Defenders Becky Kellar of Hagersville, Ont., Carla Macleod of Calgary, Colleen Sostorics of Kennedy, Sask., and forward Gina Kingsbury of Rouyn-Noranda, Que., each capped their careers with a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February. Between them, they have won 10 Olympic gold medals.
Hockey Canada is holding a women's team camp next week in Calgary, Alta., so players who intended to retire made their intentions clear now.
The four athletes are leaving on the highest possible note a female hockey player can have: winning Olympic gold on home ice. Canada defeated the United States 2-0 on Feb. 25 for gold.
``I remember standing on the ice waiting for our gold medals and saying to myself 'remember this,' because it really doesn't get any better,'' Kellar said from Brantford, Ont.
Kellar, 35, is one of only four Canadians to play in all four Olympics that have included women's hockey. Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser are the others. Kellar won silver in 1998, followed by three Olympic gold medals in 2002, 20.
She's been a member of the national team for 13 years and won four world titles. She concludes her career with 13 goals and 39 assists in 173 games.
Kellar, a mother of two boys, was pregnant with her first son Owen during the 2003 world championship in Halifax. Although she's finished at the international level, Kellar will play for the Canadian Women's Hockey League team in Burlington this season.
She set a new standard for combining motherhood and hockey as the first player on the national team to have children.
``Obviously things have changed over my career, being a kid just out of university to getting married and having kids of my own and still playing,'' Kellar said. ``It's nice that it can be possible. I think it's a good thing to show the rest of the world and show other athletes, you can have it all.''
Both Kellar and Sostorics were stay-at-home defenders. Sostorics, 31, won Olympic gold in 2002, 20.
The 31-year-old finishes her international career as Canada's third-highest scoring defenceman behind Geraldine Heaney and Therese Brisson, with 14 goals and 43 assists. Sostorics also won three world championships during her career.
``This last gold medal was a pretty special one,'' Sostorics said. ``I think that four (more) years for me is too long to keep going and it's time to move on to new adventures and new challenges.
``It's mixed emotions today definitely, reflecting on all the places I've been and the great teammates I've had over the years.''
MacLeod and Kingsbury, both 28, won Olympic gold in 20. Kingsbury, who excelled on the penalty kill, had 30 goals and 45 assists in 116 international games and won three world titles. She's now an assistant coach at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, B.C.
``Maybe this is my opportunity to give back and maybe (be) a coach or a mentor for a young girl who wants to make the national team, go to college, or just achieve their goals,'' Kingsbury said in Penticton. ``I always wanted to become an Olympian and did that twice and won two gold medals. I feel like I played with a lot of pride and worked extremely hard at everything. I can say I have no regrets.''
MacLeod, an offensively creative defender, had 14 goals and 30 assists in 81 games. She was named to the all-star team at the 2006 Olympics and was also the most valuable player of the 2009 world championship.
``Coming off Vancouver and having that experience, for me, nothing could top that,'' MacLeod said from Calgary. ``I think I've accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. It seemed a pretty natural decision to hang them up and see what else is out there in life.``It's a lot of work to play at the level we've been playing that. I didn't have the drive to keep pushing to get better and at that level, that's what you need.''
MacLeod has taken a public relations job with RBC and is an assistant coach of the Mount Royal University women's hockey team.
While the debate over lopsided scores and lack of competition for Canada and the U.S. continued after these Olympics, MacLeod feels she left the sport better than she found it.``We're in the early years of women's hockey, we're still pretty much in the baby stages of the game really and my dream is to be 80 years old and going to watch a professional women's hockey league where these gals are getting paid,'' she said. ``To think you had some small part in it would be pretty exciting.''
The Canadian women's team is also undergoing a management change. Two-time Olympic coach Melody Davidson has taken on the role of head scout of the women's program. A new head coach has yet to be named.
Julie Healy, who was Hockey Canada's director of female hockey, recently took a job as a manager of team services with the Canadian Olympic Committee.