“This is redemption.”
Four years ago, it was heartbreak for Canada’s women’s ice hockey team. The team lost to their oldest rival, Team USA, in a penalty shootout in the gold medal match at PyeongChang 2018, ending their winning streak of four consecutive Winter Games gold medals.
But in Beijing at the 2022 Winter Games, they finally had their opportunity to make amends, and they seized the moment.
It was nervy and exciting, but finally Canada held on to secure a 3-2 victory in the final as they saw a 3-0 lead evaporate under late pressure from Team USA.
As the final buzzer sounded, Canadian players erupted into cheers of celebration, some broke into tears and bundled together into a group hug.
“It’s just so good. It’s a great feeling,” Canadian forward Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored two goals in the final, said. “It was one hell of an effort. This is redemption.”
Not that they needed the extra motivation, but Canada women’s ice hockey general manager Gina Kingsbury had an innovative way to help her players build up to the 2022 Winter Games.
Kingsbury, a two-time Olympic champion as a player, gave each member of the Canadian women’s team a clock which counted down the days and hours to the Beijing 2022 Opening Ceremony after Canada finished third in the 2019 World Championships.
The clock’s purpose was to focus the Canadian players, and it came particularly in handy during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had a team slogan that was called ‘Impact the Red,’” Canada’s Natalie Spooner said. “Obviously, we couldn’t be together as a team every single day, but it was impacting those days when we weren’t able to be together, making sure we were improving as individuals and as a team also.
“We were looking at that clock all the time. We had it in our houses, and even through Covid, we obviously weren’t able to be together for a lot of that time.
“So we had that clock there to make sure we did our own work on those off days to make sure we were ready when we came back as a team.
“It (the clock) had how many days, hours, minutes, seconds until the Opening Ceremony on it.”
Each player kept their clock in their own unique locations – Spooner says she kept hers in the kitchen – and Poulin says she’ll display the clock alongside her gold medal from Beijing.
And the Canadian players aren’t ruling out resetting the clock for Cortina in 2026.
Spooner said: “The clock is at zero now, but if they re-start the clock for the next four years then maybe (she will put it next to the gold medal).”
“Might as well,” Poulin said when asked whether she will reset it.
For defending champion Team USA, it was a painful end to its Olympics campaign.
The team showed grit and determination to fight its way back into the final, but came up just short in its search for what would be a game-tying goal.
US goaltender Alex Cavallini says she felt “pretty numb” in the aftermath of the defeat.
But for her personally, it was also a “pretty special” moment because of the injuries she was battling through.
“I actually tore my MCL (in mid-January 2022) and didn’t even know if I was going to make it on the flight here,” Cavallini explained.
“I didn’t have a full practice until three days into when we got here. Our third practice in was when I actually practiced. Didn’t know if I was going to get a start or not.
“For me to be able to battle it out, thanks to our amazing staff and coaching staff to believe in me even when I didn’t and support me along the way – that was a huge deal for me to even get minutes here.”
It was a campaign fraught with adversity for Team USA, having lost star player Brianna Decker to a broken leg in the first game.
Decker’s US teammate, Lee Stecklein, helped push her onto the ice on her scooter to receiver her silver medal.
And Stecklein paid tribute to Decker’s impact on the whole squad by remaining with the team.
“There is no doubt she was going to stay here and be part of this team. The pain she went through, I can’t even imagine.
“But for her to be with us means a lot. I know it wasn’t easy for her all the time, but we love her very much.”