Over the last decade, Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team has become a
proving ground for future stars, giving young players a chance to acquire
international experience before skating onto the biggest stages in the
Poulin. Jenner. Spooner. Fortino. Names that have become synonymous with
women’s hockey in this country all wore the red and white of Team Canada
for the first time at the under-18 level.
But U18 experience is not a prerequisite to future success. Just ask Renata Fast.
The defenceman has taken a considerably shorter route to Olympic
centralization than some of her teammates; Fast did not play her first
international game until August 2014, after her sophomore season with
That’s not to say she wasn’t on the national radar. Fast earned an invite
to Canada’s National Women’s Under-22/Development Team summer selection
camp in 2012 and 2013, but failed to make the final cut.
Those experiences proved invaluable when the time came to take that final
“Those first two years I was learning a ton,” Fast says. “There was a lot
for me to learn, and just to be invited to those camps and be there with a
staff that had so much information; it was all about learning for me.”
And that ‘all about learning’ attitude carried over to her college career,
as well. When Fast enrolled at Clarkson in the fall of 2012 she joined the
Golden Knights alongside fellow freshmen Erin Ambrose and Shannon MacAulay,
who were fresh off helping Canada to a U18 world title the previous winter.
The roster included six other players – Erica Howe, Christine Lambert,
Carly Mercer, Shelby Nisbet, Jamie Lee Rattray and Jennifer Shields – who
had been part of the Team Canada program, giving Fast plenty of
opportunities to learn.
“I was surrounded by [players like] Jamie Lee Rattray and Erica Howe, so I
learned so much from them,” she says. “Every day, watching them at
Clarkson, trying to emulate some of the things they do, some of their
habits, the details they focus on, helped me prepare myself for when I came
The 2013-14 season was the turning point for the Burlington, Ont., native,
who played a major role in helping Clarkson to its first NCAA national
championship before finally cracking the Team Canada roster that summer.
Since then, she has been making up for lost time.
Fast won gold with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team at the
Nations Cup in 2015 and appeared again at the tournament this year, after
suiting up twice for Canada’s National Women’s Team at the 4 Nations Cup,
in 2015 and 2016.
She made her first IIHF Women’s World Championship roster last spring,
putting her at 30 international games in three seasons with a gold medal
and four silver on her growing résumé.
Some might say Fast has been playing catch-up in her development. She just
doesn’t see it that way.
“I just realized that you can’t feel like you have to play catch-up; it’s
all about living in the moment and taking it day by day, and trying to
develop into that player,” she says. “Some players develop later in life
and some have that natural ability from a young age, so for me I never felt
like I needed to catch up, I was just connecting the puzzle pieces.”
With all she has accomplished in such a short time, it’s safe to say that
puzzle is nearing completion.
Living in Calgary and being on the ice every day with the best the country
has to offer has provided Fast with a handful of ‘oh wow’ moments so far,
but one of the first came early on in centralization.
With the under-18 and development athletes in the Stampede City for
selection camps in early August, it gave her an opportunity to look and
realize how far she has come in a short amount of time.
“The second year I was invited to camp was the year the group for the 2014
Olympics was gathering, and I remember watching them when I was at that
selection camp, and I was amazed by them,” Fast says. “To be here this year
and watching that group … it was kind of hard to believe that four years
ago I was them.”