I am in Sollentua, Sweden for the 4 Nations Cup with the National Women’s team. We left Montreal on November 5th through Toronto, then Frankfurt to finally arrive in Stockholm 16 hours later. It was an uneventful traveling day. Everyone made it onto the first flight to Europe. No intrusive searches were performed in Frankfurt on anyone of us. Everyone but 3 got their luggage. Stephanie Mckeough was the only one to have to practice once without her own equipment. That’s a bit tough when you are a recruit and you are nervous for your first big tournament with the senior team and especially for that first on-ice session where everyone without a doubt is nervous. There is an adjustment for all of us. Even after 12 years on the team, I find that first practice always challenging. The speed and tempo is much faster than in our club or university team.
We arrived at the Scandic hotel in Sollentua around 1:30pm on Saturday. The challenge then was to not to sleep. I felt very tired. For some reason I was not able to sleep in the flight to Europe. I felt like I was intoxicated I was so tired. We had a first team meeting where we met a lot of new staff and got to know each other a bit better. We do have a very young team with some players making their debut on the senior team. I know most of them through coaching in the under 18 program. My roommate is Laura Fortino. A young defense player that I got the privilege to coach at the under 18 level. Her progression has been incredible over the last 2 years. A big reason for that is that she is starting her junior at Cornell university and has been a huge part of the recent success of that program. So not only a smart hockey player but a smart student as well. The coaches opted to not go on the ice the day we arrived in Sweden and schedules an off-ice workout after dinner to Im sure make sure that none of us were tempted to go to bed too early and wake up in the middle of the night. We were all feeling a little jet lagged so getting moving with mobility work and some agility and power drills was good. We did some flexibility work and several jumping exercises. It was a great first session to get ready to go on the ice the next day.
We practiced twice on November 6th. Mostly flow drills in the first practice and a focus on the specialty teams in the second one. We had meetings in between and our coaches defined the team identity setting our main strategies defensively and offensively. We then had a mental skill session with our great team psychologist Peter Jensen. We talked about Wick receiving the Order of Canada and what that meant for her and her family. Pretty incredible recognition. Then we were giving the opportunity to hear from Jayna Hefford and her journey of 14 years on the National team. It is very interesting even for me who has known her for 12 years to hear her perspective on dealing with adversity, physical and mental preparation, focus, confidence. We each could ask her one written question which was great especially for the younger or less vocal players. I have always admired Heff’s ability to keep her composure at all times. I am not capable of doing so, im very emotional and I wear my emotions on my sleeve and its not always + feelings unfortunately. I have no poker face at all. So if I am struggling or having what I consider as not a good game, I struggle to not let it show. Heff has always been so consistent and reliable. She is famous for playing her best when everything is on the line. I truly admire her ability to never show nervousness although I am sure she sometimes is. She always plays with so much composure.
At night I was able thank to my great friend Kim St-Pierre to watch the final of the National under 18 championship. I miss Kim so much on the team. We started together back in 1999 and played in our first World Championship together in 1999. Were roommates in all 3 Olympic centralization years (2001-2005-2009) and roommates in the village at the 3 Olympic Games (2002-2006-2010). We have also been teammates for our two Clarkson cup wins with the Montreal Stars and I miss her every day in my life. Kim is probably the only person I have never argued with. It’s a miracle because I do have strong opinions and a bad temper. She is the best friend one can have and the best teammate as a matter of fact. I am so happy for her and her boyfriend Lenny Jo as they are expecting their first child in early February. So because of the wonders of Skype I was able to watch through Kim’s computer the game on Kim’s television. Even though I last played with Team Québec under 18 in 1997, the tournament is always so special to me and I want Québec to win so badly. It is simply the first tournament of importance I have won in my life, back in 1997 when we defeated Ontario 2-1 to be the first Québec team to win a National Championship at the under 18 level. The problem you see is that we are still the only team to have won it. Québec has come so close so many times but has always finished 2nd or 3rd. The Québec players on the National team all really care about that team and we wanted to make sure we were showing our support by sending a picture wishing the team good luck through Twitter! Viva the Social networks! I have attached the picture! Unfortunately, Ontario had the upper hand again and won the game 3-0. The pool of players in Ontario is just so much bigger that it makes it hard for us to have as much dept. I think that better promotion has to be done at a younger age level so young girls start playing hockey in Québec!
On November 7th, we had a pre-game skate of about 30 minutes where we did flow drills and got her legs and hands going. It was up beat and fun! We have team warm-ups and they have been a great time spent as a team and enjoying each other’s company. At night we played Sweden in front of a packed arena. That was great to see because only a few years ago, there were not many fans at women’s hockey games in Sweden. The game has grown incredibly here as well and it was great to see hockey fans there to support the host country. Our team is incredibly young and several players were playing in their first international senior game. It was great to feel the energy and excitement that game provoked in them. Makes you appreciate it as well and remind you how lucky you are to have had that privilege of playing on the National team for years. As expected we seemed nervous a bit at the beginning of the game but still won the first period 2-1. I was playing with Brianne Jenner, a young and talented player from Cornell university with great skills and vision. Brianne was centering Wick and I. Perhaps maybe a bit intimidating for her to center two players that have more years on the National team than her own age. The team got better as the game went on and our young D showed more and more composure. The puck skills of the young players are incredible and it is outstanding for the future of women’s hockey. We won the game 4-1. Wick, Heff, Jenner and I had the goals. Charlie and Szabados split the game between the pipes. Vicki Bendus was the player of the game for us with another strong performance by her. Frida Nevalainen from the Swedish team was honored before the game for her 200th international game. An incredible milestone only Wick and Hefford have reached on our team.
Our stay in Sollentua has been gréât. The food at the Scandic hotel so delicious. You should have seen the dream breakfast buffet! Fresh bread, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, flax seed, nuts, eggs soft and hard boiled, meat and cheese, crepes, fruits. I had to make some sacrifices so I would not eat everything. I love breakfast and I think I could have it at every meal! We are off to Nykoping tomorrow and start the tournament against Finland on the 9th !