Just 22 years old when she had an Olympic gold medal hung around her neck,
Mélodie Daoust seemed to have the hockey world at her skates. She was the
youngest member of the Canadian contingent in Sochi and looked on track to
be a leader of the next generation of Team Canada.
It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
Amazingly, the Valleyfield, Que., native, now 25, has played only five
games with Canada’s National Women’s Team since the 2014 Olympics and just
11 international contests in all.
The rollercoaster ride started a few months after Sochi when she stepped in
a hole during a training session and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in
her knee, costing her most of the 2014-15 season.
“It took about a month-and-a-half before I could walk again, and it was
with a cane at first,” Daoust says. “The first weeks, I wasn’t able to work
out at all; it was physiotherapy every day. It was tough on me mentally.��
A frenetic rehab schedule got her back into the line-up with McGill
University just six months after her accident, and Daoust contributed 21
points in 11 games to help the Martlets reach the final at the CIS national
She put together a terrific final two seasons at McGill – back-to-back RSEQ
championships and RSEQ Player of the Year awards, in addition to
consecutive nods as a CIS (now U SPORTS) First Team All-Canadian – but
never found her way onto the Canadian roster for the IIHF Women’s World
Her final two university campaigns weren’t entirely without international
hockey. Daoust captained Canada’s National Women’s Development Team to gold
at the 2016 Nations Cup and made her return to the national team for the
first time since Sochi at the 2016 4 Nations Cup, but women’s worlds was
the call she wanted.
While missing out the first two years as she worked her way back from the
knee injury made sense, not making the cut last spring was a disappointment
– one she used to spur her towards centralization.
“I understand the year after the Olympics; I tore my ACL so obviously I
wasn’t going to be there,” Daoust says. “The year after, I think I just
wasn’t at that level yet. I thought this year was my chance to go and I
didn’t get the call, so it just drove me even more to train harder and make
sure I was going to be [centralized].”
In the end, her McGill accomplishments and previous experience were enough
to earn her a place among the 28 Olympic hopefuls and an invitation to
centralization, where – despite her Sochi success – she’s facing some of
the same challenges she did in 2013.
Three years ago Daoust was the rookie, coming to Calgary with only three
games of senior team experience. The Olympic season added 16 to that total,
but with just five since then there are some who see her a stride back of
her more seasoned teammates.
Daoust respectfully disagrees.
“I don’t think it puts me behind,” she says. “Exactly the opposite; [not
playing for Team Canada] gave me the drive to train even harder and earn my
spot for centralization. That was important to me, and now I’m ready to go.
I’m able to compete with the other girls, and I’m happy with where I’m at.
“I think this is the best spot to be in. I don’t want my spot given to me.
I worked hard, I trained hard, and now I’m ready physically and mentally to
be here and go all the way to PyeongChang.”
While her résumé may look similar to 2014, her role doesn’t. In the lead-up
to Sochi, Daoust was the wide-eyed observer, soaking in as much as she
could from veterans like Caroline Ouellette, Marie-Philip Poulin and
Now she’s eager to take on that mentor role, and help the Potomak sisters,
Micah Zandee-Hart and the other centralization newbies through the long and
sometimes exhausting journey to the Olympics.
“I learned a lot [in 2013-14], but now I feel like I’m in the position
where others can look up to me,” Daoust says. “I have the experience of
knowing what to expect during the year, so I can help the girls and have a
little more of a veteran role.”
With all she has experienced in the last three years, one would think this
Olympic opportunity might hold a little more meaning for Daoust, a
validation of sorts for the work she has put in since Sochi.
But she’s not subscribing to that theory. The Olympics are the biggest
stage in sports, and any chance to be there, no matter how many times you
have done it before, is one to be embraced.
“I think it would be just as special,” Daoust says. “Just because I’ve been
there once doesn’t mean I think it’s not as important; [the memory of
winning gold] drives me to get a second one. I’m just hungry to be a
second-time Olympian, and hopefully second-time Olympic champion.”