A Golden Opportunity
Team Canada Captain and Former Stinger Caroline Ouellette Seeking 4th Straight Gold Medal in Sochi
Representing Canada at the Sochi Winter Olympics is an honour that comes with high pressure to perform.
You would think representing Canada as captain of its powerhouse women’s hockey team would put that pressure on a whole other level.
But it’s all the same to new team captain Caroline Ouellette, a former Concordia Stinger and three-time Winter Olympic gold medalist.
“Whether you’re a captain, assistant captain, a veteran or a rookie […], you’re expected to bring home the gold medal, and as athletes that’s what we expect of ourselves,” said the Montreal native on a break from preparing with the national team in Austria last week, two days before leaving for Sochi.
Though Ouellette, who played for Concordia’s women’s hockey team in 2001, has helped Canada win gold in each of the last three Olympics, this year will mark her first attempt to do so while captaining the team.
Last month Kevin Dineen, Team Canada’s new head coach, removed the captain’s “C” from Hayley Wickenheiser, who held the role for the past seven years, and gave it to Ouellette in a move that stunned hockey fans across the country and Ouellette herself.
“It was a surprise [to be named team captain], I wasn’t expecting it,” she said. “It’s a great challenge for me, but there are many good leaders on the team and I’ll be counting on them to help me lead the team.”
Ouellette’s assistant captains will be defenceman Catherine Ward and veteran forwards Jayna Hefford and Wickenheiser.
“Our role as veterans is to think more about the other players and make sure they’re feeling good and are confident as well,” said Ouellette. “I always try to give the example with the way I play—be intense but disciplined.”
Discipline is an aspect that Ouellette believes will be crucial if Canada ends up taking on the United States, its biggest rival, in the final.
The Canadians faced and defeated the U.S. in two of the past three gold medal games at the Olympics.
“Whether you’re a captain, assistant captain, a veteran or a rookie […], you’re expected to bring home the gold medal, and as athletes that’s what we expect of ourselves,” said the Montreal native on a break from preparing with the national team in Austria last week, two days before leaving for Sochi.”
—Caroline Ouellette, Team Canada captain
“The Americans have many forwards with lots of talent and speed, so we have to play a good defensive game and not take worthless penalties,” said Ouellette.
“[Playing good defence] will give us chances to counter back on the transition,” she continued. “We trust our offensive game. Lately we’ve been creating a lot of chances coming from our fore-check and we want to keep putting the accent on that aspect.”
Over the last few years, Ouellette has been preparing for her future career as a hockey coach, knowing that one day she’ll no longer be able to compete at the highest level.
Ouellette remains unsure as to when that day will come, however.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s time to move on, but other times I say to myself that I really like what I’m doing,” she said.
“[Retiring] is not on my mind right now. I’m focused on what’s coming and we’ll see after that.”
But Ouellette admits she may soon be hanging up her skates for good.
“I’m 34 years old and it’s tough to play over 35,” she said. “It is very likely that [these Olympics] are my last ones.”
If they are, a familiar place awaits her when all is said and done—a spot behind Concordia’s women’s hockey team’s bench.
Ouellette assisted longtime Stingers coach Les Lawton at Concordia last season, a role she hopes to eventually take up again.
“I adore coaching. I loved being on the ice with the girls during the practices and showing them some tricks,” said Ouellette. “They always seemed excited and were eager to learn.”
One player who grew fond of Ouellette is Stingers forward Jaymee Shell, who has kept in touch with Ouellette.
“[Ouellette] is a great coach and a role model for all of us. She’s very knowledgeable about the game and the way she explained it to us just clicked,” said Shell.
Shell isn’t the only one missing Ouellete’s presence—Lawton is equally eager to see the three-time medalist return to Concordia.
“We’re in a little bit of [a negotiation period] right now to see if she’ll be back. She was great for our program last year and we’d certainly love to have her back,” he said.
“[Ouellette] played at the university level so she knows what it is like to be a student athlete, [and] she obviously competed against the best players in the world,” he continued.
“If she could put her stamp on our program that would be very positive.”
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