Olympic tryout camp a double-edged sword for B.C.'s Potomak sisters
Success for one might be tempered by failure of the other to earn spot on Canada's roster
With two daughters trying out for Canada's Olympic women's hockey team, Steve and Jane Potomak are prepared for joy, tears or perhaps both.
Sarah, 19, and Amy, 18, would be the first sisters to play hockey for Canada at an Olympic Games should they earn a spot on the 23-player roster for Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The siblings from Aldergrove, B.C., are the two youngest among 28 battling for jobs in Calgary over the next several weeks until the team is named in December or January.
The best-case scenario for the Potomak clan is Amy and Sarah both wear the Maple Leaf in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Neither making the team equals double disappointment.
4 brothers who played hockey
There's also the scenario in which one sister will be an Olympian in 2018 and the other won't.
With four older brothers who played hockey, sometimes on the same night, the Potomak parents are accustomed to addressing both success and failure when their children walk through the door.
"If three or four played one night, we never had a night where all four played great, we never had a night where all four played bad," Steve explained.
"With six kids, you have your ups and downs. You're getting great news and then four minutes later you get news that's not as great. We're kind of used to it."
Sarah and Amy navigated that tricky territory earlier this year when Sarah was named to Canada's world championship roster for the first time in her career and Amy was denied.
"I got the call first, getting the 'yes' and I thought for sure Amy would get the 'yes' and she got 'no,"' Sarah said. "I was really happy because I was going to worlds, but I was sad because she was crushed.
"She told me 'this is your dream, so it's my dream too. I'm going to support you and my time will come.' When we got the centralization call, it was the biggest relief that we were going to be here together.
"If she makes it I will be absolutely ecstatic (even) if I get cut and it will be vice versa."
Said Amy: "We've always been really good at celebrating each other's successes. Even though I didn't go to worlds, I still got to cheer her on. She did go and she was still really encouraging and uplifting to me and we got to support each other that way."
The sisters are living together in a basement suite of family friends in Calgary while they shuttle back and forth to WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre.
"It's a real advantage and benefit for them to be together because they do support each other for sure," Jane Potomak said.
"Growing up in our family, we had the four boys and the two girls were last and they always really relied on each other and supported each other."
Sarah and Amy both have the scoring touch Hockey Canada seeks, but their style of play and personalities are different.
Amy is younger, but bigger at five foot eight and 148 pounds. She compiled 18 goals and 18 assists in 36 games for the JWHL's Pacific Steelers last season.
Sarah, five foot five and 140 pounds, led the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in goals (20), including six game-winners.
"Her power and speed versus my agility and vision, those are probably the two differences," Sarah said.
Want to play now
Parents and sisters agree that Amy is the raw, athletic talent for whom school comes easy. She benefits from Sarah's street smarts both socially and in the hockey world.
"She's really like a big sister personality," Amy said. "Definitely the one in charge. I'm not afraid to say that. She's the one in charge at home."
Neither would find solace in being told 'You're young. You can play in the next Olympics' if they weren't named to the 2018 team.
Sarah points out Meghan Agosta turned 19 the day she scored a hat trick the 2006 Winter Olympics and Marie Philip-Poulin scored a pair of goals in the 2010 gold-medal game at age 18.
"I've been given the opportunity to play in this one and I'm going to fight for it as much as I can," Sarah said. "I'm looking at is as I want it right now, not later down the road."