Team Canada women’s hockey team launched their “Pond to Podium” program in Trail on Sunday.
After a morning workout, Team Canada staff and veteran players Natalie Spooner, Micah Zandee-Hart, and Sarah Fillier met with about 20 young female players from the Kootenay Wild program to connect, instruct, and inspire the future of women’s hockey.
“These athletes are phenomenal athletes, the best of the best in the world, but what’s even more special is that they are incredible people and that is something that we value very much,” said Team Canada director of hockey operations Gina Kingsbury. “Being a good teammate, a good person, is number one on the list.”
The recent IIHF World champions met with local players in the McIntyre Room at the Trail Memorial Centre. As the first stop on the Pond to Podium program, a Canadian Tire spokesperson explained their partnership with Hockey Canada and how the program will unfold.
“Pond to Podium is a new development series that connects coaches, players, officials and parents directly with resources from athletes, coaches and staff representatives from National Teams.”
Smoke Eaters play-by-play announcer Ben Phillips moderated the event, as the masked contingent of Wild players spent the next hour throwing a variety of questions at Spooner, Zandee-Hart, and Fillier.
The trio graciously responded with a mix of information, instruction and humour. They fielded questions on how they first started their hockey careers, their first role models, personal highlights, how they balanced school and hockey, and their path to becoming a member of Team Canada.
One poignant question from Phillips asked the players that if they could look back, what would be the best advice to offer their younger self and the young players in attendance?
“Being from Victoria, I was often the only girl on the team, and definitely the only girl that wanted to play for Team Canada and go to the Olympics at the age of four,” said Zandee-Hart. “So, my mom always told me, ‘Don’t let anyone else tell you what your dreams are, if you have a dream stick with it.’
“So if you have a dream, whatever it may be, hockey or not, if that’s what you want to do don’t let anyone else tell you, you can’t. Hold on to it tight and be the captain of your own ship.”
To end the session, Spooner took an iconic Team Canada selfie and the Olympic trio spent time chatting with the young players following the Q&A. The Kootenay players later joined Team Canada on Cominco ice for a practice session.
Canada played an exhibition game against the Trail Smoke Eaters on Monday night and will face the Cranbrook Bucks in Cranbrook on Tuesday, however, the scores were unavailable at press time.
Team Canada will move its program to Calgary this month as part of its centralization process to train for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China in February.