The email Chelsea Stewart was waiting for would change her life. It would
tell her if she would become a member of Canada Soccer’s Women’s National
Team that would be going to the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing.
The only problem was Vancouver—where the midfielder was based at the
time—was experiencing a power outage.
“I couldn’t access my emails or anything,” recalls Stewart, who works today
as a manager of hockey operations with Hockey Canada. “I was calling my
mom, calling my best friends trying to get them online to check my emails.”
Unfortunately, she didn’t make the team, but her Olympic journey was not
over. While back home with her family in Washington, Stewart got a call
from one of the team managers. Veteran forward Amber Allen was unable to
compete due to a leg injury and the team was considering bringing the then
18-year-old in for the tournament. The team’s only concern was that she had
recently sprained her ankle.
“I was in my backyard running, striking the ball to make sure I was good to
go because obviously it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on,”
Soon afterwards, she made it to Beijing and served as an alternate. But the
moment she truly felt like an Olympian came four years later, when Stewart
was once again waiting to hear if she made the Olympic team.
“I had my brother and my mom in the room, and they were so nervous. I think
they were more nervous than I was,” she says. “I got the call and had a bit
of a celebration with them in my room.”
Ahead of London 2012, Stewart says her team had a few goals: create a
legacy, leave the game in a better place and reach the podium. Despite
being an underdog in the tournament, Team Canada won bronze, marking the
first time since Berlin 1936 that Canada had won an Olympic medal in a
traditional team summer sport.
“Having those (goals) realized is obviously a dream come true” says
Stewart, who appeared in four games in London. “I think it shows to people
that you can impact others, you can accomplish your dreams.”
The road to an Olympic medal began when Stewart was about five years old,
with a little inspiration from her older sister, Emily.
“I wanted to do everything that she did. I idolized her as a kid and I
still do,” Stewart says. “So, when she was out on the soccer field and I
had to go watch her games on the sideline, it was ‘Mom, I want to go out
there, I want to do what Emily’s doing.’”
Her passion for soccer was there from the start, and it continued to grow
as she grew up with the game. Stewart even had the opportunity to play
alongside her sister along the way.
It wasn’t until the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, when she was nine years
old, that the midfielder realized her love of soccer could be bigger than
playing for her local team. Nine years later, Stewart joined the national
team program. She won gold with Team Canada at the 2020 CONCACAF U20
Championship and, in 2009, was named Canadian U20 Player of the Year. As a
member of the senior team, Stewart won medals in all four of her Cyprus Cup
appearances, including gold in 2011. She also played at the 2011 FIFA
Women’s World Cup and 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Her love for soccer is undeniable, but Stewart is also passionate about
hockey. Although she admits she “was not a great hockey player,” she played
until she was 14. Everyone in her family has played hockey or has been
involved with the game at some point.
Her father, Bill, played for Team Canada in the lead up to the 1984
Sarajevo Olympics and played collegiately at the University of Denver. He
was a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota North Stars in 1980, playing in
their farm system for two years. Bill also helped to create a pair of
minor-league teams, the Colorado Eagles and Wenatchee Wild.
“He’s always been involved in starting clubs or helping run them,” Stewart
says. “From him, I’ve always been around (hockey), and I love international
sport in general. That’s kind of what brought me to Hockey Canada.”
It’s been nine years since Stewart won her bronze medal, but almost all her
teammates are still involved in sports in some aspect. Some are in Tokyo
playing in this year’s Olympics, some pursued coaching or broadcasting, and
those like Stewart got into the managerial side.
“It’s a passion,” Stewart says of working in sports. “That fire never burns
out, especially when you committed so much of your life to it. It just
burns really bright.”
The teamwork aspect of working in sport was one of the reasons why Stewart
joined Hockey Canada two years ago.
“I think for me, transitioning from athlete to fan, to helping our future
athletes in the hockey side, has been exciting for me because I know what
our athletes are going through.”
As hockey begins to return across the country, Stewart says it’s like the
first sign of normalcy. Part of her duties over the next few months include
helping Team Canada prepare for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing,
and the location of the event is bringing back memories.
“It’s a bit of a full circle for me,” she says. “I’m really excited to help
our teams prep for that.”
With her bronze medal safely stored in a drawer under her bed, Stewart is
looking forward to cheering on her former teammates competing in Tokyo.
“As a fan, it’s a different type of nerves. But I also get to enjoy it a
little bit more. I feel obviously a lot less pressure.
“I love being a fan and I love getting to watch people I care about really
doing the country proud.”