Why do I say “NEW” in the title? It’s known that Canada’s Women’s team remains largely intact from one Olympics to the next, based on the good old “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. However, although most of the roster remained the same from 2014 to 2018, the pieces that did change were huge.
Even though women’s hockey didn’t have to suffer a similar roadblock to their male counterparts, with the best of the best pro women eligible for the Olympics. Canada’s women’s team had a challenge of their own to overcome, as this was the first year that no returning captain or alternate captains were playing for the team. Team Canada was without their captain in Hayley Wickenheiser for the first time, and one can imagine how those shoes don’t seem so easily filled. She’s considered to be the Gretzky of women’s hockey and no doubt when that kind of player is off the team, it could be a large adjustment.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Watching the woman play this year, you wouldn’t know that they lost their entire leadership squad between Olympics. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin, who it’s hard to believe wasn’t even an assistant captain last year, earned 6 points in 5 games for Canada, the second most of her team. Wickenheiser earned 5pts in her last Olympics in Sochi. Poulin and her three new alternate captains (Brianne Jenner, Haley Irwin, Natalie Spooner) did a remarkable job contributing and leading their team through these Olympics. Just look at how Poulin handled the heartbreaking loss to Team USA. Poulin could’ve sulked in silence after the loss, and no one would’ve blamed her. However Canada’s captain opted to visit each teammate individually, and despite tears, she spoke words of congratulations on a tournament well played. That is true leadership.
The Canadian women’s team was able to maintain their dominant Olympic streak for most of these Olympics. They posted their 24th consecutive Olympic victory beating OAR before the gold medal game.
The United States is no doubt their largest rival in all international competition, being that they have the most comparable sized women’s program. They posed the biggest threat early on in the tournament as Canada only beat them by a difference of one goal in a 2-1 victory. In the gold medal game it took a shootout to decide the winner, 6 rounds of a shootout in fact. Although a few sloppy defensive errors by Canada were what pushed the game beyond 60 minutes, the woman in red didn’t stop hustling until that final buzzer, and pushed the game passed regulation.
The New Ones
When one door closes another opens, and Canada has certainly held their door open to some new impressive young women this year. There were nine new editions to Canada’s roster, two defencemen (Brigette Lacquette and Renata Fast) one goalie (Ann-Renée Desbiens) and six forwards (Jillian Saulnier, Bailey Bram, Emily Clark, Blayre Turnbull, Sarah Nurse, and Laura Stacey).
Brigette Lacquette, one of Canada’s new defenseman made headlines before she even stepped on the ice, she became the first Indigenous woman on Canada’s Olympic hockey team. When it was all said and done she rose even further above that headline, earning one assist, and demonstrating strong positional play during these Olympics.
Team Canada’s newest netminder Ann-Renée Desbiens also showed her stripes, as she played a full 60 minutes and faced 18 shots in her one starting game. Typically 18 isn’t considered a lot of shots, however, she turned all of them away and earned herself an Olympic shutout. Which no matter how many shots you face, that is an impressive accomplishment.
Canada’s six new forwards accounted for seven of their teams points over the tournament, making it seem clear that even though these six are newcomers, the depth of Canadian Women’s hockey is vast. New editions to the national team show little problem being able to adjust to Olympic play and contributing to point production.
Canada finished these Olympics with a silver medal in Women’s Hockey for the first time in 20 years. Although that may be a sour note to go out on for Canadians and the team, Women’s hockey has a bright future in Canada.
Yes they lost gold, but they also won silver, and they did so in spite of a significant leadership change, and a brand new head coach. Even though Poulin didn’t earn her Golden hat-trick by scoring a 3rd consecutive Olympic game winner, she captained her team beautifully, providing the country with nothing but hope for 2022 and beyond.