For Team Canada veterans Becky Kellar, Gina Kingsbury, Carla MacLeod and Colleen Sostorics, winning gold in front of a red and white crowd at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. was very much the cherry on top of their storied and successful on-ice careers.
So for the long-time members of Canada’s National Women’s Team, it seems only natural for them to hang up their jerseys following such sweet success, and focus instead on next steps and new goals.
“Winning that gold medal was unbelievable and something I’ll never forget,” MacLeod, who spent seven seasons with the National Women’s Team, said Tuesday, shortly after she and her three teammates formally announced their retirements from international hockey. “I’ve accomplished what I wanted to do and now it’s an opportunity to see what else is out there.”
Whether that’s helping out with women’s hockey coaching duties for the Mount Royal University Cougars in her hometown of Calgary, Alta. or trying her luck at sports broadcasting, the two-time Olympic gold medallist and 2007 world champion says she’s more than excited to see what new adventures and accomplishments life might have in store.
“After this last gold medal, I took some time to think about it, and realized that I am ready for whatever life holds … next,” agreed Sostorics, who won three Olympic gold medals and three IIHF World Women’s Championship gold medals over a full decade with the National Women’s Team. “I’m really thankful for everything that I’ve had up to this point.”
With that stockpile of gold medals and the motivation it took to earn them, the Kennedy, Sask. native has been touring western Canada and sharing her story of athletic success in hopes of encouraging others to strive for excellence. “I just want to give back to the sporting community that has given me so much and really defined my life.”
For Kellar, who leaves Team Canada after 13 seasons and as the oldest member of the Vancouver 2010 contingent, the next chapter of her life will be to help her two young sons, five-year-old Owen and three-year-old Zachary, write their own stories and reach their own dreams.
“The kids are getting really busy; at their age they’re into a lot of activities,” Kellar said over the phone Tuesday with a chuckle, while taking a break from a round of golf. “Owen is playing this year for the first time … I’m hoping to be able to help coach his team.”
Teaching the sport she loves to others is also a natural step forward for Kingsbury, who started as assistant coach at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, B.C. for the 2010-11 season.
“Everything kind of happens for a reason,” Kingsbury, from Rouyn-Noranda, Que., said over the phone before hitting the ice for practice, this time holding a whistle instead of a stick. “It’s just my time to kind of move on to a different position in the game.”
After winning three IIHF World Women’s Championships and two Olympic gold medals over nine years with the National Women’s Team, Kingsbury explains it’s time to focus her attention on “helping young athletes achieve their goals,” a mission all four retirees seem to have in common.
They also have memories in common. Memories created and shared over their years as a team.
“The teammates, the camaraderie, the moments you have in the dressing room – that’s what makes hockey so special,” Kellar pointed out.
“It’s all about the relationships – the people you’ve met and the friendships that have been established,” MacLeod added. “When I think of not coming to the rink, that’s what I’m going to miss.”
And then, of course, there’s the sparkling pinnacle of Olympic gold on home ice.
“Having that gold medal placed around your neck, on Canadian soil, with a great bunch of girls who went through a lot this last year, and to be able to share that moment with them, was unbelievable,” Sostorics said, becoming choked up as she remembered that irreplaceable, unforgettable time
“That final game in February was pretty special,” agreed Kingsbury. “To (end) my career off on that note in front of a Canadian crowd … it was just absolutely amazing.
“It was a perfect finish.”