Hooper joins Wildcats' cast of stars

Rob Brodie

, Last Updated: 12:22 AM ET

Here's just what the rest of the W-League -- including the Ottawa Fury -- really needs to hear.

The defending champion New Jersey Wildcats, already the league's most star-studded aggregation, announced this week they've added Charmaine Hooper to their lineup for the 2006 season.

Even at 38, the Ottawa native remains one of the finest women's soccer players on the planet. A year after giving birth to her first child (daughter Charlie), she's still scoring goals for the Canadian national team, still doing her part to get Canada into the 2007 women's World Cup.

In other words, she's going to be a handful for the rest of the W-League including the Fury, which was blanked by the Wildcats 3-0 in last season's championship game.

"We've had some pretty significant signings over the past few seasons, and this one might be the biggest," said Wildcats GM Patric Santo Pietro.

But Hooper insists she's not just signing on with the Wildcats because they're currently the league's best. Rather, she aims to keep them there in the season ahead.

"The fact that New Jersey won the championship last year had no bearing on my decision to play for the Wildcats," Hooper said on her website. "With some of the names that I learned will be playing for the Wildcats (in 2006), it didn't take long for me to decide that New Jersey would be an exciting team to be a part of. And it can possibly be a team with a good chance to compete for the W-League championship once again."

Hooper is already a W-League legend. In 1995, she was the league's first scoring champion, a feat she repeated twice more including 2000, when the 5-foot-7 striker led the Chicago Cobras to the W-League crown. She was inducted into the United Soccer Leagues Hall of Fame in 2002.

Then there's Hooper's record back home in Canada, where she's the country's all-time leader in career international caps (128) and goals (67). She's worn the red maple leaf in three women's World Cups including 2003, when she earned all-star status.

"We've spoken a bit here and there over the past couple of years about her joining us, and I'm glad it finally worked out," said Wildcats coach Charlie Naimo. "She will add so much to the team -- her experience, her leadership, her versatility.

"I can go on forever (about her)."

Capital soccer fans might want to circle June 10 on their calendars. That's the night Hooper and the Wildcats will tangle with the Fury at Keith Harris Stadium.

The sides also meet May 21 in Princeton, N.J.

FURY BULKS UP: With an eye toward landing a playoff berth in their second Premier Development League season, the Ottawa Fury men announced three key signings this week. All are U.S. college players with international experience. Midfielder Carlo Schiavoni of Lachine, Que., represented Canada at last year's world youth championships in the Netherlands, with defender Peter Petropanagos of Mississauga, who is a former Canadian Under-18 team member. Forward Murphy Wiredu of Brampton has earned two caps for Canada at the Under-20 level. The Fury men play their season opener May 28 at Keith Harris Stadium against the Westchester (N.Y.) Flames.

GYM DANDIES: With their results at Elite Ontario, Laura Hunt, Amy White and Kayla Davis of the Ottawa Gymnastics Club qualified for this weekend's Eastern Canadian championships in Hamilton. Hunt was the provincial champ in Level 7 (+14 years), while White and Davis were and second and fourth overall in Level 9 (+14 years). In age 12-13, Catherine Laporte (Level 7 floor exercise) and Teslin Sandstrom (Level 8 vault) each won apparatus bronze medals ... At the provincial championships in St. Catharines last weekend, three OGC competitors brought home medals. In Level 6 for nine year olds, Bella St. George was fourth overall, including a bronze on balance beam, while Kayta Dunets placed sixth all-around, with a gold medal on uneven bars and silver on floor. In Level 6 (age 12-13), Sabrina Benoit earned a silver medal on bars.

AROUND THE AMATEUR SCENE: Ten Ottawa-Carleton Ultimate Association junior team members have been named to the Canadian teams which will bid for world junior titles Aug. 13-18 in Devens, Mass. The women's national squad includes Alex Benedict, Anne Mercier, Carrie Lugg, Kathryn Pohran and Maddie Hall, while Jordan Cullen, Pat L'Esperance, Jamie Walsh, Kielan Way and Thomas Maloney will suit up in Canadian colours for the men.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


Photos