Hamilton will have a local favourite to cheer when Canada's women's hockey team takes the ice at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
Hamilton's Laura Fortino will be on defence for Team Canada when the puck drops. She'll get a chance to play with Hayley Wickenheiser, who will be in her fifth Winter Olympic Games.
In a stunning move two weeks ago head coach Dan Church resigned. Church cited a lack of confidence from Hockey Canada executives. His resignation came less than two months to go before the Sochi Olympics.
He was replaced by former Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen.
“Narrowing our roster down was extremely difficult due to the depth of the female game in our country, but we’re absolutely thrilled to announce the 21 players who will defend our gold medal in Russia,” said Dineen.
"We’re confident the players who will travel this final stretch on the Road to Sochi will do so with passion, perseverance and performance that will make all Canadians proud.”
Fortino played for the Bishop Tonnos Titans in Hamilton high school hockey competition. After that she completed a successful hockey career at Cornell University in the United States. She graduated with nutritional sciences and was names a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top female player in NCAA hockey.
Fortino was also a part of the 2012 World Champion Canadian team as well as the 2013 World Silver Medallists.
Canadian women chase fourth straight gold medal
The Canadian women are shooting for their fourth straight Olympic gold medal.
But winning another title won’t come easy. It’s expected that Canada’s only real obstacle will come from a strong American team, which defeated the Canadians at the 2013 world championship final in Ottawa.
The two teams are in the middle of a six-game exhibition series as a lead up to Sochi in February.
Things started well for Canada as the team won the first two games in October. The Canadians then beat team USA in the round robin at the Four Nations tournament in November.
But Canada was embarrassed 5-1 in Calgary the same night Church resigned, and again after a 4-1 defeat last Friday in Grand Forks, N.D.
Canada will play the U.S. Saturday in Minnesota, and then next Monday in Toronto.
The women’s Olympic hockey tournament runs from Feb. 8, 2014, when Canada takes on Switzerland in its opening game, and end on Feb. 20 with the gold-medal game.
Canada also faces Finland on Feb. 10, and the U.S., on Feb. 12 during its other round-robin games.