I belong to a group of accomplished players. Almost a dozen of them have the role of captain for their team.
Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, Catherine Ward and Gillian Apps have all proudly been captains this season. But there can only be one of us who gets the role of captain in Sochi. I get to be the lucky one.
I must confess that I was very surprised to be chosen. And I was honoured, too. It’s one of the nicest challenges of my career and I’m going to get my inspiration from those who have preceded me, such as Quebeckers France St-Louis and Thérèse Brisson. These two women, that I greatly admire, have taught me the notion of “leadership” that has been very useful to me all throughout my career.
I also live by the words of my former university coach Shannon Miller. She described “leadership” as a glass half full that needs to be filled. A good leader gives herself the space to guide and sustain her teammates, but also to receive the energy and the know-how of the players by her side.
I like to believe that “leadership” is defined by the actions that every player is ready to undertake in order to make the difference. That’s the beauty of team sports. If we allow ourselves to be confident enough to believe that we are invincible, we will be ready to face the events that are about to unfold before us.
We have had to brave several battles recently. Is our streak of defeats worrisome? At first sight, maybe. But each pre-Olympic road has its valleys and its peak periods.
I remember clearly, amongst others, an intense talk by our coach Melody Davidson in January 2010 in our change room. I will spare you the details of this ugly exchange, but she yelled at us like she had never done before after a bad performance.
We deserved it, that’s for sure, but it was not because of lack of conviction or effort. In all her wisdom, my teammate Jayna Hefford went to great lengths to reassure the team by reminding us that we were simply physically and emotionally exhausted. That’s a good example of “leadership”.
It goes without saying that we have lived a turbulent Olympic preparation with all the changes that we went through. But as our sport psychologist Peter Jensen usually tells us, “the only certain thing in life is change.”
This time around, there’s no doubt that we have had a taste of that.
First, we saw the sudden departure of our coach Dan Church, as well as the elimination of our long-time veteran teammate, Tessa Bonhomme. Now, we have to get used to a new leadership. As a veteran, I believe that we must have the maturity to not resist change, and to instead see it as a new challenge that will strengthen our team.
I also turn my thoughts to those partners that have been by our side during these seven last months and who will not come with us to Sochi.
Our team is better today thanks to Courtney, Bailey, Tessa, Vicki, Jenelle, and Brigette, who all pushed us to surpass ourselves. Courtney Birchard and Bailey Bram have even remained on our side as reserves after having been cut.
We can only imagine how hard it is to go through such a situation. I want to commend their courage and their professionalism.
Dineen clear and precise as coach
Head coach Kevin Dineen is very appreciated by the players. He has the merit of being crystal clear in his requests.
Each one of us will have a precise role to play. But some of us will have some difficult tasks to accept. It’s normal, we all want to play in all situations, but it is not possible. The coaches choose the players that can bring the team to a win.
It is our mission as more seasoned players to ensure that all of our teammates are ready to accept their role within the team.
I love this quote by the late and great coach Herb Brooks, which well describes the reality of any team composed by star players:
“They (the players) all want to be on the ice during a power play,” he said. “This is part of the process of putting together an all-star team. These teams can sometimes collapse because of the ego and narcissism of the individual players.”
I believe that Kevin Dineen has the ability of taking our team to a level that we never reached before. He enjoys a nice complicity with assistant coaches Lisa Haley and Danielle Goyette. Kevin brings the unique expertise of a NHL player and coach. He’s had the chance to work alongside the best coaches and players in the world.
Last Saturday, it was Kevin himself who gave me the news of my nomination as captain, before a practice. Yes, I am really motivated to fill this role to help my country win the fourth straight medal at the Games. Right now we are in Austria, the place that Hockey Canada chose for our Olympic preparation before our departure for Sochi.
We are happy and relieved to have finished the most difficult phase of our training. I have no doubts that once this team has a chance to rest it will display a renewed energy. We have never practiced this hard before. The girls all are in an extraordinary physical shape. From now on, our ice practices will be shorter, and the training will be focused on execution.
Besides playing two games against some Austrian men’s teams, we are going to take advantage of this stay to adapt to the new time zone. Our coaches have planned for a lot of rest. So we will enjoy some time to visit this country, for which I have only heard good things, especially from my father Andre’ who is a big traveller.
Despite his love for adventure, my dad has never attended the Games in person. Sochi will be his first Olympic experience. In Russia, he will be accompanied by my mother Nicole. I can already see them in the stands with their identical red Canadian coats on, ready to support the team and to display their overflowing pride – something that I sometimes find embarrassing!
But how can I hold it against them?
If I’m at the Games, I owe it first to them. Nicole and Andre’ believed in my Olympic dream before I did. And today, captain or not, it is my duty with my teammates to bring a gold medal back to our country.