Kennedy, Saskatchewan sits some 200 kilometers east of Regina, and has some 240 inhabitants – on a good day. Each and every single one of them has a special connection to the Olympic Winter Games: Team Canada defenceman and sparkplug Colleen Sostorics, a native of Kennedy who has gone to represent them, and all of Canada, on the biggest international sporting stage of them all.
Kennedy’s population dropped by one a few years back, when Colleen Sostorics moved to Calgary to train full-time, and chase her dream of patrolling the blue line for Canada’s National Women’s Team at World Championships and the Olympics. But Kennedy could always count on her. When she plays, when she speaks, the town of Kennedy is always in the forefront. And when you drive through Kennedy, you may very well end up on Colleen Sostorics Way, a street named after her following the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Sostorics’ story is a very Canadian story. Smalltown kid plays minor hockey all the way up, first lacing up the skates at the age of four. Voted captain of the town’s boys Bantam AA team. And now an Olympic hero. Except this was a girl playing boy’s hockey. Not that anyone ever brought that to her attention.
“I think that I have the community and the boys that I played with to thank for where I am today. If they wouldn’t have been supportive of having a girl on the team, and had picked on me or made me feel unwelcome, I probably never would have kept playing and been able to come to a great thing like the Olympics. I really do have the community of Kennedy and the guys who I played with growing up to thank for this.”
“Playing in Kennedy, you play with the same group of players growing up all the way from when you’re four years old. Every year, you’re with the same core group of players. So, to the guys on my team, I was just another hockey player. Just ‘one of the boys’, if you will. It was really just my friends that I was playing with, not that I was a girl on a boys team.”
While Sostorics notes that she hasn’t been able to stay in touch with all of her former teammates, she knows that they are somewhere watching and cheering for their former neighbour, classmate and captain.
“I’m sure they’re all very, very proud, and glued to their tvs. Not only to watch us play but all the Olympics. I think it really brings Canada together in the small towns in rural Saskatchewan.”
“Everytime that I run into one of them on the street, when I’m home, or in Regina, they’re always saying ‘Do you remember when?’ and ‘I can’t believe that I used to play with you’. So all the guys are so supportive. I also get the odd e-mail of support from them as well.”
With only hours left before another ‘most important game of her life’, Sostorics’ focus stays the same. And the fact that Sweden, a team that Canada has defeated 43 times in their 44 meetings. A team that Canada beat nine times this year, including a 2-0 exhibition game seven days before the Winter Olympics bgean.
“It hasn’t changed our preparation at all. We’re still into the game, as it’s where we wanted to be, in the gold medal final. We had a great practice today, we have a pre-game skate tomorrow. And we’ll be ready when the puck drops at 8:30.”
So will Kennedy.
Sostorics on the advantage of having the experience of playing in an Olympic final in 2002
“Being at a second Olympics, you sort of know what to expect going into that final game. And we know what it means, so we’re preparing as well as we can so that we have the best game of our lives.”