By Chris Welner
What’s the best way for world champion Canadian hockey players to relive their gold medal glory? Play street hockey, of course.
There are 21 of 23 players from Canada’s Under-18 world championship team wearing provincial colours in Red Deer for the Canada Games. Wednesday, many of them got together for a gold medal reunion outside the Athletes Village, slapping a tennis ball and calling “Car!” to pause the game when traffic rolled by.
“I’m lobbying hard for road hockey for the next Canada Games,” joked Team Canada and Team Ontario captain Maggie MacEachern, 17, of Brooklin, Ont.. “It’s been so much fun – great getting to reconnect with former teammates and even my teammates now at Team Ontario just to celebrate that gold again. That game happened about a month ago and it seems like just yesterday when we get back together again.”
The Canada Games women’s hockey tournament got underway Sunday. Teams face off against each other all week with many games featuring members of the world championship team competing against each other.
“I’m not much of a chirper but there’s definitely been some aggressive play,” says MacEachern, joined by members from Team B.C., Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba at the tournament.
Canada defeated the United States 3-2 in a dramatic overtime victory on Jan. 13 in Obihiro, Japan. Ontario forward Maddi Wheeler scored the golden goal 1:34 into overtime, banging in her own rebound after an end-to-end rush.
“It was great to get that goal, but it really didn’t matter who scored as long as we got the gold,” says Wheeler, 16, of Erinsville, Ont. “A few girls aren’t here because of injury, but it’s good to see everyone again. And the Canada Games have been pretty cool.”
Goaltender Raygan Kirk, 17, of Ste. Anne, Manitoba, was jumping for joy when the OT goal was scored and Canada claimed its first U-18 world title in four years.
“That was an amazing experience especially in overtime. It’s a great way to win and against the U.S. it’s even better,” she says. “Being on the ice with the girls was an incredible experience.”
The world tournament marked the first time she has represented Canada in competition and Canada Games is the first time she has worn the Big M for Manitoba.
“We’re all just meeting up here in the rink and village in Red Deer. There’s always a friendly wave and smile,” says Kirk. “The bond that we have and the experience is something pretty special that we share.”
The medal games for women’s hockey are Saturday 9 a.m. for bronze and 12:30 p.m. for gold, both games at the downtown arena.
Hockey World Champion U-18 Athletes at the Canada Games
Player / Hometown
Danielle Serdachny / Edmonton, Alta.
Rachel Weiss / Foothills, Alta.
Stephanie Markowski / Edmonton, Alta.
Anne Cherkowski / Coldstream, B.C.
Jennifer Gardiner / Surrey, B.C.
Raygan Kirk / Ste. Anne, Man.
Shailynn Snow / Clarke’s Beach, N.L.
Maddie Beck / Lunenburg, N.S.
Laura Cote / Burlington, Ont.
Julia Gosling / London, Ont.
Nicole Kelly / Brantford, Ont.
Maddi Wheeler / Erinsville, Ont.
Kendall Cooper / Burlington, Ont.
Teagan Grant / New Liskeard, Ont.
Megan Carter / Milton, Ont.
Maggie MacEachern / Brooklin, Ont.
Nicole Gosling / London, Ont.
Ann-Frédérik Naud / St-Felix-de-Valois, Que.
Alexie Guay / Magog, Que.
Mahika Sarrazin / Gatineau, Que.
Grace Shirley / Saskatoon, Sask.