United States forward Brianna Decker (14) and Canada forward Marie-Philip Poulin battle for the puck during first period of 2018 Four Nations Cup gold medal game in Saskatoon on November 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

Together at last, Canadian women’s hockey team reunites after pandemic separation

Together at last, Canadian women’s hockey team reunites after pandemic separation

CALGARY — What Marie-Philip Poulin looks forward to the most at the Canadian women’s hockey team camp is simply lining up for drills and seeing her teammates’ faces.

It’s been 10 months since the national women’s hockey team was on the ice together.

Hockey Canada obtained the necessary exemptions from Alberta Health to hold a 14-day camp in Calgary amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poulin, Canada’s captain, has missed the competition and camaraderie desperately.

“It means a lot. It’s been a long time coming,” said the 29-year-old forward from Beauceville Que.

“Just being back here as a group in Calgary, it’s going to be awesome just to get back on the ice and really connect.”

All players and staff were told to quarantine for seven days and get tested for the virus before heading to Calgary.

Of the 47 players invited, 35 arrived Sunday to quarantine in their hotel rooms and be tested four times over five days.

Barring positive tests, the players were scheduled to start skating in groups of three Tuesday before larger groups hit the ice Thursday. Three intrasquad games are planned.

“These women want the opportunity to just compete a little bit against each other,” head coach Troy Ryan said. “That’s one of the biggest things we’re going to be able to provide them at this camp.

“It brings a little bit of normal life back to them. Although it looks totally different, I think it kind of gives them a little bit of hope.”

The dozen invitees not in Calgary were classified as “unable to attend”, which ranges from injury, college commitments and COVID exposure, but they’ll participate in virtual meetings and activities, said Hockey Canada director of women’s national teams Gina Kingsbury.

“We’re seeing everyone on the screen. We just won’t see everyone on the ice,” Kingsbury said.

Canada’s last international game was Feb. 8, 2020, to cap a five-game Rivalry Series against the United States.

At a short camp in Toronto later that month, Hockey Canada finalized the roster for the women’s world championship, but the tournament in Nova Scotia was cancelled and rescheduled to April 7-17, 2021.

Canada’s international games in the 23 months since finishing third in the 2019 world championship in Finland has been limited to seven games against the U.S.

The 2019 Four Nations Cup in Sweden was cancelled because of a dispute between the host women’s team and its own federation.

Women’s professional hockey was in transition when the pandemic hit.

The majority of the Canadian women’s team belongs to the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) which has yet to announce any showcase tournaments this winter.

So a perfect storm of circumstances has Canada’s top female hockey players sorely lacking in meaningful games.

Women in the national team pool train in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary hubs under varying restrictions and have skills coaches employed by Hockey Canada.

Poulin’s on-ice environment in Montreal has ranged from a limit of three players on the ice to larger groups with everyone wearing masks while they skate.

“It’s been a little difficult,” Poulin acknowledged. “It’s been challenging, but any time we had a chance to jump on the ice as a group, we took advantage and really pushed each other.

Beyond camp is continued uncertainty over if and when the women’s world championship will happen.

Hockey Canada’s operation of the national junior men’s team and world under-20 tournament that concluded Jan. 5 in Edmonton paved a path for this women’s camp and potentially the world championship to go ahead in a pandemic.

“I hear from Hockey Canada the commitment is there,” Kingsbury said. “If one country can do it’s definitely us and we’ve shown that with world juniors.

“It’s just a matter of when in the year that looks like. I’m confident it will happen in the spring. It might be a few weeks later or a month later.”

The Calgary’ camp, which concludes Jan. 30, is normally held in September. Ryan wants the players to focus on what they have and not what they’re missing.

“There’s no way we would have been able to do this camp a few months ago, so it’s a step in the right direction for sure,” he said.

“All the things that had to be done to make this camp possible, if you’re not someone that steps back from that and actually appreciates it, I’m not sure that’s the type of person we’re going to have success with.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Traffic will be delayed on 40th Avenue and 19th Street until the end of February. (Advocate file photo).
Traffic delays expected downtown this weekend

Red Deer drivers will be delayed in the downtown area of the… Continue reading

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read