As far as writing the perfect ending goes, it would be hard to script anything much better than beating your biggest rival on the world’s largest sporting
Although she didn’t know it at the time, when Canada defeated the United States at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Gillian Apps marked her golden goodbye to
Canada’s National Women’s Team. After taking a year away from hockey, Apps is officially retiring from Team Canada.
“I think it’s just the right time for me,” says Apps. “I’ve had an absolutely amazing journey with the national team. I think as an athlete you hope that
you’re able to go out on your own terms and at the time that you hopefully feel is right. I feel very fortunate that it was my decision. I couldn’t have
written my career in a better way.”
Apps won gold medals at three Olympics (2006, 2010, 2014), three IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships (2004, 2007, 2012) and eight 4 Nations Cups
(2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013).
As much as those three Olympic gold medals mean to Apps, it’s the road travelled to those final games in Turin, Vancouver and Sochi that have resonated
“[I loved] just being a part of those teams and going through the process of living in Calgary during the Olympic years,” she says. “I think having that
year to be with my teammates and just everything we went through, from being on the road on the bus travelling, those are the things you remember – the
memories I created with my teammates and the fun we had.”
In 2001 Apps made Canada’s National Women’s Team only months after she captained Ontario Red to the gold medal at the first National Women’s Under-18
Championship. She’s proud of the longevity she was able to sustain.
“Coming to the team as an 18-year-old and sticking with it into my 30s, I had an opportunity to play with some amazing players, be coached by incredible
coaches and kind of grow up in the Hockey Canada system.”
Being a part of the team for so many years allowed Apps to travel the world. She’s worn the maple leaf in Switzerland, China, Sweden and Finland, among
many more places. But she’s most thankful that her time with the team allowed her to see more of her home and native land.
“I’ve seen so many parts of our country that I never would’ve seen, whether it’s other provinces and small towns,” she says. “I’ve had a chance to meet
people from all over our country who have been so incredibly supportive of our team, of our sport. That’s something that I never took for granted. I was
always excited to go somewhere new but also to return to some places in Canada where we just have great fans and a lot of support.”
Her first world championship was in 2004 in Halifax, N.S., and she can still see the packed arena 11 years later. Events in Winnipeg and Ottawa and, of
course, Vancouver are just as vivid. “I had an opportunity to play at a home Games, which is not something every athlete gets to experience. I think that
was very special, just to feel the support of the entire country playing in our country.”
While Apps hasn’t played competitively since Sochi (she also sat out last season with her CWHL team, the Brampton Thunder), she hasn’t been completely away
from the ice. She’s been active doing motivational speaking and helping at development camps at the grassroots level.
“I’ve been sharing my experience and talking to young girls,” she says. “Even if it’s from the mentorship side of things, whether they have questions about
how to go about playing hockey in university or what it takes to make the national team I enjoy talking to kids about that and helping them out if I can.”
She became involved with She Swings She Scores, an initiative between the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association and the Golf Association of Ontario to get
more hockey players on the golf course. (Apps’ own golf game? “Good, sometimes,” she says, laughing.)
With no hockey routine to worry about Apps was also free to check at least one item off of her bucket list. At the end of August she completed her first
Ironman triathlon. “I had the time and was looking for a new challenge so why not take the plunge and take it on. It pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
As for what’s next for Apps, that’s still up in the air.
“I’m going to take the next little bit to figure that out, whether it’s staying in sport, whether it’s taking a step away from sport for a little bit,” she
says. “I’m not sure yet what’s next but it’s an exciting time and I’m excited to figure it out and see where I end up.”