It’s hard to miss Laura Fortino.
Sure, there are the offensive instincts up front and the beat-me-if-you-can
confidence on defence, but that’s actually overcomplicating things. So just
why has the Hamilton, Ont., native become must-see on D?
Because she never seems to leave the ice.
The 26-year-old has developed into a lynchpin on the Canadian blue-line, a
minute-muncher who plays in every situation and will anchor a veteran group
in PyeongChang that includes four of the six defenceman who helped Canada
to gold four years ago in Sochi.
Her contributions to Team Canada were evident during centralization;
Fortino played in 10 of 11 international games, and was one of just four
players (joining Meghan Agosta, Marie-Philip Poulin and Jennifer Wakefield)
to appear in all six games of the pre-Olympic series against the United
“I think that’s something everyone wants to take pride in, being that
player the coaches rely on,” she says. “The more and more I have been a
part of this team, that’s something I’ve really wanted – to be that player.
I do bring that two-way game, and now to be playing in those key situations
is awesome, and I’m very privileged to have that. It’s something I have
worked hard for.”
After bursting onto the international scene with an all-star performance at
the 2012 IIHF Women’s World Championship, helping Canada to its 10th and
most recent world title, Fortino earned her way to centralization, and
eventually to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
By the time the Sochi Games were done, Fortino was a household name –
thanks in no small part to her assist on the overtime goal by Marie-Philip
Poulin to give Canada a come-from-behind win over the U.S. and a
fourth-consecutive Olympic gold.
The golden moment was a jumping-off point to playing a larger role, one she
has wholeheartedly embraced.
“[My game has] done a 180,” she says. “In Sochi, it was me just making this
team. I did get a lot of attention, but I embraced it. I look at it as more
motivation, to want to become better every day, and I know I can be. I took
that moment – ‘Wow, I can perform in that’ – and I know I can be that much
“It’s something I take pride in – coming to the rink every day and being
that consistent player, whether it is in the gym or on the ice, in practice
or in a game.”
Being a veteran this time around has allowed Fortino to pass it forward –
to spend time with and mentor the young defencemen, and do for them what
players like Catherine Ward did for her in the lead-up to Sochi.
That mindset has long been a hallmark of Canada’s National Women’s Team;
leave the program in a better place than you found it, and Fortino hasn’t
hesitated to give back.
“We did have a lot of young girls back there, and I think I tried every
single day to get to know them on a deeper level,” she says. “I tried to
help them in any part of their game, really give them that confidence and
emphasize what strengths they bring to this team because I knew how much it
meant to me. It really helped and went a long way for me, so I wanted to be
that player this year that helped them.”
As the calendar turned to January it marked a decade in the national
program for Fortino, who made her Team Canada debut at the 2008 IIHF World
Women’s U18 Championship in Calgary.
Ten years, seven world championships and an Olympics later, she has been
through the ups and downs of the international game, gaining knowledge
about herself and her game with every goal and assist, every win and loss.
So if she could go back in time and chat with 16-year-old Laura Fortino,
what would the advice be?
“Continue to believe in myself, believe in my strengths, and to have
confidence no matter what the situation is. To always stay true to myself
on and off the ice, because the person I am got me to where I am today.”