Memories of Olympic Gold serve as motivation for future stars.
Where were you?
Brianne Jenner can tell you where she was.
So can Marie-Philip Poulin.
And Laura Fortino.
And Breann Frykas.
In fact, the majority of Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team can tell you where they were on that day, the day Canada’s National Women’s Team claimed its first Olympic gold medal with a 3-2 victory over the United States in Salt Lake City.
“I remember sitting with my mom on the couch at home watching the game, and we were both pulling our hair out at the number of penalties that were called (against the Canadians),” says Jenner, who won a silver medal with Canada at the 2008 IIHF World Women’s Under-18 Championship and captained the U18 national team last summer.
Last February marked the 10th anniversary of women’s hockey at the Olympic Winter Games, and while many of today’s U18 players are too young to remember 1998 – Jenner and Poulin were just six years old when Canada fell short in the gold medal game against the United States in Nagano – there is no shortage of Olympic memories for the game’s future stars.
Like the 2002 gold medal, for example.
In a survey of more than 40 players at a women’s under-18 strength and conditioning camp in Calgary in June, more than 90 per cent said the gold in Salt Lake City ranked as their most memorable international hockey moment, ahead of the 2006 gold and any of Canada’s nine world championships.
So what is it about the Olympics? What is it that has so many of these players focused on the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, if not Vancouver in 2010?
“It’s the Olympics,” Jenner says, matter-of-factly. “Playing for Canada at the world championship would be a huge thrill, but nothing would beat playing at the Olympics and having a chance to win an Olympic gold medal.”
“The Olympics would be unbelievable,” adds Poulin. “Getting to be around some of the best athletes in the world, in all of the sports, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
While the Olympics may be once (or twice)-in-a-lifetime for Poulin, Jenner and the rest of Canada’s future stars, interacting with their Olympic heroes has become a little more common.
Since the introduction of the National Women’s Under-18 Team, more and more young players are getting the chance to be a part of women’s camps, getting the chance to rub shoulders with gold medalists like Cheryl Pounder, Jayna Hefford and National Women’s Team captain Hayley Wickenheiser.
“You can see how they carry themselves, both on and off the ice,” Jenner says. “I really can’t think of any better way to learn how to become a player of that caliber than by watching and talking to the ones who have reached that level.”
But through all the practices and games, through all the advice she has been given from some of the best women’s players ever to lace up a pair of skates, Jenner still looks back to , to the hair pulling and nervousness on the couch with her mom, for one of the greatest lessons she has learned.
“The way the gold medal game was going, with the amount of penalties called against Canada, it really became the underdog,” Jenner says. “But the girls kept playing their game, and won gold. I just learned that there are some things you can control during a game, and some things you can’t. You just need to focus on what you can control, and it will work out in the end.”