It’s the same refrain that comes up every four years for women’s hockey and its players. How can they take advantage of their Olympic momentum to further grow the sport and make it a sustainable product year-round?
After leading Canada back to the top of the podium in Beijing thanks to yet another all-time performance, Marie-Philip Poulin is making sure that women’s hockey remains at the forefront by continuing to speak up and getting involved where it matters most at the community level.
Captain Clutch Delivers Again in Beijing
Simply put, Team Canada was dominant in Beijing. They have always set the standard and raised the bar again with their showing in Beijing. Along the way, Poulin further cemented her legacy as the greatest female player of all time and one of Canada’s best Olympians. She became the only hockey player, male or female, to score in four Olympic gold medal games. She’s also now potted three game-winning goals and seven total tallies during her illustrious career when gold is on the line.
Her leadership brought the team together during trying times amid the COVID-19 pandemic with one goal in mind: to erase the painful memories from 2018 and recapture Olympic glory. Mission accomplished.
“What I am most proud of is the way this team approached these Games, with so much fun and so much confidence through it all,” Poulin explained. “The whole group was so connected. The culture we created, the way they were, the fun that we had, all of it together as a group. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s something I am very proud of.”
Since the gold medal ceremony, Poulin has been the talk of the hockey world. Through it all, she has kept the focus on promoting and growing women’s hockey rather than herself which is a true testament to her character. She was offered a chance to play in the ECHL by the Trois-Rivières Lions. She declined and instead encouraged the team to join her in highlighting the women’s game. Then rumours surfaced that the Montreal Canadiens are ready to offer her a job when her playing career is over, but she wants to keep going and remains committed to the work she’s doing to put women’s hockey in a position to thrive.
Going Back to Her Roots With Kraft Hockeyville
As part of her efforts, Poulin has partnered with Kraft Hockeyville to share her story and the important role hockey plays in Canadian communities which is how she started playing.
“Kraft Hockeyville is pretty close to my heart where community comes in. For me it’s where it all started, I remember going to my local rink and playing hockey for hours with my brother. When my minor hockey happened, when my family would come and watch me. Those are all little things that really built me as a person and a player,” Poulin said. “To be able to nominate your community and maybe have the chance to win $250,000, I think that’s a pretty cool experience and other than that, you bring people together and that’s what hockey is all about.”
Kraft Hockeyville nominations for this year are now open. Canadians can submit their local community and arena story online before April 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST. The 2022 grand prize winner will have an opportunity to host an NHL preseason game and receive $250,000 to be used towards arena upgrades, as well as the coveted title of Kraft Hockeyville 2022. This year’s winner and each of the three-runner-up communities will also receive $10,000 to purchase new hockey equipment for their minor hockey programs, courtesy of the NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund.
Fighting for a Professional Women’s League
On Saturday, Team Canada and Team USA will renew their rivalry at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh in a game organized by the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and the Pittsburgh Penguins to keep up the momentum gained in Beijing.
Support from an NHL team is exactly what the women’s game needs to grow and ultimately see the day when a professional women’s league is inaugurated. Record ratings in both Canada and the United States during the Olympics which saw millions of people tuning in at all hours of the night to watch the games proves that the interest and audience for women’s hockey are well-established. Now they need a bigger platform to play on that keeps the dialogue going beyond the Olympic fortnight.
“I think we’re right there it’s getting closer every day,” Poulin said about a potential professional women’s league. “We’ve just got to keep going, keep believing, and keep talking about it. We have the right people behind us who do a lot of work behind closed doors, we trust them.”
Inspiring the Next Generation
Even without a women’s professional league, Poulin is ever-present, especially in her home province of Quebec, where she has done the media rounds since Beijing getting her message out about supporting the women’s game.
She is an inspiration to so many even though she would prefer to be away from the spotlight. Still, it’s something she takes a lot of pride in.
“It’s an honour, to be honest. I can’t believe I am one of these women who is a role model,” Poulin admitted. “Those little girls and little boys who come to the rink, when they see us, their eyes light right up and it’s something that makes me wake up in the morning knowing that what we’re doing it’s all worth it. I remember watching the ladies back in 2002 (at Salt Lake City) and they really sparked my dreams, they’re the ones that paved the way for a lot of us. Being one of them today is very special.”
Poulin may never get used to the attention, praise, or accolades, but that doesn’t mean they will stop coming. She deserves it after all and the fact that she’s using her position to better women’s hockey is truly what makes her a legend of the sport.
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Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.