2022  w w c sarah potomak aug 29 main

Potomak is back

Five years after her first IIHF Women’s World Championship, and four years after she last wore the Maple Leaf at any level, Sarah Potomak has returned to Canada’s National Women’s Team in Denmark

Chris Jurewicz
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August 29, 2022
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Minor hockey players across the country are about to start evaluations. They’re tough, stressful and, sometimes, they don’t end the way we want.

So most Canadians can empathize with someone like Sarah Potomak, who was released from a team in December 2017. The major difference here is that Potomak was the last forward cut from the 2018 Women’s Olympic Team, a crushing blow for a player who worked her life to get to that stage and ultimately fell just short.

For some, that moment could have been the end, but Potomak kept grinding, working, fighting and – almost four years later – is once again wearing the Maple Leaf as part of Team Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Women’s Championship.

“It feels amazing. It’s been quite of a long journey for me with a lot of ups and downs and stuff. But it feels good to finally be on this roster and I’m excited to get things going,” says Potomak, who is helping defend its world title in Denmark. “There were obviously some harder days than most, but I just believed in myself on what I could offer to this team. I kept sticking with it. I still love hockey and the motivation was always there. Obviously, when disappointments keep coming up, you kind of question yourself. But I just stuck to what I believe in and leaned on those who are close to me and ended up being able to do, which feels pretty awesome.”

The last time Potomak wore the Canadian jersey at women’s worlds was in 2017 in Plymouth, Mich., where she scored twice and added an assist as Canada won the silver medal. Her last international appearance came with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team in a three-game series against the U.S. in August 2018.

The path to get back on the world stage has wound several ways for the Aldergrove, B.C., product. In 2019-20, she concluded a four-year career at the University of Minnesota where, as a Golden Gopher, she put up 65 goals and 114 assists in 145 career games.

Potomak planned to stick around her alma mater to continue her education, with long-term plans on becoming an elementary school teacher. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought her back home to British Columbia, where she landed an assistant coaching job with the women’s hockey team at Trinity Western University (TWU) prior to the start of the 2020-21 season. The Spartans had recently just received U SPORTS status and were in the midst of building their program. Potomak also had the chance to continue her education at TWU.

Jean LaForest, a long-time coach in the junior, professional and university ranks since the early 1990s, heard of Potomak when discussing potential coaches to join his staff and, after a few conversations, he knew the fit would be a good one.

Potomak got to work for that inaugural Spartans’ season and hasn’t looked back, becoming a trusted and integral part of the coaching staff.

“It became really apparent for me that, though really young in terms of coaching, Sarah was extremely mature in terms of her approach. It was a benefit to me,” says LaForest. “I’m in the latter parts of my career. It’s been about 30 years that I have been coaching hockey and it was really nice to see because I was learning some things myself. She said to me one day ‘I’m learning a lot’ and I said ‘Well, that’s two of us because I’m learning a lot, too,’ To have someone of Sarah’s character and perspective on the game, it really helped.”

Potomak was a unique assistant coach from the start. Her playing career was not done and she continued to have goals and aspirations with Team Canada, including competing at women’s worlds and Olympics. So, rather than just putting on a helmet, skates and gloves for team practices, Potomak took part in practices wearing full gear, often taking part in all of the drills.

That, says LaForest, was a real benefit not only for Potomak in keeping in tip-top shape, but also for members of the Spartans.

“We talked about that. She still had aspirations and goals on wanting to continue. She did face some challenges,” says LaForest. “In all my years, I have not encountered (an assistant coach taking part in the drills). It did benefit her by keeping her fresh, by training on a regular basis. But it really had an impact on our product on the ice, when I was looking at pace of practice, when I’m looking at when our players are watching her perform, it was an absolute huge resource for the development of our program and where we are right now. We are ahead of the curve in terms of where we thought we’d be from a program perspective just in terms of player development.”

LaForest says the TWU program, not just the hockey team but the entire athletic program, tells their student athletes about ‘complete champions.’ It’s a term that entails academic success, athletic success, personal development and progression of faith. He says that Potomak embodies all of that better than anyone.

“She carried a full academic load, played in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and coached full time. That was a lot on someone’s plate and she hit the ball out of the park in all three areas,” he says. “You talk about someone who has so much potential, someone who is driven and excels under pressure and really gets the most out of what she has and gives 100% of what she has … I wish I would have had the opportunity to coach her as a player.”

The road has been long and tough at times. And though this is an incredible accomplishment for a player who could have been down and out five years ago, Potomak isn’t just happy to be here. She is in Denmark with a focus to have a significant impact on the team and keep working and grinding with larger dreams in mind.

You see, 2026 isn’t that far off.

“I’m still really focused on going to the 2026 Olympics. That’s where my mind is at,” says Potomak. “It’s a year-by-year process and it’s a long journey to get to the Olympics but I’m willing to work for it. To be able to make this step for this world championship is pretty huge. It’s added motivation to keep going and keep living my dream.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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