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Ventured out just west of Toronto on Saturday to watch THN designer and Insider Blogger Erika Vanderveer tend goal for her Canadian Women’s Hockey League team (the Burlington Barracudas) in their first playoff game of the year.

As was the case when I followed an elite women’s league franchise throughout the 2004-05 season, the teams provided an exciting night of end-to-end action that put to shame many regular season NHL games I’ve witnessed over the years.

Unfortunately, as also was the case four years ago, the game wasn’t nearly as well-attended as it ought to have been.

For the most part, a few dozen friends and family were the only ones occupying the meager stands. But you know what? In a way, the sparse crowd made the night especially endearing. (It also made it possible for a normally luckless loafer like me to win the 50/50 draw, but that’s another story.)

My group of Barracuda supporters – made more noticeable by the consistent clamor of THN senior writer Ken Campbell and editor Edward Fraser – also came to include Joanne and Doug Vanderveer, Erika’s mom and dad.

There was something absolutely fantastic and heartwarming in watching Joanne and Doug alternate between nervous grimaces and quiet pride for their daughter; for them, as for Erika, I’m sure Saturday’s showdown was at least as important as any massively hyped Olympic gold medal matchup or NHL tilt. And Erika didn’t let them down, making some key saves on a night that saw most of the play go down in the Barracudas’ opponents’ zone.

The game itself was a hard-fought battle between the hometown Barracudas and the Vaughan Flames; one Burlington salvaged with a late third-period goal that knotted the score at two goals apiece.

Because of the CWHL’s playoff format, that’s how the game ended. The next day, Burlington pulled out a thrilling overtime win over the Flames to move on and face the Montreal Stars in the semifinal next Saturday and Sunday at the Aréna Étienne-Desmarteau in Quebec.

(The Championship final takes place in Kingston, Ont., March 19-21. You can buy tickets in advance HERE.)

Good luck, Erika! (And not just because you design the pages for many of my magazine columns!) And to everyone else: go out and support some women’s hockey!

News coming out of the NHL GM meetings in Naples, Fla., Monday was positive for those who believe in reforming the league’s indefensibly antique notions of player safety – and the NHL Players’ Association is largely to thank for that.

The NHLPA presented a proposal for tougher measures against the type of head shots that have been decimating players’ careers at an alarming rate. For that fact alone, the union’s executive director Paul Kelly and his staff deserve praise.

However, in making the proposal, Kelly’s wording certainly (and judging by his later comments, unintentionally) gave the impression the NHLPA wants to take their newfound sense of self-preservation to what would be a welcome extreme.

The union’s proposal suggests three different penalties (that would range anywhere from a two-minute minor to a match penalty) for all players who “either intentionally or recklessly targets the head of that player and makes contact with any part of his body, whether it's a hand, an elbow or a shoulder,” Kelly said.

Hmmm…hand, you say, eh? Well, I never took a course in human anatomy, but I can’t help but feel that, when it comes to hockey, one person’s intentional or reckless hand that targets and makes contact with another person’s head is also called “fighting” – and last time I looked, the current NHL administration didn’t want to do away with such a rewarding and logical component of the game.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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