2020 21 nwt poulin practice

Together at last

A few months later than usual thanks to COVID-19, Canada’s National Women’s Team is ready to gather for the first time – a big step on the short road to women’s worlds

Jason La Rose
January 18, 2021

After months of Zoom calls, virtual video sessions, planning, re-planning and re-re-planning, it’s finally time for Canada’s National Women’s Team to get on the ice.

Forty-seven of the nation’s best have earned invites and 35 players will be on the ice for the BFL National Women’s Team Training Camp, presented by Sobeys, which gets started this week at the Hockey Canada home base at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the season schedule, pushing what would have been the annual season-opening Fall Festival held in September into the early weeks of 2021.

But while the month might be different, the approach will be the same.

“I don't think anything changes from our normal Fall Festival camp,” says Troy Ryan, who is returning for his second season as head coach of Canada’s National Women’s Team. “A big part of this camp is [creating] a good touch point with the athletes. But one of the main reasons you have this camp at the front end of your year is for player evaluation, so to get an opportunity to get the players best-on-best in a competitive environment is going to be very valuable for us down the road.”



And it’s going to be an awfully short road.

The 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship, set for Halifax and Truro, N.S., is scheduled to open on April 7. That leaves less than three months for Ryan, director of women’s national teams Gina Kingsbury and the rest of the staff to select the roster and have it ready to go for gold on home ice.

For Ryan, though, the only piece of the puzzle missing this season has been the on-ice component. While the pandemic has made it impossible to gather in person as a full team, it has meant an added focus on the off-ice side.

“We have regular athlete calls,” he says. “Sometimes the conversation can be around mental performance, sometimes it's strength and conditioning, sometimes it's a hockey-specific video session. But we really dive in deep into our culture and the environment we want to create with this group, so I think that's been valuable. And I think the Zoom sessions have just mirrored what we'd want to do if we were together as a group, so there has been a social aspect and a team-building aspect, as well.”

The head coach is also buoyed by the fact most of his players have been skating together for months in one of three Canadian hubs organized by the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) – in Calgary, Montreal and Toronto – while another handful are getting their reps south of the border with their NCAA teams.

At the end of the day, the approach by Ryan and his staff is no different than most who are working their way through the pandemic and the unprecedented challenges it has created – focus on the things you can control and take advantage of any opportunities you have.

“It's a true test of all the things that we've always emphasized as coaches,” Ryan says. “This pandemic has really made us put some of those thoughts and beliefs into action. We can get caught up in what we're not able to do and what’s out of our control, so I think right now our main focus has just been dialing in on what we can control. Our connection with the athletes has been good. It feels real. Although we've been forced into this situation with having online calls, we've managed to make them legitimate and valuable calls.

“As much as there's a ton of negative around the pandemic, there have been some positives. And things that we've been able to control – the planning, the finer details of running the program – I think we've done a good job of that. We're in a good position heading into this camp.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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