The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Clarkson Cup out of hockey limbo and into women's hockey hands

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CALGARY - Almost three years after it was unveiled by former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, the Clarkson Cup will finally pass into the hands of female hockey players.

Clarkson has reached a financial settlement with the artists who designed and created the Cup. She will personally present the silver trophy to the winner of the national women's hockey champion March 21 in Kingston, Ont., according to her lawyer.

"We have a deal with the artists and we have made a gift to Hockey Canada and there will be a Clarkson Cup presented," Michael Levine said Wednesday from Toronto.

Levine would not disclose terms of the deal.

An agreement between Clarkson and the artists was reached earlier this week with the knowledge that the national women's championship was looming, according to Eric Boehm, a lawyer for the artists.

"That's what brought everyone's concentration to bear," Boehm said. "Everyone wants it to be used for that purpose."

Hockey Canada didn't contribute to the settlement. Chief financial officer Paul Delparte said Clarkson was able to hand over the trophy "with no financial strings attached."

Clarkson gave the trophy to then-Canadian Olympic women's hockey team captain Cassie Campbell on July 10, 2006, at a reception in Toronto. The intent was for it to be given annually to the national champion.

But the Clarkson Cup became bogged down in a licensing dispute with the artists, who wanted royalties from any revenue the trophy generated in the future.

Clarkson commissioned silversmith Beth Biggs to create the cup. Biggs collaborated with Inuit artists Pootoogook Qiatsuk, Okpik Pitseolak and Therese Ukaliannuk from Nunavut Arctic College in its design.

The trophy has been displayed at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design and Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum, but not hoisted over the sweaty heads of victorious hockey players.

The Minnesota Whitecaps, out of Minneapolis, and the Calgary Oval X-Treme will represent the Western Women's Hockey League at the national championship. The two Canadian Women's Hockey League entries will be decided Sunday.

X-Treme defenceman Carla MacLeod of Calgary, who also plays on the Canadian women's team, hopes the Clarkson Cup can give the national championship a stronger identity.

"I think it's huge for the game," she said. "When they unveiled it back in 2006 right after the Olympics, it's something we've looked forward to. It's been a long time coming."

During the NHL lockout of the 2004-05 season, Clarkson created a stir when she suggested women should play for the Stanley Cup, since the men were not.

She then decided to create her own version of the NHL's Stanley Cup, donated to the league by Lord Stanley, governor general of Canada from 1888 to 1893.

Current Canadian women's team captain Hayley Wickenheiser has called the Clarkson Cup "the equivalent of the Stanley Cup."

"The hope is to get to a level where we can have something as prestigious as the Stanley Cup," said MacLeod.

The trophy, which has handles on both sides, is adorned with the flowers of the provinces and territories of Canada, ancient masks and the Inuit deity Sedna, who is holding a puck and a hockey stick.

The cup stands 35 centimetres tall, 32 centimetres wide and 16 centimetres in diameter.

It was housed in the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, where Biggs is an instructor, but is en route to Clarkson, said Levine.

"It will be in my hands within 24 hours," he said.

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