Nestled off Cook’s Bay, at the southern tip of Lake Simcoe about an hour
north of Toronto, is Keswick, Ontario. It’s a little hockey hotbed,
producing some major professional stars, and if the fates are fair this
summer, it might be the hometown of not one, but two world champions.
“Maybe there’s something in the water in Keswick, I don’t know what it is,”
laughs Sean Walker, a gold medallist with Canada’s National Men’s Team at
the 2021 IIHF World Championship.
“When I was watching, I was like ‘Oh my gosh!’ even though I knew he was
there,” says Erin Ambrose, a blue-liner with Canada’s National Women’s
Team. “And then once I saw him with the trophy, I was like, ‘Holy crow,
Seany’s a gold medallist!’ which is awesome.”
Walker and Ambrose grew up as teammates and friends in the small Ontario
town. Playing first with the Georgina Blaze and then the York Simcoe
Express, Walker remembers his excitement when he got to play alongside
Ambrose for the first time.
“Immediately she was a standout on our team, one of our best players for
sure,” Walker, a Los Angeles Kings defenceman, says. “She scored, defended
well, she did it all.
“We always thought she would play for Team Canada at some point.”
Ambrose made her debut with Team Canada in 2009 with the National Women’s
Under-18 Team, scoring twice and adding an assist in a three-game series
against the United States. She went on to play in three IIHF U18 Women’s
World Championships (the only Canadian to ever do so), picking up two golds
and a silver medal.
At the senior level, Ambrose has silver and bronze medal from the IIHF
Women’s World Championship and is looking to complete the set in Calgary.
“Those other two colours are there and we’re obviously super fortunate and
thankful to be a part of those groups, but there’s one we’re definitely
missing and we’re going for it,” Ambrose says.
“I don’t think she would be too happy if I’m the only one with a gold,”
Walker laughs, pointing out that his former teammate already has two medals
from the top-division worlds. “She’s competitive and she’s going to want to
be matching [my gold medal] and then she can say she’s got more medals than
me for sure.”
Walker suited up for the first time with Team Canada this spring and was
part of one of the greatest come-from-behind stories in Canadian hockey
history, starting 0-3 but going on to win the gold medal. He agrees there
are slight parallels in his team’s journey to success as with the women’s
team, though acknowledges their path has been much longer.
“They’ve had a tough go with the worlds getting cancelled and their pro
leagues getting shut down, but they just keep on bouncing back and
persevering and finding a way to make it work,” Walker says of Ambrose and
her teammates going for gold.
“Obviously we struggled, so hopefully that can be an inspiration to them to
not give up and anything can really happen when you’re in that kind of
Ambrose and Walker played in dozens of tournaments together over their
minor hockey careers, often with great success. The 1994-born group with
the Express also included fellow Keswick product Chris Tierney, a
seven-year National Hockey League (NHL) veteran who has spent the past four
seasons with the Ottawa Senators. Ambrose believes it was with that team
she first learned how to win.
“My last year, we won the [Ontario Minor Hockey Association championship]
and that was kind of the coolest way to go out for me,” she says. “I know
when the group of us moved from Georgina to York Simcoe … we were a big
cornerstone … Seany and I on the back end.”
While the childhood nickname “Seany” still comes out instinctively from
Ambrose, she says the two don’t talk as often as they could. But they do
both keep tabs on the other, watching and cheering for their fellow
“To see both of us come out of a small town and where we started and where
we are today is definitely something to be proud of,” Walker says, while
sending good luck to Ambrose. “Everybody already knows she’s going to do
“It’s been a long journey, I think, for both of us in a lot of different
ways,” Ambrose finishes. “It’s pretty cool to see that our paths continue
to cross, all the way from Keswick.”