Jaime Bourbonnais loves talking hockey with her grandfather Roger. She loves seeing old photos of him in his hockey gear and watching videos of the smooth-skating centre in the Team Canada sweater.
But there’s one memento of his she won’t get too close to.
“I have a superstition,” she says. “I’m not going to touch an Olympic medal until it’s mine. He’s showed it to me, but I’ve never touched it.”
Jaime is one of the 42 players invited to Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team selection camp. When it comes to seeing how far hockey dreams can take a player, she doesn’t have to look too far.
Her grandfather captained the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup in 1963. That fall he enrolled in the law program at the University of British Columbia, the campus being home to Canada’s first National Men’s Team. Roger competed at both the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Winter Games, capturing a bronze medal in the latter and winning two more medals at the IIHF World Championships in between.
He’s been inducted into both the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame and the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I remember him telling me about playing in the Olympics and how he’ll never forget that feeling of stepping on the ice for the first time,” says Jaime. “He said it was just so good to be with the team.”
Only 15, Jaime has experienced some early success of her own. Last season, her high school team, Appleby College in Oakville, Ont., finished third at the provincial championship.
Despite playing different positions – Jaime is a defenceman – when it comes to on-ice presence, the apple didn’t fall far from the family tree.
“I’ve seen videos of him playing and he’s a very smooth skater,” says Jaime. “He tells me that I skate like him. My whole family says I skate like him, which is kind of funny because I’ve always wanted to be able to say I compare to my grandfather.”
Roger, 71, sees the same tenacity and quickness in his granddaughter’s game. He sees the same passion for the sport, too.
With Roger living in Vancouver and Jaime and her family living in Mississauga, Ont., Roger doesn’t get to see his granddaughter play as often as he would like. When he has, though, his biggest thrill is simply seeing how thrilled she is to be on the ice.
“She smiles all the time. That’s the most important thing – have fun, learn some skills and better herself physically and mentally (in ways that will) treat her well for the rest of her life.”
Phone calls allow the two to catch up and, of course, talk hockey. Having a grandfather who’s accomplished exactly what she hopes to one day, Jaime takes any advice he has to heart.
“Stay calm and enjoy the experience,” she says. “And don’t take anything for granted.”
Knowing from experiences the ups and downs the sport can bring, Roger has told Jaime that perseverance is just as important as puck-handling.
“There’s going to be some bumps in the road, and she has to take them in stride and learn from them. She’s very good at that.”
For as much advice as Roger has given Jaime, he also loves learning about the game from his granddaughter.
“I’m always interested in finding out about how much more training they do off ice than we ever did,” says Roger, who only stopped playing five years ago. Off-ice training and fitness never used to be the focus. “We weren’t into that at all. We were simply doing on-ice training.”
Jaime’s post-secondary education is still two years away, but it’s a subject that’s always been top of mind for her family. At a time when professional hockey wasn’t such a lucrative profession, Roger turned down an offer from the Detroit Red Wings to continue pursuing his law degree. Today, he’s senior counsel at a law firm in Vancouver.
And to this day, Jaime says, he still stresses education. As she does her homework on potential university homes, she keeps her grandfather’s advice close at hand. “I make sure that I like the hockey, but I also make sure that if the hockey doesn’t work out, then I’m going to like the school.”
She keeps her end goal just as close.
“Maybe someday I’ll live my dream and play in the Olympics like my grandfather did.”