COVID-19 has ruined life as we know it.
It’s a bit of an understatement at this point, but our reality has been very, very different from what it was.
And this is especially true for Canada’s National Women’s Hockey Team. While many other forms of hockey, including the men’s national team, could participate with restrictions, women’s hockey as a whole was at a standstill.
The Women’s World Hockey Championship was originally scheduled to take place in April, but an increase in COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia forced a late cancellation, just as Canada settled down to take on the challenge. The tournament finally took place in August, with Canada winning gold for the first time since 2012.
And since August, Canada’s national team has been busy, and it hasn’t been easy.
Days after finishing the World Championships in Calgary, Canada began to prepare for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, an event that faced questions about Canada as a potentially boycotting country to official title. Mix up having to travel during a pandemic, with many lingering concerns for the virus in Canada and China, and it has been a bit of a mess.
But Canada has persevered with its centralization agenda, keeping an expanded roster to prepare for Beijing with a goal of winning gold after losing to the United States in 2018.
âIt won’t always be smooth sailing,â forward Emily Clark said. “I think we’re having a pretty tough time on the right. Obviously we’ve traveled a lot, played a lot of games, but that’s what we like to do. Right now, maybe there is a bit of fatigue. that settles in, but we’ll find a way to fix it. “
Canada is currently competing in a four-team event against Canada’s top U-17 men, divided into three random teams. Canada Whites beat the women’s team 7-3 on Friday, with Natalie Spooner and Marie-Philip Poulin combining for goals. The three junior teams are expected to be better than the women, but this is an important opportunity for the women to play against stronger and faster competition, as they have already done against other teams. juniors of the BCHL and the AJHL.
âWhenever we go up against boys in this age group, they’re quick, they’re physical,â said Clark. âThey might be a little bigger than us, but I think the individual skill is very apparent in this group. There are a lot of great hockey players and we’re really lucky to be able to be a part of their process, and they are part of ours. “
Between the centralization games against the junior teams of Western Canada, the Finnish women’s team, the Rivalry series against the United States and their game against the Whites on Friday, Canada is 5-7-1, all victories having been won against Finland and the United States.
So while the numbers may not look pretty, this is normal for Canada. They have used men’s teams as a training ground in the past, but mostly midget and junior clubs in Western Canada. Playing in this unique event against three other Canadian U-17 All-Star teams is a whole new experience. In the first few games against the Americans, in particular, we saw a determined and energetic Canadian team shine.
“We did a lot of preparation, played a lot of games, had a lot of training at the start,” said assistant coach Kori Cheverie. âWe just keep trying to build with every event we go to. Go to Finland and play there, get international games against them and the USA, and then finish here against the guys, I think we can still look. to find something to take away from every game we play and every practice time we have. “
Following the tournament in Ottawa, Canada will once again focus on the rivalry streak with a three-game game in mid-December leading up to the Christmas break. The two teams will meet again in Alberta in early January before ending their current centralization schedule against the Calgary Canucks of AJHL. Overall, this is the busiest match schedule leading up to the Olympics, especially considering it’s the only real time these women will be playing this season before the February big bang. The World Championship will return in the spring, marking the first time it has been held in an Olympic year.
With the time that passes to Beijing, all systems are gone from now on.
âI think it’s important for our group to stay focused on long term goals while trying to implement some of the things we are working on in the short term,â Cheverie said. âPlaying against USA and Finland is always a big challenge for us and it’s a different challenge and a different mindset to play against the guys. There’s always a little adjustment but that’s what we want to make the girls live, we want them to be able to navigate through these difficult times. “
Difficult times, indeed. But Canada is preparing as best it can, and it could pay off with the gear they have spent their careers researching.