four round robin contests followed by quarter-finals, semis and medal matches. Ontario’s pool includes Nova Scotia, PEI and B.C. as well as Saskatchewan.

Also in action: Hockey & curling

On top of Ottawa’s 10 ringette players, another 10 local athletes begin their Games Sunday.

Female curlers Ava Acres, Liana Flanagan, Mya Sharpe and Aila Thompson of the RCMP Curling Club will be the first ones in action when they meet the Northwest Territories in their opening match at 9 a.m. ET in Summerside, PEI at The Silver Fox Entertainment Complex.

Hockey Eastern Ontario male hockey players Quinn Beauchesne, Tristan Boudreau, Maasilan Etchart, Chase Hull, Peter Legostaev and Harry Nansi will take on B.C. with Team Ontario at 6:30 p.m., also in Summerside at Credit Union Place.

During the first week of the Games, we’ll also have Ottawa athletes competing in biathlon (4 of them), freestyle skiing (2), gymnastics (2), speed skating (4), squash (1) and wheelchair basketball (1). Their competitions begin soon enough and we’ll look forward to telling you more about them in the coming days.

You can visit (and bookmark!) our Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games central webpage for links to all the schedules, and to access all of our Games coverage in one place.

Feel free to share that link with anyone who may like to get our free Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games Daily Newsletter. Subscribers can expect to find us in your inbox early each morning when we’ll recap the previous day’s highlights and let you know which Ottawa athletes to look out for later on that day’s schedule.

Streaming of some events is available on, with more on

Thanks for joining us on this journey, we hope you enjoy the ride!

(This article was first sent to subscribers of the free Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it below!)

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