Fast forward to October 2018, and the two Canada’s National Women’s Team forwards are front and centre in the spotlight, announcing the return of the Women’s Worlds to their home province in spring 2020.
Saulnier, 26, and Turnbull, 25, joined event officials Tuesday at the Scotiabank Centre to share that the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship is coming to Nova Scotia, as they were flanked by young female players waiting patiently for their chances to snap selfies and snag autographs from the two Olympic silver medallists.
“I was in the stands with Blayre in 2004 when the Women’s Worlds was held here,” Saulnier told media gathered at Tuesday’s press conference, held at ice level inside the 10,000-seat Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, one of two arenas that will welcome the 20th Women’s World Championship in history.
The 2020 edition will be the second Women’s Worlds with ten teams. The new format will have its premiere at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Espoo, Finland.
“We were just reminiscing about this before we came in here. We played on a spring team, the Raiders, which are still going, and we sat way up in the nosebleed sections,” she recalled. “I remember watching and being in that exciting environment, and I remember the goals that were scored and watching these girls get gold medals around their necks, with that maple leaf (on their jersey).”
Canada blanked the United States 2-0 in that gold medal game on 6 April 2004, to win their eighth straight Women’s World Championship since the event’s 1990 inception in the Canadian capital of Ottawa with a record-breaking overall attendance of 89,461 fans taking in the event over eight days in Halifax and neighbouring Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
It was neither the first nor last time Nova Scotia had hosted an official IIHF event. Halifax hosted the IIHF World Junior Championship the previous year, while the men’s IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship played out in both Halifax and Quebec City in 2008. Most recently, Truro hosted the 2017 World Junior A Challenge.
“We are very confident in Halifax and Truro as hosts for this event,” Hockey Canada president and chief operating officer Scott Smith said. “They have a proven track record of hosting events of this calibre.”
“Getting the chance to showcase the best female players in the world on Canadian ice is something young fans will remember for a long time,” he added.
Saulnier, who is from Halifax, and Turnbull, who hails from Stellarton close to Truro, of course, couldn’t agree more.
“I remember watching the girls and it was a turning point in 2004,” Saulnier said of the impact seeing the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship unfold live in front of her eyes had on her hockey dreams.
“I know it seems like a big dream, and that’s what it is from afar, but we were you 10 years ago, and we had those dreams,” she said. “That’s what pushed us to … make those dreams a reality.”
Team Canada alumna Fiona Smith-Bell, who claimed a silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, also made a special appearance.
Silver has been the consistent theme for the Canadian women, who have lost to the American women in every gold medal worlds game since 2012 in Burlington, Vermont, USA. They’ll be looking to upgrade to gold at the 2018 4 Nations Cup, which runs from 6-10 November in Saskatoon.
The U.S. last edged Canada 3-2 in overtime at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship on home ice in Plymouth, Michigan, and most recently by the same score in a shootout at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Korea.
“It all stems from moments like this,” Saulnier said. “See you all in 2020.”