Although we’d like to think that Canadians are born hockey superstars, natural talent only goes so far after you lace up the skates. It takes hard work to develop a good player into a great one. Fortunately, work ethic is something more Canadian than apologizing.
Most of the younger players on Canada’s National Women’s Team started skating not long after they learned to walk. After many 7 a.m. practices, late night shinny games and dented garage doors, their journeys led them Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team and then Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team.
Those two teams are important steps in Canada’s National Women’s Program, where players prepare themselves for that next and final step up to the senior National Women’s Team, ultimately realizing their dreams of playing at the women’s worlds and Olympic Winter Games.
But it is on Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team and Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team that the next Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford can be found, training hard for their moments in the Team Canada spotlight.
Catherine Dubois (Quebec City, Que./Limoilou, Collégial AA), for instance, has been playing hockey since she was five years old, following in the footsteps of her father and two older brothers.
“I wanted to be like them, and they were playing hockey, so I asked my parents if I could play hockey, too,” Dubois explains in an email interview.
Thirteen years after holding her first hockey stick, she scored a critical goal to help Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team defeat the United States 2-1 at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship in Finland this past January. With a gold medal around her neck, Dubois has of course set her sights on Canada’s National Women’s Team.
The same can be said for Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, Ont./Clarkson University, ECAC). The 20-year-old plays for Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team and studies business at Clarkson University. Her hockey career started at the age of four, and since then, she has eaten, slept and breathed the game.
“My life revolves around the rink, and it has grown in a way that my teammates are now my best friends,” Rattray writes. “It is a lifestyle that I wouldn’t change for anything.”
Along with notching four points in the 2013 Meco Cup final against Russia to help Canada win 8-3 this past January, Rattray collected her 100th career point with Clarkson University on January 27, soon after coming back from Germany with Meco Cup gold.
Mélodie Daoust (Valleyfield, Que./McGill University, CIS) also racked up the points in Canada’s victory over Russia, scoring two goals and adding two assists. Her journey to Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team started at just five years old.
On her birthday, she would invite her whole hockey team to play shinny in her backyard. Years later, she found herself spending the summer in Kelowna, far from her family in Valleyfield, Que., squeezing in some extra training before the under-22 selection camp in August.
“Being there by myself was hard sometimes, but I don’t regret it,” Daoust says of being far from home. Her sacrifice paid off in the end, as she leads McGill University in scoring this season and earned a spot on Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team. “Being able to wear the Canada jersey is the best feeling I ever had."
Karly Heffernan (Sherwood Park, Alta. /Edge School, JWHL) also sees the positives in travelling. In her early teens, she moved away from home to attend the Edge School for Athletes in Calgary, Alta.
“It’s definitely forced me to grow up from a little girl to an independent woman. I’ve learned so much about who I am as I person and it’s helped me appreciate my family and hometown a lot more,” she says.
Attending the Edge School for Athletes is only one step on a path that began when Heffernan was only three years old. Since then, she has put in hours of effort to improve her game. It’s helped her realize that hard work is the most important thing. Heffernan’s dedication to hockey earned her a spot on Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team, and she scored the winning goal in overtime to defeat the United States at this year’s world championship, winning gold along with Dubois and her other teammates, many who pulled on Team Canada jerseys for the first time at that tournament in Finland.
The 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship is fast approaching. Dubois, Daoust, Rattray, and Heffernan may not be quite ready yet, but they are training hard to achieve their goals. They are the next generation in a long legacy of Canadian female hockey players, and in coming years, they will don the red and white maple leaf jersey and represent our country at the highest level. They will step out onto the ice, and in that second, all of their hard work will be worthwhile. Don’t miss the moment!