Just 28 years old, and an alternate captain with Canada’s 2014 Olympic gold medal-winning National Women’s Team – her second Olympic gold – Catherine Ward
seemed to be entering the prime of her career patrolling the Team Canada blue-line.
Instead, the gold medal game in Sochi proved to be her international swan song; the Montreal native has decided to retire and pursue her off-ice dreams,
while staying involved in the game.
“I’m someone who’s always given importance to my professional career,” Ward says. “I had this amazing opportunity offered to me by Reebok-CCM last year and
working with them brings on a different way to challenge myself.”
She took a sabbatical from the game following the 2014 Olympics to devote herself full-time to her new job, the same way she had given every day of the
previous year to Sochi and chasing the Olympic dream.
Despite feeling like she still has a few years of great hockey left, Ward says working towards the Olympics for the next four years is too time-consuming
and requires more sacrifices than she’s willing to make.
“I still love hockey, but feel like it’s time to prepare for the rest of my life,” Ward says. “I hold the position of assistant product manager in the
sticks department at Reebok-CCM, so I get to stay close to the game and combine both my passions – hockey and business.”
The new job means Ward gets to take advantage of what women’s hockey has blessed her with – being able to keep studying while playing the game she loves.
“The opportunity to have been able to combine education with sports was one that I truly enjoyed,” she says.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from McGill University (winning a pair of CIS national championships with the Martlets along the way), Ward transferred
to Boston University, where she finished her master’s degree in business administration.
And while her focus has switched from the rink to the office, she’s leaving Canadian women’s hockey in good hands; Ward feels like the game’s future has
never been brighter, making the timing of her retirement even more comfortable.
“The girls continue to develop and the whole sport will benefit from that,” she says. “We see it with the Olympics; people really enjoy watching us and the
level of play. Between the Olympic years I feel like they forget about us for too long, and that’s what the professional women’s leagues will help with,
changing the mentality and allowing people to follow us daily.”
Ward never could have thought that was possible when she first stepped onto the ice at the outdoor rink in Mount Royal, Que., with her father, Patrick, in
tow. Back then, almost 25 years ago, she knew hockey was her passion, but she never knew where it would take her.
The same way that Canadian boys grow up dreaming of one day playing in the NHL, Ward grew up fantasizing that she’d one day get the opportunity to wear
Hockey Canada’s iconic red and white jersey.
And after watching Canada win its first Olympic gold in Salt Lake City in 2002, a then-15-year-old Ward knew then that her fantasy was one day going to be
Shy and humble off the ice, Ward let her play on the ice do the talking. She debuted with Canada’s National Women’s Under-22 Team in the summer of 2006,
representing her country in a three-game series against the United States in Ottawa.
“I remember the very first time I threw on the Team Canada jersey with the under-22 team and I also think back to the first time I played the United
States,” she says of the milestones in her career. “They were both incredible moments and I was just proud to be donning the Canadian jersey.”
After 24 games over three seasons with the U22 side – including two gold medals at the Air Canada Cup in 2007 and 2008, and silver at the 2009 MLP Cup –
Ward made the full-time jump to the national team for the 2009 IIHF World Women’s Championship.
In all, she played 77 games with Canada’s National Women’s Team, scoring seven times and adding 36 assists. Ward earned her lone world championship gold in
2012 in Burlington, Vt., joining the silver she won in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
But there are two specific moments that stand out – Vancouver and Sochi.
“Winning gold is always special, so both the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games were awesome,” Ward says. “But the final game in Sochi was a memorable one. We had
to come back from behind to win, after not having such a good season that year. So to have won it all, in that manner, was a very special moment.”
Having to fight through adversity with such a closely-knit group of players, and finishing a long season with the biggest prize in the sport hanging around
her neck, Ward is content with her decision.
Now, a new generation will have big skates to fill on the Team Canada blue-line. And what advice does Ward have for the players who will replace her, both
now and in the future?
“Soak in every moment. You need to have fun in the whole process to make the experience a memorable one. That’s something I’ve always been keen on, having