Much was already known about the 2009 Esso Cup when Calgary was announced
as the host city in December 2008. Seventy-four teams would take part in
playdowns across the country. Four regional champions would be crowned. And
the five-team field would be rounded out by the host squad.
But who, exactly, was the host team?
Hockey Calgary had three teams – the Bruins, Chaos and Flyers – in the
Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League. The Esso Cup host would be
whoever went furthest in the AMMFHL playoffs.
The Bruins took out the Chaos in the preliminary round, setting up a
best-of-five series against the league-best Flyers. Three games later the
inaugural National Female Midget Championship had its host.
“Even [in the AMMFHL quarter-final] we felt like we won because we got to
go to nationals now,” says Ferran Brown, then a forward with the Flyers.
“To be the first to host it was nice because you almost felt like you made
Brown opened the scoring in an opening-day win for the Flyers, and would
record at least one point in every game (four goals, three assists) for the
eventual bronze medallists.
“That was the highlight of my Midget career, and every time I look at [the
medal] it just brings back good memories. I think of all the girls and
always have that memory of them.”
Eight years later, Brown has the chance to both re-live that Midget year
and create new memories, as an assistant coach with the Mid-Isle Wildcats,
the Atlantic Region champions, at the 2017 Esso Cup.
The journey from Calgary to Summerside, P.E.I., to Morden, Man., may seem
like an unlikely path, but the route has been surprisingly straight.
That first win for the Flyers came against the Scarborough Sharks.
Ontario’s reputation as a women’s hockey powerhouse preceded it, but
shutting out the Sharks showed Brown that she had game, too.
“After that I thought that I could go further in hockey. I realized I was
half decent,” she says, laughing.
She played five seasons with the University of Prince Edward Island – her
final two as captain – was named an Academic All-Canadian and received a
leadership award after her senior year. She even played in another national
championship, with the Panthers in 2012. And every spring she helped coach
when UPEI hosted the provincial U16 and U18 teams.
But after earning her bachelor of education – and meeting a lobster
fisherman – on the East Coast, she took a job teaching in northern Alberta
last year. “But this year I decided to move back here with the lobster
fisherman,” she says, laughing.
In addition to working as a substitute teacher, Brown was coaching an Atom
A team in O’Leary, P.E.I., when a surprise offer came last fall. “One of my
old coaches from UPEI got a call from the Mid-Isle Wildcats saying they’d
really like a female coach. She gave my name, and I thought it was a great
opportunity to coach older girls.”
Kevin Andrews, head coach of the Wildcats, admits he didn’t know much about
Brown when her former university coach first recommended her. But after
doing some digging, Andrews knew she’d be the perfect fit.
“I found out she had been in the inaugural Esso Cup in 2009, and I told the
girls this is a great experience to draw on because Ferran has been there
before,” he says. “She’d been to the nationals at the university level as
well, another great experience to draw on.”
With Brown being only a few years older than the players, a natural trust
“I find that they can relate to me, that I can just talk to them and know
the actual issues or what they’re thinking,” says Brown, who still plays in
the Island Women’s Hockey League.
She also recently accepted a position on the Team P.E.I. coaching staff for
the 2019 Canada Winter Games, her first time – as player or coach – at the
high-performance level. It’s another opportunity to mentor and pay it
“A lot of our players would like to play university hockey,” says Andrews,
“and I think they look at Ferran as a great example of how to do it and,
through her examples, of the benefits of playing university hockey.”
Shortly after joining the team, Brown sent players a PowerPoint
presentation on how to contact university coaches. “And I’ve been telling
them how going through this tournament is a huge opportunity to meet even
more schools from across the country.”
Brown has told both the players and her fellow coaches that Esso Cup week
is about the hockey, first and foremost. But she couldn’t help but think
beyond the rink when Mid-Isle clinched its spot, only the second team from
P.E.I. to ever do so.
“I knew how much I loved going to Esso – just feeling so accomplished,”
says Brown. “It’s crazy that the girls get to experience it, the whole-week
tournament and being fully committed to hockey. It was exciting to know
that they’re going to have that experience that I had when I was younger,
because you won’t forget it for the rest of your life.”