VIERUMÄKI, Finland – Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States, the top four nations in women’s hockey, played a Four Nations Tournament in Finland recently – the last time before the 2010 Olympic Games that the quartet met.
Canada’s Carla MacLeod also traveled to the Sports Institute of Finland in Vierumäki, which played host to the tournament that was also played in other venues in the region.
MacLeod felt tension in the air among the players on the four teams because not all of them will make it to Vancouver.
MacLeod has been part of the Canadian national team since 2003, and won the Olympic gold in 2006 in Turin. “It is a dream come true for any player to be part of the Olympics and especially to win gold,” she said.
Today, MacLeod is making progress on a day-to-day basis. She has to give 100% at all times, knowing there are younger players that are eager claim a roster spot. “It keeps you honest,” states MacLeod, and adds: “It is rather motivating that younger players are developing because that will only improve the game.”
The road to the national team was not a typical Cinderella story for MacLeod. She was cut two years before finally making the team. Instead of being upset about the setback, she stood up and became stronger. “Being cut twice only gave me more motivation and forced me to try harder,” she said. MacLeod says she couldn’t be happier, and adds that she’s living the dream she’s had ever since she was young.
Like many Canadians, MacLeod appreciates her brother’s as well as the neighborhood kids’ influence on her career. She feels fortunate about being able to spend her summers doing things outside of hockey rather than having to join numerous summer hockey camps and voices her concern for younger kids playing hockey 365 days a year: “Younger kids should remember just to have fun and avoid being burnt-out by hockey.” She believes that playing many sports helped her to be where she is today.
“Women’s hockey has changed a lot and is going the right direction,” said MacLeod. Apart from the 2006 Olympics where Canada beat Sweden in the final, final games of the Olympics and World Women’s Championships have always come down to the two North American teams.
The final in Finland also was a USA-Canada event and nobody was happier than the defender MacLeod, who scored the game-tying goal in the first period of Canada’s 5-1 victory and was named best player of her team.
She hopes that the situation at the top of the standings will change in the future. “I appreciate the fact that teams such as Sweden and Finland are improving every year,” Mac Leod said. “Thinking ahead of the Olympics, anything can happen.”
This is why Macleod emphasizes the importance of focusing on every game. “There is no place for a lack of concentration,” she said. However, for now she is focusing in making the final roster rather than thinking too far ahead, which proves her level of motivation and focus.
NOTE: Canada trimmed its roster to 24 players on Wednesday. Defenceman Jocelyne Larocque and forward Brianne Jenner were released from the centralized roster. 21 players will make the final roster for the 2010 Olympics.
Canada’s centralized roster
Goalkeepers: Shannon Szabados (Grant MacEwan, ACAC), Charline Labonté (McGill University, CIS), Kim St-Pierre (Montreal Stars, CWHL).
Defencemen: Carla MacLeod (Calgary Oval X-Treme, WWHL), Becky Kellar (Burlington Barracudas, CWHL), Colleen Sostorics (Calgary Oval X-Treme, WWHL), Gillian Ferrari (Calgary Oval X-Treme, WWHL), Meaghan Mikkelson (Edmonton Chimos, WWHL), Catherine Ward (McGill University, CIS), Tessa Bonhomme (Calgary Oval X-Treme, WWHL), Delaney Collins (Calgary Oval X-Treme, WWHL).
Forwards: Meghan Agosta (Mercyhurst College, CHA), Rebecca Johnston (Cornell University, ECAC), Cherie Piper (Calgary Oval X-Treme, WWHL), Gillian Apps (Brampton Canadette-Thunder, CWHL), Caroline Ouellette (Montreal Stars, CWHL), Jayna Hefford (Brampton Canadette-Thunder, CWHL), Jennifer Botterill (Mississauga Chiefs, CWHL), Jennifer Wakefield (University of New Hampshire, HE), Haley Irwin (Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth, WCHA), Hayley Wickenheiser (Ekilstuna Linden, SWE men’s 3rd Division), Sarah Vaillancourt (Harvard University, ECAC), Gina Kingsbury (Calgary Oval X-Treme, WWHL), Marie-Philip Poulin (Dawson College, CEGEP).