For Ashton Bell, adapting to change has been key to her success in the
Bell got her Team Canada start as a forward, winning silver with Canada’s
National Women’s Under-18 Team at the 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s World
Championship. She returned the following year under then-U18 head coach
Troy Ryan, was named captain and helped secure another silver medal for
It was in her sophomore year with the University of Minnesota Duluth that
the change came for Bell, making the switch from forward to defence.
The move was suggested by Hockey Canada staff alongside the Bulldogs’
coaching staff, who worked with her on the transition.
“They brought it up to me after my sophomore year at school and we kind of
just started talking about it and then made that transition into my junior
year,” Bell explains. “[It was] definitely a big move, but I love playing
defence and it was a good challenge for me.”
After captaining the Bulldogs to the NCAA Frozen Four as a senior in 2021,
Bell got tapped by Ryan again, this time to represent Canada at the 2021
IIHF Women’s World Championship.
The 22-year-old, who was the second-youngest player on the Canadian roster,
averaged more close 12 minutes of ice time per game and scored her first
National Women’s Team goal in a quarterfinal win over Germany en route to a
“It was such a cool experience just to be a part of it all,” Bell says.
“You look up to these players for so long, it was definitely a surreal
feeling getting to play with them. Just being a part of it all was so
The rookie defender adapted to the new environment with help from the
team’s veteran blueliners like fellow Manitoban Jocelyne Larocque.
“Someone like Ashton Bell, their first international games with the senior
team being at a world championship is very unusual,” says Larocque. “And
I've been asked by media on interviews, ‘Are you worried about how young or
how inexperienced your D corps is?’ and my answer is ‘No, not at all.’
Those players are ready. They're confident. Their ability is amazing. So,
we try to just keep things light and keep things fun and remind them that
they're there for a reason.”
Bell uses the experience gained at women’s worlds as she trains and
competes with Canada’s National Women’s Team as part its centralization
season, preparing for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
“The vets on D like Larocque, [Erin] Ambrose, [Renata] Fast...they were all
great with me,” Bell says. “If I had questions, they were open to answer
them for me, and the coaches were great, too. They knew I was going to take
time to get used to that pace and playing at this level.”
The Deloraine, Man., native inspired the next generation of hockey players
in her community with her world championship win and hopes to do so again
at the Olympics.
“When I was home [after worlds], I actually had a little gathering in town
and all the little girls came up and seeing the big smiles on their faces
and the medal around their necks, they were just so pumped,” Bell says.
It’s a tight-knit hockey community in Deloraine (population: 978), where
passionate volunteers and coaches help players like Bell thrive.
“We're in a small community,” says Bob Caldwell, a skills coach who has
worked with Bell. “We run a Breakfast Club here. At 7:30 in the morning, we
run skill sessions for 45 minutes before school, and then feed the kids
breakfast. Ashton's mom still looks after the program today.”
Bell showed early promise with the Deloraine Minor Hockey Association
before playing U18 AAA with the Westman Wildcats of the Manitoba Female
Hockey League, winning back-to-back league MVP honours in 2015-16 and
“It might [have been] -40 degrees in Manitoba…they called school off, but
we kept having hockey practices,” Caldwell remembers. “But every time I got
to the rink—I wouldn't get there until 7:00—there'd be one little person
out skating around the rink, and that was Ashton. She'd beat me to the rink
almost every morning. That's how keen she was.”
If Bell earns a place on Canada’s Olympic roster, she would join a small
group of women’s hockey Olympians from Manitoba, joining Larocque,
three-time gold medallist Jennifer Botterill, Bailey Bram, Brigette
Lacquette and two-time gold medallist Sami Jo Small.
On the possibility of that opportunity, Bell says, “I think it's huge for
Manitoba and small community like where I’m from. I’m from a very rural
area, so I just feel so honoured to be able to inspire those young girls
and make them realize that they can dream as well and get to where I am.”
Canada’s National Women’s Team’s centralization schedule continues Monday night (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) with Canada facing off against the United
States in its seventh of nine games in the Rivalry Series.