For three Team Canada players, Wednesday’s game against Sweden at the 2003 4 Nations Cup was much more than the opening game of another international hockey event.
Annie Desrosiers (St-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, QC), Carla MacLeod (Calgary, AB) and Sarah Vaillancourt (Sherbrooke, QC) each made their debuts with Canada’s senior team in Skara. Each of them took different journeys to arrive at this point. But all of them were thrilled to be finally getting the chance to don the Team Canada jersey with the likes of veterans Cassie Campbell, Becky Kellar and Hayley Wickenheiser. And they hope that this is the beginning of a long career with the senior team.
" I wasn’t thinking about it and then during warmup, Kelly Béchard skated by and said: hey, this is your first game," said Carla MacLeod "Then it hit me that I’m really playing. It’s just awesome. "
" Truly, I felt that it was different," said Annie Desrosiers. "My stomach was full of butterflies, especially during the national anthem (before the game). When the national anthem started, I just told myself: I’m really here. "
"Surtout pendant l’échauffement que ça me frappait," a dit Sarah Vaillancourt. "Je voyais les noms sur les chandails des autres et je me rendais compte : j’suis là. Mon premier shift, je ne m’en rappelle même pas."
For MacLeod, the game against Sweden was another success story for Canada’s developmental Under-22 program. The only rookie defenceman at the 4 Nations Cup has been a mainstay of this program since the second year of existence of the program, and was named captain for the past two campaigns. A year ago, MacLeod was meant to make her debut, but she suffered a broken leg only weeks before she was set to get her first shot with the senior team at last year’s 4 Nations Cup.
Desrosiers has been on the outside looking in for a couple of years as well. The lanky forward played with the Under-22 team in 2000-2001 and has taken part in numerous senior team development camps since. On Wednesday night, in the especially unique surrounding of the Skara Ishall, Desrosiers finally stepped onto the ice with Team Canada in a game situation.
Vaillancourt’s journey has certainly not been as long as her two rookie teammates. Less than a year ago, the ultra-skilled and highly thought-of youngster was leading Quebec to a silver medal at the Canada Winter Games. And here she is, as a 17 year-old, lining up with fellow ‘québécoises’ Gina Kingsbury and Caroline Ouellette, on Team Canada’s version of the ‘French Connection’.
Canada defeated Sweden 6-1 on Wednesday in a game that will be forgotten by most in the coming days, weeks or months. But for three players, it will be never forgotten, not by a long shot.
A fourth Team Canada member, Doug Lidster, was also a rookie of sorts, standing behind the bench for the first time as an assistant coach. The former NHL-er and former Medicine Hat assistant coach is learning the ropes from long-time women’s team coaches Karen Hughes and Ken Dufton.